How to Learn a Language by Yourself ? – Learn a Language Online


This site is written in 7 languages (you can confirm this in the home page). Everything is written personally by me in all the 7 languages.
4 of these languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German), I have learned by myself, without going to school (to the other 3 languages, I was exposed during youth, with schools). Now I’m going to share my experience and give you some advices about learning a language on your own and what to expect.
I also recommend some learning material, later on.

There’s not a magic and fast way to learn a language

Sorry to disappoint you about that. I know that you can find on the Internet a lot of sites promising you to learn a language in just one month thanks to a special method that is better and faster than traditional schools. It’s all bullshit.
Do you really believe that the traditional schools are stupid and not aware of the available teaching methods ?
Learning a new language is a long process and a gradual one. It is something that take years. Of course that you can manage something in just a few months, but it is usually not enough and if you will not continue to learn and practice and be exposed to the language, you will forget everything.
If you don’t believe me, then ask adults around you about the time it took them to learn a new language, it is usually years and not months.
Every language has its own philosophy and its own sentence structure, a translation between languages is not straightforward. It takes some time to get accustomed to a new language and there is also a lot of Vocabulary and Grammar to learn.

Is it possible to learn a new language as an adult ?

Yes, of course. Also children need a few years to learn to speak a language and they are receiving a lot of “private lessons” from their parents and then they need to go to school to learn to read and write. As adults, our brain in not as flexible as the one of children and the correct accent may never be totally gained (who cares) but adults have still some advantages over children. We know how to find the right learning material, we know when and how to learn. We can already speak at least one language, so we can read a lot of explanations.
You can make yourself some “discounts” about the goals of learning a new language (read the next points).

Do you need to speak the new language or just read and write it ?

Your answer is probably : I want to be able to speak, read and write in the new language.
I’m raising this point because for most (adult) people, it is much easier to read (and write) in a new language than to speak it. It is even more true, if you want to learn the new language by yourself and not by visiting a school where you can practice speaking with people.
Life is full of compromises. It would be foolish to renounce learning a new language, just because you feel uncomfortable speaking it.
Being able to read and write a new language is already a good opening to endless possibilities, like being able to work in some jobs and being exposed to the new culture and read newspapers.
With time, you will also be able to speak the language, but being able to understand and read a new language is also great, so start with something.
Of course that when learning a new language, you practice all aspects of it, including speaking and including pronouncing with the right accent. It’s just that you may find that speaking is a more difficult task because in a conversation you need to find the words quickly as opposed to reading where you just need to recognise the words.

One language at a time

In case you plan to learn several new languages, it is much better to do it one language at a time. When you learn a new language, your mind needs to adopt a new “mindset”, a new philosophy (the one of the target language), so in order to let yourself the chance to succeed in this mission, it is better to stay with only 1 language and focus on it. If you will try to split the little time you have into several languages, it will not be efficient and you may get frustrated. Stay with one language for 2 or 3 years, before you move to the next one.
In case you wonder if it possible at all to learn several languages, the answer is yes. There are a lot of people who can speak 3 or 4 languages because of natural life path and there are a few people who made a special effort and can speak 10 languages (as a sport, challenge).

Filter what you learn the first year

Vocabulary : If you will look at the dictionary for every word that you don’t understand, you will soon get annoyed and irritated from the project of learning a new language.
Search only words that seem to repeat themselves frequently and look important. See on this page, how to store these new words and memorise them.
Grammar : See if you can ignore some aspects of the language the first year. For example, in Italian there is the “past simple” tense, which is used mainly in literature and not in everyday conversations, so I ignored it the first year (I could recognise it, but not use it).
Old texts : Avoid sophisticated and old sources of the language. They are complicated and not used in normal conversations. I mean poetry, classic books etc.

You can not learn a language with a detached attitude

You can always go to a language school for fun, but if you want also to know the language you need some dedication. Here is what I mean :

  1. Learning a new language is like marrying this language and the corresponding country (or countries), during all your life. Think about it, how will you possibly learn the language if you will not be exposed to the events of the country ? You need to read and listen to the news of the country and you need to communicate with people from the country, you will become part of them, even if you don’t have a passport. If you want to learn Portuguese, for example, it means you will need to hear about the street crimes in Rio de Janeiro (and also the good stuff from Brazil). By the way, by reading newspapers from Portugal, you will still hear news from Brazil.
  2. The first year, you will need to dedicate a lot of time in order to learn the new language, you will need to be exposed to it all the time, every day (see later, how). In my opinion, visiting a language school twice a week is not enough, for most people.

How to find the Motivation for learning a new language ?

Learning a new language requires a lot of efforts and if you will not be motivated somehow, you will probably not succeed to speak the new language.
There are several situations that can keep you motivated :

  1. You feel an attraction to the language (you love it) : I may decide, for example, that it could be useful for me to know Chinese, but I also know that I have little chance to achieve this goal because I am not specially attracted to the language and don’t like to listen to Chinese songs. On the other hand, I succeeded to learn Italian because I like Italian culture and Italian songs, so I could practice (with fun) and learn. If you don’t like the language, convince yourself that you like the language, otherwise it will be tough.
  2. You have a serious goal you want to achieve, like immigrating to a country or work with the specific language.
  3. You are naturally exposed to the language, for example you live in that country.

The problem with the schools of childhood

Have you noticed that there are people all over the world, who learned English at school during their childhood, for 8 or even 12 years and still they cannot speak English ? Visit Asia and you will see a lot of them. But it is not only in Asia, it is all over the world, people don’t really know the material that they have been taught in school. If you meet in Asia people who speak good English, they will tell you that after school they stayed for several years in America (or another english speaking country). So what is the problem with elementary schools ?
My guess is that it has nothing to do with the method of teaching and not the level of teachers but due to other factors :

  1. People don’t really learn when they are forced to learn but only when they want to learn (let’s say, it is very inefficient). It is only when you take the decision on your own, that you find enough motivation and forces to learn. The human being is like that. As we all know, children are obligated to go to school, it was not their choice and they didn’t took the decision to learn a foreign language.
  2. You need time to learn a new language. Children at school don’t have time. Children at school need to learn many subjects in parallel (geography, mathematics and so on) and they can not make a concentrated effort to learn English. Just an example : when I was making my studies of engineering, I took a language course. What a frustration ! I really wanted to learn the language and for that I needed time, but could i neglect my engineering studies for that ? No. (I learned the language, by my own, many years later).

As an adult, in normal life, you don’t have these problems and you can succeed in learning a language because :

  1. It is your own decision.
  2. You have the necessary time.

Learning alone compared to going to a real school

People are different and so learning alone may be easy and suitable for some and very difficult to others. I guess that it depends a lot on if you are an introvert or extrovert person. But even if you have a particular type of personality, it doesn’t necessarily implies that you must learn in a particular way, each way of learning has it advantages.
First of all, let’s say the obvious : You can go to a real school and at the same time also learn by yourself. Since learning a new language is a challenge of many years, you have time to do both.

Advantages of going to a real school :

  1. There is one advantage that is not directly related to the studies themselves but is very important. I’m talking about the opportunity to meet people. As you know, in the modern era people are busy with their smartphones and they communicate less in real life. People want to find a partner and they are using applications like Tinder, Facebook etc. Here, you have a golden opportunity to meet people in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. Yes, language learning in school is usually done with role games and songs and it is fun.
  2. In school, you practice speaking (it is difficult to practice speaking when you learn by yourself).
  3. School gives a certain framework and routine. There is good chances you will arrive and learn something, even if you don’t feel like, that day.

Advantages of learning by yourself :

  1. For some people, learning alone is much more efficient. You don’t spend time on arriving to school, you don’t spend time waiting for the teacher and on small talks. You don’t spend time waiting for the end of a lecture that you don’t understand (while you need to revise the subject from the beginning).
  2. You are flexible in time. You learn only when you are at your top.
  3. Some people feel more comfortable learning alone.
  4. You get access to the top materials. A teacher in school may be boring. If you learn by yourself, you can use the best youtube channels, the best book methods and so on.

So, what is the way to learn a language by yourself ?

The secret is to be constantly exposed to the language (see later how).
You need to be committed to it and do some sacrifices during the daily life.
If you are used to read news and watch TV in your native language, then now you will have to do it in the new language. The available time we have during the day is limited, so you will have to give up on doing some activities in your native language, for a while.
Learning twice a week, for several hours, is not enough in my opinion, especially if you have a bad memory like me. The best is to be immersed all the time into the new language with normal activities like reading news, watching TV and singing songs (yes, you can sing).
You must arrive to a “non return point” with the new language, a point in which you will not give up, anymore.
After you will know the language, you will still need to be exposed to the language in order to not forget, but much less than during the first 2 years.

Possible ways to be exposed to the language and learn by yourself

Luckily, today, thanks to technology, we can be exposed to a language that we want to learn, without living in that country. We can virtually “live” in the country we want. Not very long ago, when you were learning a new language and wanted to taste a little bit of it, you needed to go to a kiosk and buy an expensive foreign newspaper (if it was available at all in your country), but today you can easily read the newspaper on the Internet. You can also listen to foreign radios and watch foreign TV channels on the Internet. You can do all this on your Smartphone (or laptop), you just need a good Internet connection.
So here is a list of possible ways to be exposed to the language. The important thing is to combine the ways, use whatever keep you busy in the new language. When you are bored with one way, move to another.

1. Using a self learning language method – A book

At the beginning, this is the principle way I use in order to learn a language. There are methods that are especially organized for self learning and they are quite efficient. Even if after a while I switch to other ways of learning (like videos), I still use the book as a reference for grammatical points.
Since the book is designed for self learning, the author makes an effort to make it as clear as possible, it is not like a book used by a teacher in a regular class.
The material is always organized with dialogues that get more and more advanced as you progress in the chapters. After each dialog, new grammatical terms are explained and new words are introduced. Some methods include audio of native speakers. Of course that a method with audio is better, but even just a book is great because nowadays you have other ways to listen to the language.
A good cost effective learning method, sold on Amazon is Assimil.
Assimil is probably the best self learning language method available. They exist since 1929 (a French company).

2. Learning Online with a private teacher

If you are very serious about learning the language and you are also ready to spend some money on it, then the best could be to get private classes online. This will solve the problem of motivation and give you a framework for success. The teacher will correct your errors and guide you in the learning. The teaching is done online (via Skype, Zoom etc) so you can be located anywhere in the world. There is the excellent platform of italki that lets you choose a teacher within many available. Each teacher is presenting himself in a video and the first class is usually at a reduced price (in order to allow you to test). It is specified for each teacher, in which languages he can communicate with you.

3. Using a Smartphone Application – Especially Duolingo

This is great, because we all have a smartphone and this is very convenient to “play” with a language method, while on the public transports (for example).
The king of the applications is Duolingo. It is free and it is excellent. They have over 300 million registered users across the world. You can download Duolingo from the “Play Store” or “Apple store”. The way Duolingo teaches a new language is by a lot of repetitions and without explanations. It works, at the end you memorize things. It is possible to turn off the option of repeating by voice and just use the writing option (I use only the writing option) but then, you will not practice talking. You may feel frustrated at the beginning that there are no explanations, that’s why I am also using a book learning method.
Notes :

  1. There are almost 100 languages to learn with Duolingo, but not all of them are available in all the languages of the interface. It is the English interface that offers the most languages to learn (so choose the English interface, if needed).
  2. There are many smartphone applications for learning languages. Do a search in your “Play Store” or “Apple store”. Some of the methods are free, at least the basic version.

4. Watching Youtube videos – especially those for learning a language

You need to listen to native speakers, so Youtube videos are excellent for that, there are endless videos available. The problem is that at the beginning you don’t understand a lot and it is too advanced. That’s why you should look for videos dedicated for learning the language (do a search on youtube : “learn …”). There is one company that is doing a great job, they are interviewing people on the streets and it is subtitled. You learn a lot from that and you get to know the country and the people. The Youtube channel is called Easy Languages and there is also a channel for each language, like Easy FrenchEasy Spanish and more.

5. Using a website dedicated to learning languages

It is the same idea like a Smartphone application. There are websites, that are teaching a language. Some are free, some are with payment and in that case you get a username and a password for accessing the material.
Note that on the site that you are surfing right now (, there is basic French vocabulary,  Spanish vocabulary and Hebrew vocabulary all with audio.

6. Learning with Songs

This is by far, my preferred method, a very useful one. Songs are something that you get addicted to, it’s something that you tend to repeat on and on, then you get curious about specific words and you search their meaning in the dictionary (on the Internet, of course).
That’s basically how I have learned Italian, by singing.
You can find on this site ( French songsSpanish songs, Italian songs , Israeli songs with translation to English.

7. Watching TV

Very easy now via Internet. You can find on this site ( links to French sitesSpanish sites,  Israeli sites.

8. Reading Internet sites

There are the news site, of course. They are good because the content is updated constantly, so it is not boring and you can read a lot and learn.
Try also to browse into less formal sites, in order to experience every day language used by people. You can read the comments of people on articles, they surely use an every day language. You can find on this site ( links to French sitesSpanish sites,  Israeli sites.

9. Reading regular Books (fiction and not fiction)

One advantage that I found with books over news websites, is when they are written in the “first person” (I did like that, I feel like that…). It is important to get used to the first person because that’s what you mostly use in real life for speaking. In news websites, on the other hand, the news are written in an abstract way (there was a fire…).
Another advantage is when the book is interesting and it keeps you busy with the new language.
Choose books with modern and simple language.

10. Talking with Humans

A good way to practice speaking. Find humans who speak the language and pretend you want to be their friend.

11. Writing a diary

This is more fun and easier than making simple exercises for learning a language. With exercises (grammar etc), you may feel like you are doing homework at school, it’s difficult to be motivated sometimes.
With a diary, it’s different, you are writing for yourself and it motivates you to look at the dictionary to search for words.
For better effect write it on real paper instead of a computer, it works better on the memory.
Also writing a blog on the Internet, is an excellent idea for practicing a new language.

12. Talking to yourself

You describe (to an imaginary friend) what you did today or what you are doing now or planning for tomorrow and any general thought about any subject. You can do it while strolling in the nice streets.
It’s not easy, it requires a lot of discipline and concentration (beware if you are driving a car). Like when writing a diary or talking to a real person, this is an active phase, you need to find the words. Of course that you will need some assistance from time to time, so you need also a smartphone connected to the Internet and when you are not sure about a word or sentence you use Google translate.

13. Living in the target country for a while

This is great to be in an environment with the language you want to learn, but the learning will not be done by itself. The best is to learn theory in parallel to the stay in the country (in school or by yourself). Like this, your learning is reinforced, from many angles.

14. Going to a real school

As I said before, it has some advantages, especially the one that you meet people.

15. Taking private language classes

You can meet the teacher in person or via a web communication application like Skype and in that case, the teacher can be living in another country than yours. There are some websites who specialises in listing private teachers. For example italki.

16. Marry a person that speaks the language

This is extreme but it works, you learn the language. is not responsible for anything that may happen to you.

Using Internet tools

There are many tools available online (like dictionaries) that can help you learn a language. I want to mention 2 very useful ones :

Google Translate

You need some experience to get the maximum out of this wonderful tool (link : Google Translate).
You cannot trust at 100 % a translation tool, it cannot always guess what you mean, so you need to “play” with it a little bit in order to get the best results. You need to have some notions in the target language, in order to judge if the result is acceptable. The tool helps you to “remember” things you already should know.
When you do a translation : at the destination language, you can click on the text and you will get alternative translations.
On the source language : try to rephrase the text in other ways, then you will get other translations, and you will choose the one you like. If you know well other languages (except the source and destination), then you can try to write the source in another language, you may receive other translations.
The Audio : There is an icon with a loudspeaker (at the source language and at the target language), so you can listen to the text, very useful for beginners. This feature is not available for all languages, yet.

Note : There is also Deepl Translator. It does the same job as Google Translate, but better. It is not available for all the languages, yet.

Google Search

It can help you decide between two language alternatives. Here how :
Let’s say you are not sure if the correct form is : “I want to go” or “I wants to go”. So Instead of looking for the answer inside a grammar book (you need to find the book first and then you need also to find the right section in the book, not easy sometimes), you can use Google search instead.
Do a search in Google (twice, for both sentences) with the quotation mark at the beginning and ending of the phrase.
The quotation mark is important, it tells Google that you want to find only the results with these exact words, in the same order of words.
In the result, Google will tell you how many phrases like this he has found.
Compare the two numbers. The correct phrase should receive the highest number (more people wrote articles with the correct form of the phrase).
This is not exact science, but it is very fast. You may need sometimes also to look at some specific results in the search result in order to be sure your conclusion is the right one.
For example :
For “I want to go”  Google says he found : About 273,000,000 results
For “I wants to go” Google says he found : About 329,000 results
So the first number, is much higher, it is probably the correct form. After I look a little bit at the results I decide that there are 329,000 people in the world who don’t know English and the correct form is the first one.

Dictionaries, Translators and Context

The translators on line have become very sophisticated. The first generation of translators were doing a poor job and their database was static. We used to get from time to time very funny translations with these old tools. Nowadays, the tools are using artificial intelligence in order to scan the Internet and pick the best translation. One tool that is very good (and free) is called Reverso-Context. For each translation, it gives examples he has found on the net (see the picture with a word in German). The tool has also the functions of: spellcheck, dictionary, synonyms and conjugation.
Except Reverso you can use for translations : Google Translate and DeepL (very good)
For a static dictionary you can use : WordReference.

It is possible to use a Translation tool also as a dictionary (by writing only one word), but the correct answer is not guaranteed (one word can have many meanings). A Translation tool can guess better what you want, if you give him an entire phrase and if possible grammatically correct.

How to store and memorise the new words you learn

If you are a “Smartphone man” :
I found the following method to be good (fast and easy to use):

  1. dictionary exampleCreate a new folder in your photo gallery on your smartphone. Name the new folder “new words”, for example.
  2. While you look in the dictionary (online dictionary) for the meaning of a new word, make a “print screen” (a screenshot). You should look how to do a “print screen” for your specific smartphone (for example, in my android, I have to press simultaneously 2 buttons).
  3. After you did a “print screen”, a photo is created automatically in your “screenshots” folder.
  4. Move this photo from your “screenshots” folder to the “new words” folder that you have created in step 1.
  5. That’s it. Now you have a folder with the new words (jpg photos) that you encountered during the year. It is very easy to browse these photos. Look at this folder from time to time, in order to memorize the new words.
  6. In addition to making “screenshots of your online dictionary, you can also screenshot a comment you write in the “Memo” utility of your smartphone (the utility where you can write notes). You can write comments regarding grammar rules etc.
  7. You can also use your camera in your smartphone for taking pictures of ads in the city or a sentence in a newspaper that you find interesting and you want to memorize. Move the photo in your“new words” folder.

If you are a “notebook man” :
notebook example

  1. Buy a nice small notebook from the store.
  2. Draw a Turtle on the cover of the notebook, so that you will fall in love with this notebook and look inside it from time to time (you can draw other animals).
  3. Write in each page a new word that you want to memorize, with its meaning (you look at the dictionary) and the phrase where you found this word (that’s how you will encounter new words that interest you, by reading articles on websites).




star About languages :

star On Cities and Countries :

star Other Stuff :

star If you find incorrect data on this page, like a restaurant that has closed or a big river that has moved or you want to tell me something, please write me to contact.