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Brave Language Learning Bonus: 4 tools to automate language learning


This post is a free bonus chapter to go with my book “Brave Language Learning.” You can get the full book here.


I am not about to tell you that a secret language learning method has been found, or that you can now learn languages while focusing on something else. But with your digital tools, you can now stop worrying about some of the more repetitive aspects of your polyglot journey. Here are four tools worth using for putting some autopilot goodness in your life.

1. Zapier and IFTTT – out the web to work for you

You can now stop wondering whether that new YouTube channel published a new video. Or whether there is an attachment in that email from your tutor. With a few tools, this process can be automated.
Zapier and IFTTT are services which allow online tools to talk to each other, in order to do what you want them to. They can, for example, save an attachment from an email to your Dropbox. Or update a spreadsheet with a link to a new YouTube video.
The options are too many to list here. If you’re interested in saving some time from your polyglot admin, please give those two tools a go.

2. Beeminder – automated motivation

This is a painfully simple tool. You tell Beeminder about your goal and target. You give it your credit card details. Beeminder starts checking on you. If you fail, you pay. A little at first, but then more each time.
Beeminder, connected with Duolingo, was my method of choice for a long time. It didn’t matter whether I was motivated or not, I simply had to learn a bit of German or pay some money!
This works if you’re trying to just get going with your habit. Be careful, though, as it’s hard to get out of the bind.

3. Paper.li – Automate your material search

This service generates a free digital newspaper for you. It follows the keywords and hashtags you determine, and then puts together a daily selection of online links and sources which you can read through.
For those of us who love to roll our own learning materials – or for language learners with specific interests – this could be great. Research a list of keywords and hashtags in a foreign language, and let Paper.li deliver a daily dose of input! The results will vary, but there’s a lot to be said for saving time like this.

4. Google Alerts – Automate language learning news

This was, for a long while, my favourite method of keeping up with what’s going on in the language learning world. Google Alerts are customized emails which land in your inbox daily, bringing you news about the keyword(s) of interest. It’s similar to the Paper.li solution above, but less social and more compact.
Google Alerts would need a similar level of dedication to begin with – you need to teach the alert what you’re looking for, and research some foreign language keywords. Once that’s done, though, the bits you’re after (German news about your favourite band? Japanese updates from your beloved coastal town?) will make their way in an email. So convenient.

Any other language-learning automation tricks? Let us know.


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