What’s the best method to learn a new language?

Like many people, I have promised myself time and time again that I will brush up on my foreign language of choice. However, the GCSE French textbooks I stashed away many years ago, confident I’d definitely use them again, have remained in a bag in the back of a cupboard somewhere ever since I put my pen down in my final exam. Now I’m out of education and I have a little more free time, I would like to make a proper attempt at re-learning everything I’ve forgotten. But what’s the best way to go about it?


Textbooks are great for giving you a consistent source of information. You will learn the correct grammatical structures and spellings, and the same terminology will be used throughout. Textbooks are also great if you want to keep revisiting the same material. However, it will be tricky to learn the accent with a textbook alone, so a textbook and CD-ROM combination might be more valuable.


Lots of language courses are delivered solely via mp3 audio files or audio CDs. These are good as they help you pick up the nuances of the pronunciation and the rhythm and intonation patterns, which can help you become a more natural, fluent speaker. However, you may receive less exposure to spellings, which you will need to learn alongside the audio course to reinforce your understanding.

Face-to-face courses

Evening classes are a fantastic way to hone your skills with other like-minded friends. You can test your skills in conversation classes and learn from experts and other amateurs and benefit from your new support network. Many language courses now take place overseas in countries with native speakers, giving you a more immersive experience and allowing you to familiarise yourself with the language with natives in their own environment for the ultimate challenge.


Apps are the biggest trend in language learning right now. Apps like Duolingo can be downloaded onto your phone or tablet, meaning you can learn languages on the move. They are designed to be used in short bursts, perhaps when you’re on the bus or waiting for a meeting to begin, meaning you can cram your learning into your busy schedule. ‘Being too busy’ is no longer an excuse, as your lessons come with you!

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