What’s the best method to learn a language?


Every budding language learner has asked themselves this question. 

After all, mastering a language can feel like a monumental task. The grammar, the vocabulary, the speaking and writing—there’s so much to think about. And fluency seems so very far away.

It’s only natural that we ask ourselves, ‘is there an easier way?’

Thirty years ago, Rosetta Stone set out to find an answer to that question for you. Our linguists and teaching experts have spent considerable time weighing the pros and cons of different methods.

In the article below, you’ll find out about the different strategies available and the benefits they offer. You’ll also learn about the weaknesses of certain approaches, as well as the methodology on which Rosetta Stone is based.

Hopefully, you’ll find the method that’s just right for you.

Classroom learning

The original study method—classroom learning is probably what most of us think of when we consider language learning. It’s tried and true. But do the results reflect the popularity of this method? Well, that’s up for debate. 

Classroom learning is certainly readily available. You’ll get the guidance of an expert and (hopefully) lots of real-life speaking and listening practice. And the classroom itself is more of a backdrop than a method in itself. In practice, you’re likely to see quite a few of the other methods employed within the classroom setting.

On the negative side, you will be totally dependent on the quality of teaching to see results. Classroom study limits the level of autonomy you can exercise over the learning process. It’s also a question of luck whether you’ll get to study an approach that actually works for you. 

With the amount of homework you’ll get, you might not have the time to study the way you want.

Grammar-translation method

If you studied languages in school, you’ll likely be familiar with this teaching technique. 

Grammar-translation focuses on learning the grammatical rules of your target language and applying them in written translation exercises. 

The method gives students a logical way to order and store language information. If you enjoy a structured approach to learning, this could be for you. 

However, grammar-translation also neglects a few key elements of language learning. It doesn’t engage your innate language-learning abilities or offer any contextual anchoring for vocabulary. 

You’ll also get no human-to-human interaction. After all, communication is essentially an emotional process, not a logical one. That’s why we rate grammar-translation the lowest out of all the methods on this list.

Total-immersion learning

Total-immersion is a method popular amongst language-learning enthusiasts. And it’s easy to see why. It’s simply the most natural way to learn a language. 

Total-immersion involves living in your target language 24/7. Every conversation and interaction you have should take place in that language. It works best when you can visit or live in a country where the language is widely spoken.

Total immersion is how we learn our native languages. It uses our innate language learning abilities to pick up vocab and build real communication skills in an ‘always on’ environment.

However, it has one major downfall—it’s simply not possible for everybody all of the time. Not all of us can afford to fly halfway across the world. It’s also nerve-wracking to start and can be exhausting to maintain. It’s a high-cost, high-reward method that presents deep practical challenges.

Immersion-based learning

Immersion-based learning is a method that simulates natural language learning in a controlled environment. Think of it like total-immersion lite—you’ll use real situations to absorb words and grammar concepts naturally. 

However, at the end of your session, you can put away your studies and live your life. 

The linguists and language experts at Rosetta Stone believe that immersion-based language learning is the goldilocks solution. We paired the method with interactive audio that gives you speaking and listening practice even when there are no fluent speakers around.

Immersion-based learning is an excellent method for anyone serious about language learning. It’s intuitive, easy to pick up and flexible. It’s not for everyone, though. If you don’t like the idea of learning through contextual clues, another method could be a better fit for you.

Gamified learning

Gamified learning made a name for itself during the 2010s. The theory behind the method is sound; make the process fun and you’ll encourage people to keep going on their learning journey. It works by using themes common to games, like progress mechanics and problem solving, to make language-learning practice more accessible. 

And it can be a lot of fun! One of the biggest challenges about learning a language can be keeping your motivation up over the long term. Consistent study over time is what brings results in a language. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to keep coming back for more.

The method also really benefits from the clear goal-setting that gamification brings. A structured approach sidesteps challenges with progress evaluation that many students face.

On the negative side, gamified learning means spending a lot of time on your computer and not listening to real people. After all, you can’t gamify a conversation. Gamification can take away the human element and leave you looking for ways to practice speaking and listening skills.

Gamified learning may also encourage students to shy away from the more challenging parts of learning a language. There are huge rewards in mastering a difficult language concept—don’t miss out on them!

Wrapping up

There’s no perfect method for learning a language. Every model has its pros and cons. As you progress on your learning journey, it’s likely that you’ll explore and use a range of different methods, many of them simultaneously. 

However, being mindful of the pitfalls of any one method can help make sure you get a well-rounded learning experience. The key is knowing what you’re getting yourself into before you start.

And remember, practice, patience and consistent study are the tools to success no matter which method you choose. Master them and your journey to fluency is assured.

If you are interested in trying out our Immersion-based learning, download the app and try the first lesson for free. 

About the Author Ismail Alidagi

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