Buying a quality language learning method is the most important first step in learning a new language. But be careful. Too many people spend too much money on a language learning product without even realizing what it does or how it works. Be sure to try many language learning demos, free lessons or free trial offers before you commit to a purchase. It can make a very big difference in the long run.
One common mistake many language learners make, especially new ones, is to buy the wrong kind of language method for themselves. There are tons of language learning products out there, and they all sound so great,but with a little foresight and some research, you can be sure to get a language learning method that's right for you.
I highly recommend to any language learner who is contemplating a new purchase to first try out as many products as possible. Do a little research into each method and look for a demo or free lessons. Many language publishers, especially the most popular ones, offer a free demo or first lesson or two to try out their product before you buy it. If they don't, you should think twice about committing to something if it is a big purchase for you.
Why should you try out the product first?
You need to be confident that the language method is teaching you what you
need or want to learn.
Does it cover the kind of material you want? Is it for travelers or is it much more comprehensive?
A course for travelers may have a greater focus on asking for directions, hotel, airport, buying things, restaurants etc. If this is what you are looking for, make sure the course you buy has this kind of material as its focus.
Or perhaps you are looking for something much more comprehensive. Does the course cover lots of grammar, verb conjugations, tenses etc.
Do you want to learn to speak only or do you also need to know how to read the language? This will have a big effect on which kind of course you want and what material it covers.
By trying out the product first, you will have a much better understanding of what kinds of material it teaches.
Is the learning style and format of the lessons appropriate for you?
The learning style of how the material is presented and in what format can have a big impact on how useful it is for you. Is the type of language method what you are looking for audio-based, book, computer-based etc
For example, suppose you just want some basic conversation skills in the language, greetings, asking basic questions etc. So, you are not yet interested in reading and writing the language.
And let's say you are going to be studying in your car, listening to audio while you are driving to work. Pimsleurs all-audio course would be ideal.
But if you needed to learn how to read and write for business, Pimsleur would not be a very good choice for you. Pimsleur is a great course, but in this case, it wouldn't be providing what you need and how you need it.
By listening to the first Pimsleur lesson that you can get for free, you would quickly realize whether the material presented was right for you and what you need.
Is it cost-effective for you?
In some cases, a $15 book and 2 cd course might ideal for you. It would be a shame if you found this out only after you had spent $500 on a software program that you didn't like. The opposite can also be true. Many language learners have spent hundreds of dollars on inexpensive course after inexpensive course, only to find later that 1 $200 software method was perfect for them. Money and aggravation could have been saved if they had only had a better understanding of how each course worked and what they really needed to learn properly.
These are the questions you need to begin to answer before you commit what could be hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours of study time on a language method. Do some research. Refrain from making an impulse buy. In the long run, you will be more confident in your language method and in yourself. This will translate into a much more effective and rewarding language learning experience.
Where can you find language learning demos and free trials of language methods?
One way to try a product before you buy it is to borrow it from a friend or the library. Many popular language methods, including Pimsleur, Tell Me More and Michel Thomas, can be found in the library, even if only in an introductory course.
Also, many books and book and audio courses can be found on the library shelves, just waiting for you. Living Language, Teach Yourself, Hugos and many others are commonly stocked in libraries.
You can try it out for free, and then commit to a purchase if you find you like it.
The easiest way to try language demos is to find them on the internet. Most publishers of software language methods provide a demo, either online or downloadable, so that you can try their product.
Here are links for demos of some of the most popular language learning
TELL ME MORE is the best language learning program (in my opinion), but isn't as well known as some other publishers. Look for it in your local library or view the online demo of this great language program. Read my review of Tell Me More to get an idea of what kinds of features this language learning software has.
Transparent Language makes a wide variety of language learning programs and audio products. You can take a 'guided tour' of their Language Now series. Also, Transparent Language makes the popular BYKI flashcard program. You can download a free version for literally dozens of languages! Free BYKI Lite download by Transparent Language
Fluenz is a newer publisher of language software but are fast becoming one of the most popular. The online demo of their unique one-on-one approach shows why.
Rosetta Stone is one of the most popular and recognizable names in language learning. You can try out their software with an online demo, or read my review of Rosetta Stone to get a starting point.
Do some research.
Scour the internet for user reviews of various products. There are lots of language learning forums, websites and blogs, and there are is no shortage of opinions on what is the best language learning program or course available.
Look for visitor reviews, user reviews, comments and ongoing conversations
regarding the language products you are interested in. Of course, beware of
reviews that appear too heavily biased in one direction or the other. They will
most likely have an ulterior motive to either heap undue praise on something, or
trash it as garbage. Take these reviews with a grain of salt. The more you know
about a language method, the better able you are to make your own decision.
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"Nothing exists except through language."
- Hans-Georg Gadamer