10 ways to learn a language in 2017

With the arrival of 2017, it seems to be time to give up the food comas and TV binge-watching for the joys of green juices and all-round clean living.

But there are definitely better things to do than spiralising, spinning classes and sacrificing an hour in bed for an early morning Insanity Workout, right?

So, if you’re already thinking about alternative New Year’s resolutions, you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you want to fine-tune your French or start a Swahili course, here are some practical tips on how to make language-learning your resolution for 2017!



1. Download an app

There are some really handy (and free) apps available, no matter what your level of fluency is. Try Duolingo and Babbel for an easy and enjoyable experience. Although Memrise doesn’t focus on languages, it also has a lot of language courses available, and it uses word and picture association to help you progress quickly.

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2. Take lessons

While apps are really useful, it’s also important to have immediate input from a teacher, whether you need to brush up on the Russian accusative case or you’ve got to grips with the imperfect subjunctive in Spanish – and you want to show off a bit. Tutor Hunt and First Tutors have lots of UK-based teachers to choose from, while Verbling is a good option if you’re based in America.

Have a look here as well for tips on how to find the right languages teacher to suit you.

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‘Patience’ is clearly a key word to keep in mind when looking for a French teacher….

3. Use YouTube and Spotify to work on your listening skills

In the dark days of revision for my final exams, YouTube and Spotify kept me sane.

There’s pretty much any music you want on Spotify, while for French students, YouTube is a goldmine. You’ll find French tutorials with Vincent, Gad Elmaleh’s comedy shows and Comme une Française, a channel run by Géraldine Lepère, who discusses everything from Gallic Christmas traditions to successfully navigating the French dating system and why you should never say hello twice in one day in France.

Gad Elmaleh introduces us to Brian, the star of a series of English language textbooks. Definitely worse than Encore Tricolore.

4. Read newspapers and magazines in the language

Websites like Le Journal en français facile are fairly straightforward for French beginners, and WordReference is really helpful if you need to look up anything.

For more advanced learners, it’s worth downloading the apps for the newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro to read on your morning commute. And for those moments when only cat photos will do, try Buzzfeed France  🙂


5. Join a networking website

There are lots of sites available to choose from, like Conversation Exchange, My Language Exchange and Interpals.



6. Buy (beg, borrow or steal) a book

Books are a brilliant way to pick up new expressions and to discover new authors. Just for starters, there are dual language books, easy readers and books translated from English (Harry Potter in French is my personal favourite).

And if you’re studying French, you’re in for a treat with books featuring:

  • a glamorous provincial housewife who dream of Paris (Madame Bovary)
  • an extra-terrestrial  monarch (Le Petit Prince)
  • an eccentric Parisian family who own a pet crane and a Spanish castle (En Attendant Bojangles)
  • a rundown apartment block with a crumbling infrastructure that reflects the moral degeneration of its tenants (Pot-Bouille).


7. Be a culture vulture

Lots of countries have cultural associations abroad, like Germany’s Goethe-Institut, the Spanish Instituto Cervantes and the Institut Français and Alliance Française set up by the French government.

You’ll find the Institut Français in London and Edinburgh in the UK, and the Alliance Française in 136 countries, from Angola to Nepal and Poland to Venezuela. The Institut Français in London has a cinema, a library and a bistro, so you can recuperate from a morning of French grammar classes with a well-deserved kir royale and a croque-monsieur.



8. Change the language on your phone

You can easily get the hang of new vocabulary by changing the settings on your phone to whichever language you’re learning, and it’s a really useful way to immerse yourself in a new language.


9. Watch films and TV series

Catch up on foreign language television on Netflix and Amazon or, if you’re in the UK, with Channel 4’s pick of foreign series.


10. Book a holiday!

The best way to learn a language is of course to use it as much as possible – what better way to do this (and to escape rainy January) than to jet off abroad for an adventure?

Bois Jolan beach, Guadeloupe.

How about you? What are your favourite ways to learn a language? 

Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to also share these ten steps via email and on your social networks too! 

If you enjoyed reading this, why not check out my post on French expressions to sound like a native here or my post on French sayings?

And of course …. 



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