The 16 Best Resources for Teaching a Foreign Language

According to infoplease, there are more than 6,500 languages spoken in the world, each with its own unique culture and way of thinking and communicating. As globalization barrels forward, learning a foreign language becomes ever more important and beneficial for students. However, learning another language is difficult; if you are a foreign language teacher, how can you make the process easier and more enjoyable for your students? The following resources may help.

Motivation, Methods, and Theories Behind Learning a Second Language

The journey to multilingualism is one with no shortage of forks in the road. Which methods of language learning are best? How can you help your students stay excited about learning a language even the going gets tough?

  • The traditional method of learning another language involves tons of memorization and grammar drills, but that approach may actually go against what the brain is naturally programmed to do. This article from Forbes discusses a teaching method that is popular in Europe that involves “using foreign languages to teach non-language subjects.”
  • Does learning a foreign language and acting have anything in common? Yes! This blog post delves into the parallels between the two activities and can give you a fresh perspective on the most important facets of language learning, such as vocabulary, register, and cultural awareness.
  • English is a star in the world of languages. That raises the question of whether learning a language other than English can truly benefit children. The answer is yes. This article from P&G lists five reasons that all children should learn another language. The two standouts: foreign language study can improve academic performance and is good for brain development.
  • What languages should children study in school? This article can help students determine the practical value of learning languages such as Spanish, French, Arabic, German, and Mandarin Chinese.
  • Music is always great for learning, but, as this article shows, singing is especially effective in helping students master pronunciation in a new tongue. Music may not be as helpful for tone-based languages such as Chinese, but even there it can still help students master basic sounds.
  • Are you thinking about switching up the way you approach teaching a language? This article from MoraModules discusses some of the most popular methods and offers practical pointers on how to use each one. Some of the teaching avenues that the material addresses include the direct approach, the reading approach, total physical response, the silent way, and the natural approach.
  • How can you help your students maintain a positive attitude toward acquiring another language? This article from Better Chinese talks about the role of motivation in language learning and how you can keep your students interested. Some of the suggestions include things like acknowledging student progress, using art and stories in lessons, and tailoring your approach to specific student needs.
  • This excellent article from The Guardian offers evidence that learning a foreign language can “increase the size of your brain.” The piece then explores exactly what happens to the brain as a second language is acquired.

Lesson Plans and Ideas for Teaching Foreign Languages

Image via Flickr by Helga's Lobster Stew

Image via Flickr by Helga’s Lobster Stew

The following resources can help you hone how you teach new ways of speaking to your students.

  • Teachingideas.co.uk presents a treasure trove of ideas that includes engaging games and activities. There are ideas that focus specifically on colors, numbers, and general vocabulary skills and memorization.
  • Sitcoms can prove to be an invaluable tool when you are teaching a foreign language, as they are a format to which teenagers are naturally attracted. Through the structure, text, topics, and references, students will learn about other cultures and master language skills without even realizing they’re doing any work. Sitcoms are also much closer to true language immersion, in which students learn a language in context. Teachers working with ESL students will have a wealth of American and British TV shows to draw from, while those teaching US students a foreign language will need to do a little research to find popular shows in that language.
  • Whether they are in kindergarten or 12th grade, students thrive on technology. You can share this list of language learning apps with your students to give them a fun and effective way to increase their vocabulary and understanding of a language.
  • Languagenut.com includes resources for teaching 12 world languages, including Spanish, Chinese, German, Arabic, Haitian Creole, and others. It even gives you a tool to track students’ homework. While languagenut.com’s services and activities are not free, you can sign up for a free trial to see if it is a fit for your classroom.
  • This list, entitled “100 Ways to Encourage Foreign Language Learning,” is aimed at helping parents teach their children. However, some of the resources and ideas therein are also helpful to teachers. These include Skyping with foreign pals, among many others.
  • Mandarin Chinese has more native speakers than any other language. Chinesepod contains a series of practical Mandarin Chinese lessons that include review activities and vocabulary lists. A few of the lessons are free, but most require that you pay for a subscription. The creators of Chinesepod.com also host Frenchpod.com, Italianpod.com, and Spanishpod.com.
  • Pinterest is a never-ending stream of ideas for teaching a foreign language. This Pinterest board focuses specifically on ways to learn new vocabulary words.
  • The thrill of learning a new language comes from learning how to communicate in that language, not from struggling to learn complicated sentence structures. This post from Edutopia discusses the grammar vs. communication debate and provides five steps for planning your next foreign language unit with a focus on communication.

In Short

Writer Rita Mae Brown once said, “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” Indeed, when you help your students grasp a new language, you give them what they need to have an enriched, globalized mindset. The above resources are tools you can use to take your students from monolingual to multicultural.

3 Comments

  1. Sheya

    March 31, 2015 at 6:34 am

    An Arabic teacher here. Great article. Thanks for sharing these resources! Fyi the Arabic in the first image is completely wrong. The letters should be connected and even if they were connected, the word is backwards. Just thought you all might want to know!

    • Leah Levy

      March 31, 2015 at 7:00 am

      Yikes, that is certainly not good! We’ll address this shortly. Thank you for bringing that to our attention!

      • Sheya

        March 31, 2015 at 7:55 am

        No problem!