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7 Strategies To Learn A Language Without A Teacher

Are you thinking of studying a language on your own but don’t know where to start? We’ve compiled 7 of our best strategies to make sure you can succeed.
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7 Strategies To Learn A Language Without A Teacher

Maybe you want to learn a language, but you don’t want to give up your social life by attending an evening class. Or you’d rather not spend an arm and a leg on a private tutor who’s determined to teach you according to his rules. So what’s the alternative? Is there a way for you to learn a language on your own time, learning topics that you want to learn? (Spoiler alert: Yes, there is.)

One of the best ways to learn is to take control of your language learning journey. Here are our best 7 tips to make that happen — with the help of the Babbel App.

1. Make Your Own Program

There are two ways to look at this: You can either groan because this means that yes, you really should have a strategy, or you can feel empowered that you have complete control over what you learn. We’re choosing the second option.

Every learner has different motivations, and it’s crucial to craft your strategy around your needs. If you want to brush up on your French for a trip, then you should concentrate first on the essential phrases. With Babbel, you can skip straight to our tailored holiday lessons. Alternatively, if you’re about to meet your German girlfriend’s parents, you should work on introducing yourself and mastering pleasantries. You can also head directly for our lessons on getting to know relatives (because we’ve got courses on more subjects than you could shake a multilingual stick at).

2. Work On Tasks That Match Your Skill Level

Maybe we’re preaching to the choir right now, but languages can be daunting. They’re amazing and wonderful, but there are also literally thousands of words in every language, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

Beginners should start with the basics: How to say “Hello!”, the most common verbs, the most important adjectives, and how to count. And yet — this might sound like blasphemy — you don’t have to start with the simple stuff if you don’t want to. With Babbel, you’re free to jump across the entire range of our lessons. You can even start tackling grammar, pronunciation and sentence structure if that’s how you learn best.

Babbel doesn’t have levels “locked” from the start because this is a language-learning app, not Super Mario Kart.

More advanced learners can benefit from the same mindset, but you have more freedom to study what and how you want. Maybe you want to start refreshing what you already learned in school (perhaps with one of Babbel’s refresher courses?), but you can also dive right into reading an intermediate-level book. Or now that you understand some of the basic grammar, you might want to learn how to swear.

3. Learn The Language As It’s Really Spoken

This is undoubtedly one of the hardest aspects of trying to learn a language on your own. Reading the words of a language is undeniably important, but then you don’t learn how speakers actually sound. That’s why you must supplement your learning by listening to native speakers and practicing the sounds yourself. Listening to podcasts is a great option for fitting more learning in. The same can be said for watching TV and movies (without English subtitles!).

But what about accurately practicing the sounds of the language? This one’s trickier. We made the Babbel app with speech recognition software so you can practice your pronunciation right after hearing a real native speaker say it. We’re an app that prides itself on teaching you a language that will actually come in handy when you talk to real people in real situations.

The Babbel app has speech recognition software so you can practice your pronunciation right after hearing a real native speaker say it.

4. Don’t Overload Your Brain

It can be tempting when you get into the study flow to do several language lessons back to back. Or maybe you think you should study for 2 hours a day because that’s how you studied subjects at university. Unfortunately, this “binge learning” strategy isn’t very effective.

Slowing down your learning so you can properly commit vocabulary to your long-term memory is the key to success. Studying for 20 minutes per day actually is your best strategy for becoming conversational. Luckily, this is the strategy that Babbel uses when we design our lessons. All of our lessons are 5-15 minutes long and fit perfectly into extra time you have in your day. Bored on public transportation? Dip into a lesson on Italian holiday essentials. Stuck in the world’s longest queue at the supermarket? Time for a burst of Spanish idioms. You choose where and when you want to learn, and you’ll actually remember it better this way.

5. Actually Review What You’ve Learned

Yes, reviewing what you’ve learned can feel like a real chore when compared to learning new things. But if you actually want to learn a language, rather than just memorize some fancy sentences, you’ll need to review what you’ve done.

In the Babbel app, there’s a built-in Review Manager that ensures you don’t forget what you’ve learned by compiling a list of vocabulary you’ve encountered along the way. The best thing is that our app learns from your progress: Words that you consistently remember appear less frequently in your review lessons, while words that you have trouble remembering are thrown at you more often. That way, you only spend energy on the stuff that you really need to work on.

As you engage with Babbel’s lessons, our Review Manager quietly works in the background, compiling a list of vocabulary you’ve encountered.

6. Get Immersed And Make It A Habit

In contrast to traditional classroom learning, learning a language on your own is a dizzying amount of freedom. This freedom can be a real blessing if you’re a nontraditional learner, but it can also lead to laziness. That’s why it’s important to immerse yourself in the language whenever possible and make it a habit.

We at Babbel also try to get you to form habits by sending you well-timed messages to remind you to keep up with your lessons. We promise not to nag, but this daily approach is what keeps things fresh in the mind. We won’t give you boring homework, but we will set you fun daily challenges, so you feel motivated to learn every day.

7. Incorporate Resources And Social Media Into Your Learning

Not to brag but — because Babbel is staffed almost exclusively by dedicated language geeks, we do a decent job at churning out content that keeps learners entertained on their language-learning journeys. From our language challenges on Youtube and pop-quiz Instagram stories, to our constantly-updating Magazine and motivational Facebook page, we try to share our passion for learning with as many people as possible.

Even if you’re not (just) using our resources, it’s good to surround yourself with motivational media and like-minded learners. Learning a language on your own means you need to establish your own support network, but we know you can do it. So get out there and master that language!

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David Sumner
David Sumner hails from a small seaside town in Devon (the part of England that's so rural it puts Tolkien's Shire to shame), and he's been living in Berlin since 2010. After completing a Master's Degree in Politics at the University of Potsdam he got the itch to join Babbel and share his insights into learning languages. When he's not living the kebab-fueled Berlin dream he's rocking out to Icelandic keyboard rock, playing the drums, and escaping to the Alps every chance he gets.
David Sumner hails from a small seaside town in Devon (the part of England that's so rural it puts Tolkien's Shire to shame), and he's been living in Berlin since 2010. After completing a Master's Degree in Politics at the University of Potsdam he got the itch to join Babbel and share his insights into learning languages. When he's not living the kebab-fueled Berlin dream he's rocking out to Icelandic keyboard rock, playing the drums, and escaping to the Alps every chance he gets.

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