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Independent language learning

Independent language learningFind out the best ways to learn a new language outside school, college or university.

Ways to learn

There are a number of different ways to start learning a language, including:

  • Textbooks are particularly useful for studying grammar in depth, or following an A-level course on your own.
  • Audio lessons are normally designed to teach you the basics of speaking a language quickly by listening and repeating.
  • Online courses are normally free, and include written and listening tests.
  • Private tuition can be expensive, but will allow you to focus where you really need to and practice speaking.
  • Taught courses can be expensive, but are more likely to lead to a qualification, can improve your motivation.

Ask yourself the following questions to work out the best approach for you.

What's your level?

The best way to learn will depend on what level you are at already. If you're just picking up a language, you might need a more formal, structured approach, like taking a course. If you're already fairly confident, you might prefer to improve your fluency by going to a conversation group.

Find out more about improving your existing language skills.

Why do you want to learn?

What you want to do with the language might affect how you learn it. For example, if you want to learn a language before you visit a country on holiday, you'll probably focus on speaking, listening and reading. If you want to learn a language for your career, writing might be more important, and you might need to learn specialist vocabulary for the area you work in.

How much do you want to spend?

There are many free ways to learn languages online, such as the BBC's language courses, DuoLingo and the American Foreign Services Institute. Free courses can teach you just as much as paid ones, but you normally won't get a qualification at the end. Similar self-taught courses that include textbooks or CDs will cost money, and hiring a private tutor or enrolling on taught course is likely to be the most expensive option.

Do you need a qualification?

A qualification doesn't affect how well you can speak a language, but it can help you to demonstrate your ability to employers or universities. If you want to get a qualification, you might decide to take a course that leads to a qualification at a local college. However, this isn't the only option: for some qualifications, such as A-levels, you can study on your own and then take the exams separately by signing up with an assessment centre (normally a school or college). If you need a qualification, make sure you've looked into where you can get one from before you start studying.

Find out more about taking A-levels independently.

What language do you want to learn?

The language you want to learn will affect which options are available to you. For a major European language like French, you'll be able to take your pick. For less popular languages, you might not be able to find classes or tuition locally, and there might be fewer online courses or study materials available.

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