Roughly 70-80% of spoken language is made up of 1000 words. Work on 1000 words in your target language and you’ll be most of the way to fluency. The internet has made language learning so accessible to anyone – if you’re motivated and a native English speaker, you can learn any language from your home. It’s very easy to find someone who wants to learn English. I’ve done everything from Spanish lessons with a teacher in Ecuador to regular Skype conversations with someone from Spain who lives in my current city! You just have to look around. LiveMocha was my favorite site for finding a partner until it closed this year after being acquired by Rosetta Stone. Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, don’t use Rosetta. It’s one of the worst options out there – one of my linguistics professors said as much when I spoke with him recently. I’ll update here when I find another reliable source for meeting language partners.
Here are resources online that I have used and enjoy. There are many more options available but I’m listing only those I’ve tested thoroughly:
iTalki – These are our favorite tutors. Skype and Facetime are perfect for this kind of homeschool study. I have 4-5 Spanish tutors I can recommend for conversation practice if you shoot me an email.
Basics you need for Germany…Excuse me, thank you, please, and for God’s sake, teach your kids to ask how to go to the bathroom. No German has yet turned down my American kids trying to ask for something.
The BBC had some great language pages – they aren’t updated anymore but they still work.
Blog post with lots of online recommendations from FluentU
Anki deck – system recommended by author of the book Fluent Forever. I highly recommend this read, it’s an innovative approach to language learning. Note – if you’re an engineer, you’ll appreciate the efficiency of this system. It’s also a good method to try if you’ve struggled learning a language in the past since the focus is on the most commonly used 1000 words.
Intermediate: News in Slow German
Shows for kids are so great for beginning language learning. For German, try Peppa Pig! You can find shows on youtube or with Noggin with Amazon Prime.
Coffee break French – the name is so simple, but this is a great audio course with visuals you can get from the website.
French Pod 101 – start with 100 French phrases every beginner should know. It’s weird and funny so you’ll remember!
The French Experiment – sign up for the newsletter, it’s a good one with language learning strategies and resources for homeschooling. You get lessons emailed to you. The first I received was a link to Frantastique, another great video resource that I’m currently testing.
Ma France BBC French videos (Intermediate)
Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced (choose option): News in Slow French
Kids’ shows: There’s list from Kid World Citizen of 12 shows in French for kids.
Quizlet deck of 1000 most used Spanish words – make an Anki deck with these!
I have some specific iTalki tutor recommendations for Spanish – please message me for their pages!
Coffee break Spanish – highly recommend this series. They have tons of programs since I’ve started using them.
Amazon has a PBS trial for 30 days and there are at least shows in Spanish (scroll down on this page). This is a great way to get started. Noggin on Amazon Prime has quite a few shows in Spanish as well (Use Peppa Pig for beginners).
Notes in Spanish Podcasts – I love these and use the advanced series regularly.
If you want to try a beginner TV show, Google “Peppa Pig en Español” and you’ll find it on YouTube. This one has been translated to many other languages as well.
Intermediate and Advanced (choose option): News in Slow Spanish
El Taller de Julie (Netflix) – kids program, easy dialog to follow
CNN en Español – great way to pick up some advanced vocabulary and be able to discuss current events.
Advanced: Radio Ambulante – new NPR Spanish podcast
One of the best books for intermediate learners is Breaking out of Beginner’s Spanish. I’ve gone back to this one over and over. It’s more based on Spanish spoken in Mexico.
And a great list of kids’ shows for all levels from a site called Spanish Mama.
Little Pim – Japanese, Hebrew, Etc…for younger kids.
I taught high school level English learners, and the students who learned the most quickly were the ones who had after school jobs. Also, don’t underestimate the benefit of watching TV – use google translate as you sit there and pause to check word meaning. Again, focus on the first 1000 words, don’t worry so much about spelling or grammar rules – they’re tough in English. Learn to speak and comprehend first.
I can’t leave this page without sharing an interesting post from Eclectic Homeschooling” “Teaching a Foreign Language When You Don’t Speak It“. Remember, with the internet, the days of needing a local language class are gone.