25+ Top Language Learning Tools to Use During an Add1Challenge
I often get asked “Is the Add1Challenge a course? Will it teach me a language?”
The short answer is: no. The Add1Challenge isn’t a course. We don’t tell you what to learn, or how to study.
The Add1Challenge is a group of language learners who get together in our private community website for 90 days to learn a language. We go shoulder-to-shoulder, cheering on one another’s successes, keeping each other accountable, and supporting one another when things are difficult.
Alongside that, we provide study groups, mini-missions, prizes, accountability check-ins and personal email support.
It’s such successful formula for learning languages that at the end of the 90 days you’ll have a 15 minute conversation in your new language. We guarantee it!
The Add1Challenge isn’t a course — so it’s up to you to find the learning resources that are right for you.
That said, there are a few resources that most Add1Challengers use again and again. We see these come up in every challenge. So I thought it’s worth sharing them here.
I’ve organized the resources around the common challenges that language learners face:
- New Words
- Building Sentences
- Feeling Confident
Resources to Improve Your Speaking Skills
The focus of the Add1Challenge is having a 15 minute conversation after 90 days. So speaking your new language is a really important skill to have!
Yet for some reason, it’s the skill many language learners leave for last. They tell themselves things like:
- I’ll start speaking when I know more vocabulary.
- I need to study grammar before I can speak.
- I am not fluent yet, so I can’t speak.
- First, I need to learn the language on my own before I can speak it with someone.
Do any of these sound familiar?
But when your goal is to have a conversation, you’ll need to start speaking sooner rather than later.
Here are the best tools to help you with speaking a new language:
- Speak in a Week. Don’t believe you can start speaking before you know the language like the back of your hand? I recommend taking Benny Lewis’s free course Speak in a Week. It’s a great way to prove to yourself that you can start speaking today.
- Conversation Countdown shows you how to have your first conversation with a native speaker in just seven days. It’s the ideal way to get started during the Add1Challenge.
- italki is the best place to go to find people to speak with in your new language. You can find tutors (paid) or language exchange partners (free). All major languages are covered, as well as many less commonly spoken languages. italki also has a journal feature where you can write short entries in your language for corrections by native speakers. Check out our italki review here.
- HelloTalk is a messaging app that puts you in touch with native speakers of your target language. They’ll help you learn their language in exchange for you helping them with English (or your native language). You can use the app to send them text messages, leave voice messages, or make voice or video calls. Take a look at our HelloTalk review here.
- YouTube. As part of the Add1Challenge you’re required to make four videos of yourself speaking your target language (on Days 0, 30, 60 and 90), and share them on YouTube. This is a great way to get speaking practice! Many Add1Challengers find a lot of value in creating more than four videos.
Resources to Improve Your Listening Skills
With a 15 minute conversation in a new language, learning to speak is only half the work. You’ll also need to understand what your conversation partner is saying.
So while speaking is the main focus of Add1Challengers, listening comprehension should be #2 on your list.
Here are the listening resources that get a lot of love in Add1:
- Innovative Language podcasts are a firm favorite among the Fluent in 3 Months (Fi3M) team, and they’re popular with the Add1 community too. They have a wide selection of languages with material for nearly every level. They regularly release new audio and video lessons, and teach languages as they’re used in the real world. Check out our Innovative Language podcast review here.
- Glossika uses the “mass sentence method” and spaced repetition to help you master your new language. It has flexible settings so that you can learn through any combination of reading, speaking, and listening. They provide resources for a lot of different languages.
- Michel Thomas is a popular audio language course available for most major languages. It uses “call and response” where the teacher asks you to translate a phrase and you’re given a moment to respond before two other students – who are in the recording studio with the teacher to make you feel like you’re learning in a group – chime in with the answer. Michel Thomas is geared towards absolute beginners, so it’s a great tool if you’re just getting started. Read our Michel Thomas review here.
- Coffee Break. The Coffee Break series is available for Spanish, French, German, Italian and Chinese. It’s produced by the Radio Lingua network and is a more structured course when compared to some of the other podcasts on the market. Beginning with the absolute basics of the language, the course progresses to more advanced material. It’s taught by very knowledgeable and encouraging teachers, and you learn alongside another student/co-host featured on the podcast.
- Pimsleur is one of my personal favorites. I have a full time job with an hour commute each way, so I like to make the most of the time I spend in the car. When I’m at the beginning stages of learning a language, Pimsleur is my go-to. It helps me with my pronunciation and helps me build a strong foundation in my language, even if the vocabulary is geared towards a demographic that I don’t fit into. And the pace is one that I can keep up with when I’m driving.This product is on the pricey side, but the digital version of the course is much more reasonable.
- Rhinospike allows you to submit a piece of writing in your target language and get back a recording of it read by a native speaker. The best part is, if you help another learner out by recording a passage for them, this tool is free to use.
- TuneIn Radio lets you listen to radio shows from around the world, with channels for nearly every language.
- ABRSM Speedshifter is a free app that allows you to change the speed of audio tracks and play sections of audio on a loop. It’s perfect if you’ve found a good audio resource that’s too quick or doesn’t repeat material enough for you.
Resources to Learn New Words and Build Your Vocabulary
Many beginner language learners make the mistake of trying to learn grammar too early. Instead, they should focus on learning new words.
Grammar is tough to wrap your head around until you have the vocabulary you can plug in and work things out. Plus, at the early stages, you can get away with the Tarzan approach to speaking. It’s coarse, but it gets your point across and is an easy way to get speaking.
Here are some good resources to build your vocabulary:
- Forvo is an online pronunciation dictionary. When you look up a word in your target language, you get to hear it pronounced by a native speaker. It’s available for all major languages as well as dozens of less common languages. If the word that you’re searching for isn’t yet in the Forvo database, you can request it.
- Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard app and the preferred tool for many polyglots, including Fi3M founder Benny Lewis. “Spaced repetition” means it prompts you to remember words when you’re on the verge of forgetting them, and research shows this is the most efficient way to learn. With Anki you can add images and audio to your flashcards.
- Memrise is another flashcard app that uses spaced repetition. I prefer it to Anki. You can use it to study premade vocabulary lists from other learners, or create your own. Each day you study, you get to maintain your streak and earn points to stay ahead of your friends.
- LingQ is one of the best places to do reading in your target language and is popular with intermediate learners in the Add1Challenge. It’s also an audio resource and vocabulary learning tool. As you read in your language, you have the option of reviewing new words through flashcards. Check out our LingQ review here.
- Mosalingua is a flashcard app that’s a little more guided than either Memrise or Anki, though it only has a limited selection of languages. You can read our review of it here.
- Drops is an app that helps you pick up new vocabulary in a just a few minutes a day. You can choose from a range of word lists, so you can focus on learning words that are relevant to you.
- Reverso Context allows you to search for words within sentences, so you can see them in context.
Resources to Help You Build Sentences in a New Language
Building sentences is how you make the vocabulary and phrases you’re learning your own. Here are the resources you need:
- Duolingo is one of the most popular language learning apps, and many Add1Challengers have found great success using it. The app is a great way to review your language on the go, and you’ll want to maintain your streak so you’ll come back to it every day.
- Clozemaster is one of my favorite ways to learn new vocabulary in the context of a phrase or sentence. They have a huge selection of languages to choose from. Available as a web and mobile app.
- Lyrics Training is a fun way to use music to learn languages. You listen to songs, while doing fill-the-blank on the lyrics, so you get to enjoy music in your language and develop your listening comprehension.
- Language Hacking. The Language Hacking books by Benny Lewis show you how to learn a language by speaking it. They are available for French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
- FluentU takes videos from YouTube and gives them interactive subtitles. While the video is playing you can hover over the subtitles to get translations, and boost your reading and listening comprehension at the same time. After the video is over, FluentU tests you on the vocabulary you learned.
- Lang-8 lets you post articles or lists of phrases in your target language for correction. It’s free to use for two languages, and it’s a great place to help other learners with their languages as well.
Resources to Help You Feel Confident Speaking Your Target Language
During the Add1Challenge, you’ll be speaking your target language in conversation with native speakers, and you’ll be making videos of yourself speaking too (on Day 0, Day 30, Day 60 and Day 90).
Understandably, some people at the start of the challenge feel apprehensive about creating videos. So why do we ask challengers to create videos? Because videos:
- Give you the chance to speak the language and observe yourself speaking, so you can see both your strong and weak points in the language
- Are something to share, so you’ll get encouragement from other Add1Challengers
- Allow you to see just how far you’ve come
Often, it’s the people who feel most apprehensive about making videos that get the most out of the video part of the challenge.
How can you feel confident about taking part in language exchanges and making videos of yourself?
Ultimately, your confidence will build as you do these things. You will likely feel nervous the first few times, and that’s okay (I often still feel nervous when I’m meeting a new language exchange partner).
But if you want an extra helping hand, I recommend these resources:
- Mimic Method is a pronunciation system and course. You may be wondering why I placed a pronunciation course under confidence and not under speaking, but a huge reason many language learners lack confidence is because of their accent or pronunciation. Mimic Method gives you the opportunity to train your accent and help you sound more like a native speaker. Check out my Mimic Method review for more details.
- Courage to Speak is a video course that helps language learners gain the confidence to speak their target language in real conversations. With Courage to Speak you’ll take small steps outside your comfort zone. It’s a good match with the Add1Challenge because it helps you conquer any hesitations or fears you have surrounding the creation of your videos during the challenge.
What Language Learning Tools and Resources Do You Use?
Using these resources will help you focus and improve the skills necessary to succeed in the challenge. They’re the perfect starting point. But…
The resources in this post are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many tools and courses that Add1Challengers have found success with over the years. It would be impossible to include them all in a single post (it would be overwhelming!).
What about you? Have you taken part in the Add1Challenge? What resources worked for you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Got questions about the best way to use any of these tools and resources? Come and join us for an Add1Challenge! We’re friendly folks and we’re happy to help.