10 Surprising Benefits of Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles in Language Learning

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Word searches and crosswords may not be on the forefront of the mind when it comes to language learning resources, but the ability to solve these puzzles require several skills that will be most useful when it comes to language learning.

Arthur Wynn a journalist from Liverpool is credited as being the inventor of the first crossword puzzle which was published in the ‘New York World‘ in 1913. Whilst Norman Gilbat published the first word search in the ‘Selenby Digest’, Oklahoma in the late 1960s. Although much earlier Pedro Ocon de Oro had created ‘Sopas de letras’ (Soup of Letters).

By the 1980s educational establishments worldwide had adopted word searches and crossword puzzles to boost vocabulary and spelling. Crossword puzzles are a form of active learning which engages more with materials than passive learning

  1. Vocabulary Building – This one is a no brainer really, but the amount of people who don’t really think about the usefulness of puzzle books and fast vocabulary building means it has made this list!
  2. Reasoning Skills – Puzzles not only get you thinking in that language but also get’s you using those reasoning skills too, this is an all important step for fluency.
  3. Spelling – Correctly deciphering a crossword also requires exact spelling, which for some students may mean practicing those dictionary skills! In relation to word searches it’s reviewing the word.
  4. Identify and understanding terms used – puzzles are great for all levels and can help build the pace from which you identify and understand key terms.
  5. Differentiations between similar words or phrases – Puzzles can really help with learning the differentiations between similar words. Which could make all the difference to saying ‘year’ or calling someone an ‘ass’ in Spanish! I’ve made this mistake…don’t go there!
  6. Reviewing Vocabulary – fun way to go over old material and test learning.
  7. Promoting ‘Active Learning‘ which engages the reader with the material more efficiently than passive learning.
  8. Great aid for visual learners who tend to have strong puzzle solving skills and feel greater satisfaction when completing them.
  9. Fab for auditory learners too that prefer step-by-step reasoning, therefore they also benefit from the sequential steps of completing a crossword.
  10. Kinesthetics learners enjoy the multi-task strategies require to solve crosswords so beneficial to all learning types.
Italian, Word Search, Puzzle, Crossword

Word Search Puzzle Books from
Scriveremo Publishing.

Although puzzles have proven to be a valuable tool in language learning I wouldn’t recommend them alone. I use them as a fun way to consolidate my knowledge of language and help build vocabulary.


Radadiya, D. “Word Search”. Word Search. Net.  
Bellis, Mary. “The History of Crossword Puzzles”. About.com.

Trisha Tests: Speechling

Speechling Review: Is this website and mobile-optimized app right for you?

FG-NNdWn_400x400Recently I was asked to test Speechling. Speechling is a website and app that enables you to improve your speaking skills in Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Russian and English. The free version is an incredibly valuable resource that makes it easy to practice mimicking native speakers hence their parrot logo. The Unlimited Plan provides unlimited corrections of your recordings by a real coach.

Would you like to improve your Spanish, French, German, English, Chinese, and Russian pronunciation? 

Well, an enthusiastic language learner called Hongyu Chen joined forces with other talented alumni from the Ivy League and Google to help you do just that! They created a tool which really does enable you to speak your target languages like a pro! Using scientifically proven techniques, such as space repetition and mass sentence structures to help you to improve your pronunciation in a way you have probably never experienced before. The method is called Speechling.


You can get 35 sentences reviewed per month as a free user, but you’ll have to upgrade to their 19.99 a month plan to log your progress, get unlimited reviews and recieve full access to all 6 languages at once.


There is a 10% discount available for Language Learners Journal readers with the referral code:  “TRISHA” 

So What is Speechling?

In their words…

“The Speechling Method uses a combination of technology and human coaching to help our students learn new languages.

Speechling believes that ‘Everyone in the world deserves access to quality language education‘.”

In my eyes…

“Using a combination of technology and real human interation Speechling can help you improve your pronunciation in language learning. Speechling shares the same values as Language Learners Journal Ltd in that everyone should have access to good quality langauage education.”

Who Is Speechling for?

Speechling is for people who want to…

  • Improve their pronunciation and be better understood by native speakers.
  • Learn new phrases and vocabulary.
  • Become more confident in speaking their target language(s).
  • Receive personal feedback and coaching (no video calling required).
  • The lessons go from Beginner (A1) up to Advanced (B1-B2).
  • People participating in language challenges such as #15x100Challenge or #Add1Challenge.

Many times when I have tried to speak in my target language, I don’t always pay attention to my pronunciation and this can be a big mistake especially when speaking a tonal language such as Chinese Mandarin. Speechling helps you to hear where you could improve your pronunciation right away. Then you listen to how the native speaker says the phrase and simply repeat it. You will make progress fast.

“Speechling coaches give you personalized feedback within 24 hours to help you improve pronunciation.”

What Does it Cost?  

The Forever Free Plan really is free forever! A monthly subscription to the Unlimited Plan will set you back $19.99 per month.

Special Speechling Discount

Language Learner’s Journal readers can get 10% off Speechlings Unlimited Plan with the code: TRISHA

FREE 7 Day Trial

If you sign up for the unlimited package and decide within 7 days that it’s not for you simply let Speechling know, and you won’t be charged for a membership. No-risk and no questions asked of course.

Speechling Scolarships 

For those who are in financial need and would really benefit from unlimited coaching, Speechling offers scholarships that you can apply for.

Language Learner’s Journal readers can get 10% off Speechlings Unlimited Plan with the code: TRISHA

How I used it


In order to get a better understanding of Speechling, I decided to try it out extensively with Chinese, Spanish and German over a period time.  I enjoyed having the chance to speak without judgment or the pressure of a real-time conversation. This really did help to build some initial confidence when learning a new language.

The topics include everything from basic questions to asking for help and one’s health. The Speechling Conversation features were my favorite. Not only do you get feedback on pronunciation, but the coaches do correct any mistakes in grammar or word order when offering feedback. Sometimes the coaches would really break the word down for me into more manageable segments.

I loved the little emojis I received if I got pronunciation correct.  It reminded me of the good work stickers I used to get from school. For Chinese and Spanish I had feedback within 24 hours as promised by the website.


What Languages are on Offer?

Language courses that are currently available are English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian. With the premium option, you can learn multiple languages at a time as it gives access to content across all languages. Perfect for polyglots (people that can speak several languages and still want to learn more).

Website Features 

  • Free Vocabulary Flashcards – Quiz yourself with flashcards on 1000s of sentences, completely free.


  • Fill In the Blank – Build your vocabulary with a series of cloze tests. Simply fill in the blank.


  • Free Listening Comprehension Practice – Play and practice your listening skills on 1000’s of sentences. Free forever.


  • Free Dictation Practice – Thousands of sentences available for dictation, from beginner to advanced. Forever free.


  • Free Audio Dictionary – Browse through 1000s of common sentences with audio examples from professional voice actors.

Pros and Cons

The Pros 

Real Feedback. An excellent method to improve your speaking abilities and get feedback within 24 hours from a real teacher.

Native Speakers. Speechling has recordings of real native speakers. You can choose between a male or female voice.

Easy to use. The platform is pleasing to the eyes, incredibly intuitive and user-friendly. You can record and submit your audio straight from your browser or smartphone, review your feedback, and re-record as necessary.

Non- judgmental and safe learning environment. No matter how terrible I feel my pronunciation is, Speechling is a safe and non-judgmental place to get better. The coaches don’t criticize you for any mistakes. They simply record the right pronunciation and then re-read the sentence for you. It’s a great place to build your confidence and pronunciation skills.

Dictation Exercises. It’s not just repetition. The dictation exercises provide listening practice. You can also get feedback on your recordings describing pictures or answering questions.

Switching languages. If you already speak French well enough, you can use it to work on your Mandarin pronunciation. If you speak Spanish, you can use it to learn French. It’s really versatile!

Generous free version. Although the unlimited version makes it possible to binge the content and get a ton of feedback, the free version does allow 15 minutes of coaching per month and scholarships are available for those in financial hardship.

The Audio Journal. All your recordings and feedback are stored in the Audio Journal which is color-coded! This makes it easier to see the status of all of the phrases you’ve worked on. It’s also a nice motivational boost to see everything marked in green.

Ace Speaking Challenges. If you are participating in a challenge I feel Speechling will really amplify your speaking ability and boost your confidence considerably!

The Cons

Learn the basics first. You’ll get feedback on your pronunciation from real coaches, but you’ll need to grasp the basics from somewhere else. I would recommend LingoHut for learning the basics. LingoHut you can learn 15+ languages for free. The site shares the same values as Language Learners Journal and Speechling in that quality language education should be accessible to all.

Limited Languages. Only available for Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Russian, and English… so far.

Doesn’t fully replace a live tutor. The coaches correct your pronunciation, but this isn’t a replacement for face-to-face tutors or language courses. Although I feel Speechling will perfectly complement other lessons and help you to practice.

The Verdict

Important Update: 

Speeching have listened and to address our comment that users need to “learn the basics first“, they have only gone and tripled their content collection! Speechling Foundations, covers the very basic words, and then coaches the users to use those very words in sentences.
Plus there is now an entirely offline module for  premium users. Users can download a huge chunk of our sentence collection (~10k sentences), with access to our audio books and Anki decks too.

Speechling has totally won the respect of Language Learners Journal Ltd as it is a not-for-profit organization, working to further the education around the globe. Offering a generous free service as well as scholarships for their unlimited service to schools and people who are unable to pay for the service.

I’m a big fan of the way Speechling has approached the pronunciation challenge, and personally, this is one of the best resources I have ever used. I have found their free and low-cost unlimited memberships have really amplified my language speaking ability.

The service won’t fully replace having lessons with a live face-to-face tutor but it would compliment these lessons perfectly. Learning pronunciation and improving the flow of your speech is one of the most important, but most difficult aspects to grasp, especially if you are learning a tonal language, such as Chinese. Improved pronunciation will not only build great confidence but will mean you are better understood by native speakers.

Even if you aren’t able to invest money into learning, I’d still recommend using Speechling. The Forever Free version is better than most other popular and expensive products currently on the market. It makes improve your speaking and listening skills much easier.

Join the 5000+ students from over 156 different countries and 17+ institutions and sign up for a membership today. Not able to afford the monthly fee then use the free version or apply for the scholarship.

For more information or to get the app visit: Speechling.com

Language Learner’s Journal readers can get 10% off Speechlings Unlimited Plan with the code: TRISHA


Any sale of Speechling memberships using the coupon code “TRISHA” will generate a small commission to Language Learners Journal, at no extra cost to the learner. This enables us to keep our site free from annoying advertisements, supports our running costs and continue to offer free content to language learners. 

I always attempt to review services and products in a fair and honest manner. The post was written by Trisha Dunbar, and Speechling had no editorial control over the contents of this article. 

Do you have a language learning product? Would you like to have your product or service reviewed? Email me today.

Do you use speechling? Are you going to give it a try? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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What I have learned in my decade plus of studying languages…

Language Learning Goals for March

In March I’ll be continuing with Italian and Mandarin.

I’ll also be sharing the tools, techniques, and resources that I’m using to help me achieve my goals in language learning this month.


This post may contain affiliate links. You don’t pay anything more, but I may receive a modest commission that supports the running costs of this site & the FREE content it has to offer!

I’ve been learning languages for a good few years now and if you count the time spent on learning French at school that would be well over a decade (or 2 hence the plus 😀) of language learning. I feel that the most important aspects of language learning are consistency, perseverance, and patience. Not giving up when things seem impossible to achieve, and having a good, regular study routine in place that includes a whole range of sensory resources.

Language learning takes time and effort it doesn’t happen overnight – was Rome built in a day?

Optimising your brain for language learning is really important if you want to enhance your ability! If traditional language learning methods are not working for you then maybe it is time to open your mind and try a more holistic approach to language learning! This includes paying attention to your mindset and physical wellbeing. Looking at environmental factors and social implications.

This month I am officially launching my brand new Udemy course on how to apply a more holistic approach to learning. The course is ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Holistic Learning’In addition to this, I am releasing a series of blog posts on Lingohut regarding how I have applied the holistic approach to my own language learning.

Tools and Resources I plan to use for Learning Languages in March…

italki – Private Tutoring

italki is an excellent tutoring resource and I have used this to learn Chinese-Mandarin, Spanish, German and Italian. You can book sessions to suit that can last as long as 30, 45 to 60 minutes. 

Cost: Can vary depending on tutor, time and type.

LingoHut  – Vocabulary

LingoHut is a great site offering 12 languages.

Cost: Free

Speechling – Pronunciation

Pronunciation is really important if you want to be understood! I must admit even in my native language I do mispronounce words, because of my British accent and context used people tend to work it out, but a mispronounced word with a thick foreign accent can be difficult. Don’t get me wrong  I LOVE accents and it makes me sad when I read about people trying to ‘loose’ their accent, but pronunciation is really important and shouldn’t be neglected.  

In my personal view, Speechling appears to be the best on the market in terms of recording yourself and getting quick feedback from a tutor on your pronunciation. It helps you learn with useful sentences and phrases or you can create your own! 

Cost: Premium version $19.99, free version available. 

Referral Code: TRISHA

Studying in Germany – Blog on Learning Germany

This blog is packed solid with articles and videos to help with learning German.

Cost: Free.

Memrise – PC, Tab & Mobile Learning

Memrise has courses in a multiverse of languages, it’s great because I can study on the go or when waiting for an appointment or meeting. I have used this for all the languages I have studied even British Sign Language (BSL). 

Cost: Free, pro adds lots of additional features for $59/yr.

Games for Language – Vocabulary building (the fun way!) 

Gamification of your language learning!

Cost: Free.

Language Hacking Series by Benny Lewis – Interactive Book

Easy to use interactive books that are great for beginners.

Language Hacking Series on Amazon$19.97 or currency equivalent.

Flash Academy

I am a big fan of Flash Academy and have been using this app for 8 months now to help with Spanish, German and now Italian.

Cost: Can vary but the best option is a years subscription for £35.99 (£3.00 a month that’s like a price of a coffee, bargain).

What about my other languages?

Language Roundup: 

  • Spanish: I can get by in ordering coffee and food so all good. I am using Spanish to help me learn Italian! So My tutorials are in Spanish and Italian.
  • Mandarin:  I can have general conversations but at a basic level.  I still have some issues with pronunciation, but this is where Speechling will be most helpful. 
  • German: I still struggle a lot with basic conversation. German will be a language saved for later! Although that said I have discovered an awesome blog that has really helped me! 
  • French: I learned French at School and college. It takes me a couple of days to get back into this language, but I am at functional especially at reading level. My knowledge of French grammar is also a big help for learning Italian!
  • Sign Language: I really do need to brush up on this as I am looking to do my level 2 (and maybe even 3) this year.

I’m finding the more languages I learn the faster I pick up related languages!

Any other Business 

This month I’m looking forward to #WomeninLanguages Event on Facebook.

Lessons Learnt

So in my decade-plus of language learning, I have learned that you need a variety of resources that stimulate different senses. You cannot rely on just one method alone, but at the same time, too many resources can be overwhelming so it’s finding a balance.

You also need to take a step back to see the bigger picture and work out the best learning style for you. Once you know your style its time to make sure you are setting the right study and even lifestyle habits. For example, cramming for hours once a week isn’t as efficient as studying 10 minutes daily at a regular time. A bad sleep routine can also wreak havoc with your ability to learn new things.

Finally, to learn a language you have to, HAVE TO speak it! Engaging in real conversations as soon as you can. If you want to learn a language you have to lose the perfectionism, be prepared to make some pretty awesome mistakes and step out of your comfort zone.

Set your language learning goals as a part of the Clear the List Link Up hosted by Shannon Kennedy of Eurolinguiste and Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages.


What’s your language learning goals for this month?

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