6 Most Popular Language Learning Methods

Discover what language learning techniques are the best for you

Table of Contents

Introduction


Learning a new foreign language without any guidance or structure can be an impossible task, especially if you are learning it on your own online.

If this is the first time you are starting to learn a foreign language, then you definitely need to decide on how to structure your learning activities in the best way for you.

Along with creating your own learning structure and schedule you will need to figure out what kind of learning activities mesh well with your mind. You will have to choose what kind of learning methods are the most effective for you.

Do not worry fellow Language Blazer, we will go over the most popular language learning methods out there and I will show you how to incorporate each one into your learning plan.

What are language learning methods?

There are a lot of language learning methods out there, but I am going to focus on 6 most popular learning techniques that can help you learn a new foreign language more effectively. 

The term “Language learning methods” might sound a bit scary, but in reality it is very simple. The methods are just good ways and activities for learning new languages, nothing else. You will learn that there are quite a few language learning methods out there.

 

It is important to understand how each method works and how you will benefit from it. Let’s dive into the most popular language learning method. Below you will find a list of some of the more popular methods out there.

 

I will explain the way each one works and its pros and cons, plus I will show you how you can use it when you are learning online.

1. The Direct Approach

“The Direct Approach” method was established in the early 20th century in England. It is one of the more popular language learning methods. So what is so unique about this approach?

 

This language technique, where the main focus of learning is on making the students use only the target language for communication. Using other languages is not allowed because that forces you, as a student, to start using the language for both speaking and thinking.

 

With this method, your teacher is not allowed to use anything else than the language you are learning. That means no translations or grammar explanations. The idea is that, if the teacher is good, you as the student will figure out the language rules on your own from the examples you are studying.

 

The teacher can use his body movement, visual aids, pantomime or some other creative way to show you what you are learning.

 

This is a great method for learning languages, but only if your teacher has great skill. A poor teacher will get you nowhere.

 

This language learning method has several good benefits when it comes to learning a new language, but it is not perfect. The method definitely has some disadvantages which you should know.

The Direct Approach is one of the best language learning methods out there. Check out the pros and cons of the direct approac language learning technique.

Key Benefits:

1) Your speaking skills will improve a lot: 

The teacher forces you to speak no matter what, so it will skyrocket your speaking level pretty fast.

2) Your listening skills will improve: 

By not having translations or any other help, you will learn to listen better to the language you are learning.

3) Your pronunciation will get better as well:

 As you talk more and more, your pronunciation will improve rapidly, which is a pretty great thing, don’t you agree?

4) Lessons are Interactive & Engaging: 

By forcing you to speak the language you are learning, the teacher creates an immersive environment where you will interact and engage with the teacher and other students.

This will make the lessons more memorable and your brain will retain most of the things you have learned during the lesson

Biggest Disadvantages:

1) Grammar concepts won’t be properly explained:

While you will use the language all the time, if you don’t have prior grammar knowledge you will not learn the grammar rules correctly, especially the abstract ones which are difficult to explain with your arms and legs.

 

2) Writing exercises are ignored: 

This method forgets about writing exercises, which is bad since it is also an essential component when we talk about learning new foreign languages.

 

3) You struggle a lot at the beginning:

If you use this method as an absolute beginner without any vocabulary in your mind, you will struggle a lot in the first lessons. 

 

4) Difficult to find the right teacher:

The method requires a highly skilled teacher who knows how to teach the lessons properly, and teachers on this level are hard to find.

How to use it online?

To use this method properly, you are definitely going to need a learning partner. 

Luckily, there are a couple of good paid services that can pair you with native speakers and teachers online. 

There are a couple of good paid options: 

Preply 

Verbling

Tutoroo   

Italky

These four platforms offer a variety of language tutors with different price ranges. 

If money is not an issue, try one of them out and find the right teaching partner for you. 

You can find some free options out there as well. 

Check out some Language Forums and Social media groups where you can find a conversation partner that can help you learn with this method.

Now that you know more about the Direct Approach method, you can easily incorporate it in your language learning activities. 

You should definitely use the technique in your language studies, but don’t rely solely on this method. 

Make sure to mix it up with other learning techniques to get the most out of it.

The next method we are going to cover is the “Translation Method”, the oldest language learning technique.

2. The Translation Method

This language learning method is one of the oldest techniques in the book. 

The Translation Method has been used for thousands of years, and it is still being used today. 

The name itself tells you what it is all about, and the technique is pretty straightforward.

This technique focuses on translation as a learning tool. You pick a short story or article, a dictionary, and you start reading and translating the text. Yep, it is pretty simple.

The translation method is a good technique when you are just starting your language journey. It is a good way to bulk up your vocabulary, which you can later use in your learning activities.

The method has a couple of nice benefits but also pretty big flaws, therefore I advise you not to focus your learning only on this technique.

Language Blazer - The Translation Method Pros & Cons list. The most popular language learning methods list

Key Benefits:

1) Great for beginners:

The method is great for beginners because it lets you learn new words very quickly which you can later use in conversations with others.

 

2) Improves reading and writing skills:

You practice reading and writing in a foreign language, and it strengthens your knowledge of a language.

 

3) Build up your vocabulary:

 When translating pieces of texts, you pick up new words and expressions with great speed. This is a good way to broaden your vocabulary for the future.

 

Biggest Disadvantages:

1) No Speaking practice:

The method doesn’t let you practice speaking, which is the most important part of the language learning journey.

2) Not learning pronunciation:

If you are not reading out loud or listening to the text you are translating, then you do not learn how to pronounce new words, which will make you struggle with speaking in the long run.

3) No listening practice:

With this technique, you do not improve your listening skills, which is pretty bad. Every foreign language is very specific when it comes to sounds and pronunciation. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to listen.

How to use it online?

While the Translation Method has its disadvantages, you should still use it in your learning activities, but not too much.

You can use it to learn new words as a beginner and practice your reading skills, but it should not take more than 10-15% of your learning activity.

It is fairly easy to learn with this technique online. You will find a some good free resources where you can pick up short stories for beginners. 

This will help you get started with your language learning journey. 

Here are a couple of sites where you can find some material: 

Spanish: 

Arbol ABC

Snappy Spanish

German: 

LearnOutLive

TheFableCottage

Italian: 

TheItalianExperiment

 

When you build up your vocab, you can go on and try translating online news articles or other complex books. 

You can improve the effectiveness of the technique by doing the following:

  • Start Reading the text out loud
  • Listen to the text through an online text reader
  • Write a summary of the translated text in your own words
 
 

Now that you know what the Translation Method is and how to use it, we are ready to move on to other language learning methods. The next one on the list is “The Natural Approach” method.

3. The Natural Approach Method

This language learning method is pretty interesting. The main assumption is that you should learn a foreign language the same way you have learned your native language when you were a kid. 

The technique emphasizes on learning the language in the “natural way”. The whole idea is structured in the following 4 stages:

 

   1. Pre-Production stage: 

This is where you, as a “child” are just getting exposed to the foreign language passively, not actively participating or trying to speak or write on your own. 

 

    2. Early Production stage: 

This stage is described as when children start to speak their first words. In this stage, you as a learner are just starting to speak some words and understanding the basics of a language. 

You are encouraged here to speak without paying much attention to grammar or other mistakes, this will be corrected in the later stages.  

 

    3. Speech Emergence: 

The third stage where you are developing your speaking skills. 

You learn to form longer sentences, use more words than you have learned in the previous two stages. In this stage it is not expected from you to have the right pronunciation or spelling. 

Your grammar will also be full of mistakes, but that will   be corrected in the final stage of the whole process. 

 

    4. Intermediate fluency: 

In this final stage, you as a student are expanding your language skills, and you learn the more advanced concepts and phrases. 

Here is where your exposure to the language kicks in. 

You are already able to speak the language now you just learn the details and the rules of a language. 

This is where you achieve fluency, and you are able to speak the foreign language properly. 

Through these four stages of the Natural Approach technique, you are going from zero to hero. 

The first two stages are really passive and this is where you are getting yourself familiar with a language. 

The sounds, the words and the pronunciation, while in the next two stages you start speaking the language on your own. 

This method does work well in practice in some areas, but it doesn’t cover the full experience. 

You can see that there are a couple of good advantages that come with the technique. On the other hand, there are a few flaws that might limit your learning: 

Language Blazer Natural Approach Learning Method: Pros & Cons

Key Benefits:

1) Immersive experience:

This technique generates a great immersive learning experience if you are exposing yourself to the language in the right way.

 

2) Improved cultural understanding:

 If you use good native content to expose yourself to the language, then you will learn a lot about the cultural context of a language. This is an important step towards reaching fluency in a language.

 

3) Great Listening & Speaking practice:

With this technique, you do not improve your listening skills, which is pretty bad. Every foreign language is very specific when it comes to sounds and pronunciation, so it is essential to learn how to listen.

Biggest Disadvantages:

1) Lacks structure:

 This learning approach doesn’t have a strong structure. Some learners really struggle with progress when they don’t have a proper structure in place.

2) A lot of Grammar Mistakes:

 If you start the final stage of the process too late, you might get used to the mistakes you have made earlier. This can be a problem to fix those mistakes if you start the grammar lessons too late.

3) It is not for everyone:

 You will start listening to a lot of content and conversations, which will spark great progress in your listening and speaking skills. You will learn how to express yourself better in your target language.

How to use it online?

This one of the trickier language learning methods to use for online learning. 

You must expose yourself to online content passively for a long time. It is important to pick high quality content, which is hard if you are a complete beginner. 

It is doable to do it online on your own, but it is much easier to learn this with a partner.

So, my advice to you is to partner up and create a detailed content plan on what kind of content will you use to immerse yourself in the language you are studying. 

The Natural Approach is definitely an interesting technique for learning foreign languages. I believe it is great for working on your listening and speaking skills, but it is not for everyone. Most people, myself included, require some kind of structure in their learning journey.

Without a good structure, you might end up stuck on a certain level and won’t be able to move forward. I would definitely take the part where you expose yourself to the language. 

 

It is a passive activity so you can incorporate it in your daily schedule easily.

If you are interested more into the details of the Natural Approach, here is a PDF document where you can go into more details and see how it should work.

Let’s move onto the next language learning method out there, which is “Community Language Learning.” (CLL)

4. Community Language Learning

This technique is one of the more popular language learning methods out there.

It is focused on learning in a group of students, where everyone is encouraged and pushed to speak and interact with each other in the target language.

To have an effective study session with this method, you need to be surrounded with people that are learning the same language as you are. 

 

This is a great way to learn in the standard classroom environment.

You will start speaking at a very early stage with your peers that are on the same level as you are. 

It is fun because you will make the same mistakes and laugh about it.

The CLL lessons are mostly spontaneous. The students in the group decide on what they want to talk about. 

The teacher offers help and guidance on the way. Even though it is one of the more spontaneous learning approaches, it does have some structure for the lessons.

The class is divided into 5 stages:

Brainstorming – you discuss with others the topics you want to talk about during the session.

Recorded Conversation – you record the conversation you are having with the whole group.

Discussion – you discuss with others about the conversation you had in the previous stage.

Transcription – you listen to the recording and transcribe the recorded conversation.

 

Language analysis – you analyze the language you used in the conversation. Talk about grammar, pronunciation and the mistakes you made.

 

CLL is a good learning approach, but it is not perfect. 

Let’s dive into the main benefits and disadvantages of this technique.

 

The graphic shows a list of pros and cons for one of the popular language learning methods.

Key Benefits:

1) Focused on communication:

This method develops your communication and conversation skills. You talk with multiple people in your target language for most of the time, which is a great way to improve your speaking skills.

 

2) Flexible learning style:

The classes are very spontaneous. You choose the topics that interest you, so it makes the learning process much more fun.

 

3) Learning with your peers:

You share your achievements and struggles with other students just like you. That makes your language journey easier.

Biggest Disadvantages:

1) Recording embarrassment:

Some of you might not be comfortable recording yourself, therefore some students might not fully participate in the class due to this.

 

2) Potential for unequal participation:

If you get in a group where some people dominate the conversation, then if you are a bit less assertive, you might end up learning less than the others that are louder than you.

 

3) Highly dependent on Group Balance:

When you end up in a group with harmony and balanced dynamics, you will be able to learn a lot, but if you get stuck in an unbalanced group that does not work well together, then you are wasting your time.

How to use it online?

The only way to use this technique to learn online is to join an online study group. 

You can find the groups on Social Media groups like Foreign Language exchanges, and sometimes it might be tricky to organize it for more than a few people. 

The hardest part is to find a nice group of people, that fit well with your personality. Ideally, you would be learning the foreign language with friends, but that is rarely the case. 

 

As you can see, CLL is a good technique when it is done in the right environment, but the success of the group relies on many factors that are hard to achieve.

There are times when you should use some bits of this learning method in your learning activities, but you can’t really rely only on this method during your studies.

 

Let’s move on to the next method on the list, which is the Home Immersion Method.

5. Home Immersion Learning method

This technique was one of the best language learning methods during the Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

The main idea is to do everything you usually do in the foreign language that you are learning. 

You should start reading books, articles, cooking recipes or anything else in your target language. Watch movies, TV shows, listen to music, podcasts or radio in your target language. 

You should also speak with your partner, roommate or spouse in your target language and use it as often as possible.

When you do that, you are forcing yourself to be surrounded by the language as much as possible, which makes your mind more familiar with the new language, and you start understanding and learning the language both consciously and unconsciously.

This is the way my brother and I learned English when we were kids. We were watching a lot of Cartoon Network on our TV because we weren’t able to watch the domestic TV stations due to poor signal.

I can assure you that this method can work when done properly.

 

 

The Home Immersion, as one of the language learning methods, has a couple of benefits and disadvantages. Let’s talk about that in more detail below:

The graphic shows a list of pros and cons for one of the popular language learning methods.

Key Benefits:

1) Very Affordable to use:

Most of the content you want to expose yourself to, is available online and free of charge. You can use YouTube and Netflix for Video, Spotify for music and podcasts, news sites for reading etc.

 

2) Most Flexible method out there:

 You decide what you are going to watch, listen and read. There are no rules, just the ones you make yourself, which is great because you can adapt it to your daily routines easily.

 

3) Great for Cultural immersion :

When you start consuming a lot of different content in the language, you will start to understand the culture better.

Biggest Disadvantages:

1) It requires a lot of Self-Motivation:

 Because of its flexibility and lack of structure, there will be no one to guide you or check on your progress. You have to motivate and drive yourself to learn on your own. 

This requires a high level of desire to learn, which sometimes can be hard to maintain.

2) You might feel isolated:

If you are doing this method alone without a partner, it gets lonely, and it will definitely hurt your learning progress.

It is better for you to do it with someone else as well.

3) Lack of professional feedback:

With this method, you don’t have a teacher that can help you when you are stuck and correct you when you get something wrong.

How to use it online?

The Home Immersion technique is one of the language learning methods, that is really simple to follow when you are learning a new language online. 

You can find all the relevant content on the Internet. 

Here are several ways to create a great immersive environment for learning a foreign language at home: 

  • Start watching your favorite shows in the target language.
  • Listen to the most popular music on YouTube or Spotify.
  • Get some nice and easy books in your target language, when your vocabulary gets better you can move to some more serious reading material.
  • Switch your phone and laptop to the target language
  • Use post-it notes and name all your furniture in the flat in their respective names in your target language. 
  • Learn together with a partner and have conversations every day. 
 
 

Now we move on to the last language learning method on the list of the popular learning techniques that are being used by language learners. 

This method is called “Task Based Language Learning” or TBLL for short. 

6. Task Based Language Learning

“Task Based Language Learning” or “TBLL” is a learning technique where you, as the student, learn the language by completing certain real life tasks and challenges where you are required to use the foreign language you are learning to complete the task that was assigned to you by the teacher.

 

The tasks can be simple, like go to the grocery store and buy things for lunch, plan out your day off, organize a trip and many more. 

The key idea is to simulate real life situations where you will find yourself when you are visiting the country where your target language is spoken.

The method can be effective when you have a good teacher and a fun group of fellow students around you. 

You need a good teacher to structure the lessons and plan out the tasks and activities for you.

 

Other learners in your group are also important. If the group cohesion is bad, the lesson experience will be bad as well.

The technique, like other language learning methods, we talked about in this article, has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Here are the key pros and cons of this learning technique:

TTBL or Task Based Language Learning method list of pros and cons

Key Benefits:

1) Great communication exercises:

The tasks that you must complete require you to speak and cooperate with other students in order to complete the goal. This will enhance your speaking and listening skills.

 

2) Very active learning exercises:

You will participate in real life situations where you will be actively participating with others. This way you will learn to use the language properly.

 

3) Thinking in the foreign language:

All this will make you comfortable thinking in your target foreign language. This is a great step towards reaching fluency.

 

Biggest Disadvantages:

1) It can be overwhelming:

Sometimes the tasks might be difficult or too advanced for beginner learners.

This can overwhelm you if you don’t feel confident in your knowledge, and it can make you give up on the language too early.

2) Requires a teacher with high skills:

You need a teacher that is highly skilled in conducting these exercises, which is hard to find, especially online.

3) It can’t be done alone:

This is one of the language learning methods that require highly skilled guidance and an active group of students. You can’t really do it alone or with a friend.

How to use it online?

This learning technique is very difficult to do online. You must find a right group of people to practice it. 

The only way to do it is to join a good online language course. 

There are a ton of online schools out there. You just need to find the one that fits you best. 

Conclusion

Through this article, you have learned how these popular language learning methods work and what are the key benefits and flaws. 

You can’t rely on just one technique to reach fluency.  You will have to combine a couple of them. 

If you are looking for a way to structure your learning activities, check out the full guide on how to learn foreign languages.