by Jon Lewis

You may be tempted to invest in some language-learning software that you have seen advertised, but don’t be fooled by the advertiser’s claims. All that glitters is not gold – so it may have lots of fancy colours and use all the latest technology, but is it actually more effective than other, more simple methods? In my opinion, no. Here’s why the humble flash card out-performs software every time:

1. They’re cheap Go to any stationer’s and buy some blank cards, the size of a business card. They cost next to nothing. A language learning CD-ROM will cost you at least 20 dollars, perhaps as much as two hundred!

2. You can use them anywhere I started learning French when I was living in London and travelling to work by bus. Even if you do have a laptop computer, try getting it out when you’re the last one the bus or train and there’s only standing room left! With a small pile of flash cards in my pocket, I could be learning French anywhere, anytime – even while walking down the street.

3. You won’t get eyestrain Even while writing this article, my eyes are starting to hurt. I don’t know many people who can honestly say they like reading off a computer screen. With your flash cards you can create the right learning environment for you, whether it’s at your desk, on the sofa, or out in the garden.

4. They don’t break down, and they never go out of date. I still use mine to remind me of things that I’ve forgotten, even after several years. They have an unconditional lifetime guarantee – just don’t lose them! And you’ll never have any “down time” because your computer’s being repaired.

5. They work! The first set of flash cards you make should be single words. So you write the word on one side and the translation on the other. Test yourself until you have a good vocabulary of about a hundred words. Then you are ready to use your flash cards to learn complete sentences. Use the words that you have already learned to make sentences to remember. Be sure to ask someone who speaks the language you want to learn to check your flash cards for errors – you don’t want to practise mistakes!

Start learning those words with flash cards and you’ll soon be ready to join a real language class. Once you’ve got a few words and sentences, you’ll really benefit from making conversation with native speakers – it’s up to you to start speaking!

About the author: Jonathan Lewis has lived and worked in the south of France for four years. As a language teacher, he offers invaluable advice to anyone wishing to learn a new language. Visit his site on learning languages and on his blog, learning English