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The Best Methods to Learn a New Language

Updated on January 31, 2013

Language Courses

Raised by a family of immigrants, I was exposed to many different languages early on in life. My family traveled from the north of England, London, New York, and then to Switzerland and finally settling down in California, only to move back to Scotland a few years later. Today I speak like a true European mutt with a distinct appreciation for America. Over the past few years I have learned the value of having a grasp on foreign languages. Besides studying Spanish and German in college, I have utilized many of the language courses on the market in order to sharpen the languages I have had experience with, and have used numerous home study courses to learn some languages from scratch.

In my experience there are many poor language systems on the market that one will never be useful in assisting one acquire fluency in a chosen language. They are complicated and quite simply a hassle, causing even the most serious students to become discouraged and lose interest.

After using so many courses and experimenting with some of the most notable schools, I believe I can steer people in the right direction as far as which courses are truly worth purchasing.

Here are the very best courses to learn a new language.

Pimsleur is the Very Best

1) Pimsleur is my personal favorite for jumping in and learning to actually speak the language quickly. Language courses teach in a variety of ways, focusing on reading, listening or speaking, ect. Pimsleur focuses primarily on understanding and speaking. This is how we learned how to speak English; by listening and parroting back what we have heard. The entire course will have you practicing how to speak like a native, while the repetition helps build vocabulary. This is extremely easy to use because it can be used entirely while driving, or lying down. One may find himself learning a language with little effort compared to other systems. The only possible negatives are that its very expensive compared to a lot of other courses, however, because many people have learned about it, they are available on ebay for less. Also, if you have your heart set on learning to read or write, Pimsleur willl not take you there.

One must remember that the alternative to Pimsleur is to have a private tutor, and that would cost more than ten times what Pimsleur costs.

Pimsleur has a recall system that has you interacting with the tape. This forces you to have to remember the new word on the spot as you hear it in conversation and then have to add the word in context yourself. The timing of the new word introductions is absolutely perfect. This system will have you building a vocabulary the natural way.

I don't believe that reading a foreign language should be a priority when you really don't know that language at all. Therefore, I believe that to seriously use the Pimsleur method, is to progress in the target language a lot faster and smoother than with any other system. Once you have picked up basic conversational skills, you may start to learn reading and writing, and it should be a lot easier now that you have a foundation to build on.

Berlitz Self teacher

Berlitz Self Teacher Book

2) Berlitz Self Teacher Book- This is an old fashioned and inexpensive way to gain a basic grasp on a new language. It has phonetic examples to help one look at foreign writing and pronounce it they way a native speaker would. The visuals, examples and tests given at the end of the chapters are capable of helping one learn how to read signs, menus and generally read and pronounce.

This book has been basically copied by most all the book style "new" methods on the market. It was originally published in the late 1940s and the German, French Italian, Russian and Spanish versions continue to be republished on a regular basis.


3) Rocket Language Courses are a complete course that will definitely get you speaking and understanding in all aspects of the language of your choice. Technical grammar use, interactive games, audio courses and software. The interactive games give your vocabulary lessons a real edge over other courses that may simply give you a list of word study. This is the most complete course that I have come across. It really hones in on all the senses to make your learning soar.

People like Rocket language courses because of the variety involved with each package.

Rosetta Stone

4) RosettaStone-This is a good, thorough, and fun course. I have personally worked with it in the past and believe that it is interesting and helpful. This is also an expensive and highly marketed course. Most people know about the RosettaStone course. I would not recommend this method for someone who is traveling and needs to learn how to communicate as soon as possible, because I think that playing games, making associations and generally, the amount of focus on software are great for supporting one's learning, but its definitely not the way to start communicating in a foreign language quickly.

This course is worth the money if you have a foundation in the target language, and you love doing things on the computer.

The Living Language Courses

5) The Living Language- A good well-rounded course containing recorded lessons, a dictionary and workbook. This program has been in use for decades, it was originally published with vinyl records, later with tapes, and again with CD's. It is a reasonably priced and complete course of more than 40 lessons depending on the language of your choice, containing basic points about the culture.

Recently Living Language has come out with a "Complete Course" and "Platinum Course" in which computer lessons and games are included. The Living Language course is a reasonably prices course that has withstood the test of time.

Berlitz School

The Berlitz school of language reminds me of Arthur Murray school of dance. A nice rip off! Berlitz has a name and decades old reputation combined with a systematic method of learning a language. The only problem I have with them is, its not worth the money. They charge an arm and a leg for each lesson.

I took private Italian courses from Berlitz and I learned well, but it cost me thousands. I later took some private and semi private courses at a local language school that cost me less than half of what Berlitz cost and the results were every bit as good. Berlitz were the originators of the system, but now there are many copy cats that can bring you to the same point for less than half the cost.

A full set of Pimsleur language CDs, from level 1-4 would cost less than Berlitz courses and would most definitely take you a lot farther.


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