I’m a language learner, just like you. And I’ve been one for many, many years.
Over those years, I’ve turned to myriad online language learning articles to help answer my pressing language learning questions, much like you are doing right now.
Some had the answers I sought. Some did not. Most, sadly, have been forgotten.
A rare few, however, have stuck with me. They’ve taught me a lesson or shown me a truth of language learning that I’ve continued to refer back to over time, either in memory or through re-reading.
These articles have been so valuable to me that I believe they can be of similar value to you, as well. So today, I’ve decided to share them here.
The following are, in no particular order, the first five articles in a series of the ten best articles on language learning that I’ve ever read.
Along with a link to the article, I’ve included who wrote it, what the article is about, and why I believe the article is great.
Take a look at each, and see if they hold lasting language learning lessons for you, too.
Author: Luca Lampariello
What It’s About: Though reaching a native-like fluency in a foreign language is something that many language learners dream of, few have ever attained such skill in a foreign language. Luca Lampariello, co-founder of LinguaCore, is one of these people.
Though many less-experienced language learners assume a C2 certification is the end-all of language ability, Luca, somewhat surprisingly, uses this article to recommend a different path. The C2 level, he notes, requires literacy and highly academic language skill that is assuredly out of the reach of many native speakers of any language. An illiterate, uneducated native speaker could not, by definition, have C2-level skills, yet no one would doubt that they are a native speaker of their mother tongue.
Native-like fluency, then, must come from somewhere else. Drawing from his own experiences, Luca proposes that native-level skills are born through living, working, and socializing with native speakers. According to Luca—and contrary to popular belief—living through the language in this way can potentially allow any language learner to obtain near-native skill before breaching the C2 level.
Why It’s Great: If you want to reach the top of the mountain, it helps to learn from someone who’s been there first. Having studied more than a dozen languages and reached a certified C2-level in several, Luca has the personal experience to truly evaluate what it takes to reach native-like fluency as a foreigner, and to help you get there, too.
9 Reasons You’re Hitting Language Learning Walls (& How to Break Through Them to Finally Become Fluent)
Author: Cher Hale
What It’s About: Possibly the saddest truth of language learning is that most learners never actually reach fluency in a foreign language. There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of the major culprits is something known as the Intermediate Plateau. In terms of experience, the plateau is a long period between the beginner and advanced level where it is hard to see overall progress, and so it becomes more and more difficult to find ways to make any progress at all.
In this article, Cher Hale of The Iceberg Project, uses actual academic research to outline 9 ways in which you can solve some of the most pressing problems you’ll face at the Intermediate Plateau, and finally make your way forward to advanced fluency.
Why It’s Great: Most language learning content available today is geared towards beginners. This makes Hale’s analysis of the obstacles facing intermediate-to-advanced learners a breath of fresh air for the language learning community. Even better, the information in the article is taken from genuine research into the science of learning, giving Hale’s words a weight that is hard to ignore if you’re looking for actionable tips for breaking through to the advanced level.
What It’s About: If you’re reading this, you’ve likely started and stopped learning a language more times than you can count. The idea of fluency in a foreign language seems very exciting at the very beginning, but the fact that it can take lots of learning before seeing results means that language learning is often cast aside for more pressing or more immediate concerns, and then picked up again later, or not at all.
In this article, Khatzumoto of All Japanese All the Time explains how this cycle of starting and stopping your learning is pure poison for your language goals. Drawing from personal experience, Khatzumoto reveals how gaps in his study of Mandarin Chinese left him at a low level for years, while consistent, unbroken study of Japanese got him a job in Japan after only eighteen months of study.
Why It’s Great: To be a successful language learner, you only really need one thing: consistency. (Or as we call it here at LinguaCore, regularity). Everything else is secondary. Khatzumoto’s boiling down of the entire process into “Don’t stop” and “Stop stopping” may seem like an oversimplification, but it’s just what many would-be “three-day monks” need to start making real progress in their target languages.
Author: Alexandre Coutu
What It’s About: As a answer to a Quora question, this is the only entry out of the whole ten that isn’t an actual blog post. Regardless, it is still worth mentioning.
The ability to reduce one’s accent in a foreign language is much sought after, for a large number of reasons. For some, a more native-like accent is a pathway to acceptance in a foreign language. For others, sounding more like a native speaker just makes using a language easier, as one is more likely to understand and be understood by others.
In this article, accent reduction specialist Alexandre Coutu lays out a beautiful and nuanced explanation of the theory and practice behind honing a natural accent as a second-language learner. Specifically, Coutu discusses the factors that lead to a foreign-sounding accent, then explains the physical and psychological foundations that must be laid before one can hope to reasonably sound native, or be mistaken for a native-speaker. Combined with a number of personal anecdotes from his own language-learning experiences, Coutu’s answer is one that reveals how honing a native accent can be both incredibly difficult and incredibly worthwhile.
Why It’s Great: Having a native or near-native accent is an unspoken badge of honor for many language learners. I know it’s something that I strive for in all of my target languages, and I know many who do the same. That being said, the overall complexities of good pronunciation and accent development mean that not everyone will be aware of the kind of work it will take to get the job done. This Quora answer goes a long way towards raising that awareness in language learners.
Author: John Fotheringham
What It’s About: Thanks to the Internet, you have thousands of language learning resources available to you at a click of a button. Though this is highly convenient, it can be both a blessing and a curse. On the curse side of things, the massive number of resources can make it impossible to decide what, exactly, you should learn from. And then, if you can’t make that decision, you never actually do any learning.
In this article, written by John Fotheringham of Language Mastery, language learners are encouraged to stop looking for more resources and work on developing the courage necessary to actually make language learning happen. He even analyzes the possible psychological factors behind why we trade language learning for resource purchasing, and suggests ways to break yourself free of the struggle.
Why It’s Great: I’ve probably bought hundreds of language learning resources in my lifetime, and yet, I’ve only ever used a few dozen of them. Many other language learners who I’ve met and spoken to are in the same boat. Fotheringham’s rules are useful and succinct enough to keep me from falling into the resource trap still today, so I’m certain they can help you, too.
There you have it. Five of the ten best language learning articles I’ve ever read. Stay tuned for the next five articles, available in an upcoming post here on LinguaCore!