How to Learn a Language for Free
Learning a language can be invaluable in a number of ways, in terms of career as well as personal growth and development. But it only takes a basic search of language classes and programs, such as Rosetta Stone to realize that learning a language can carry a pretty hefty price tag. In fact, in the U.S. over 5 million people have paid over $500 for language software, according to a TED talk by Luis von Ahn. However, money shouldn’t deter you from learning a language. If you know where to look, there are a number of resources you can use to pick up the basics and build knowledge of an additional language—completely free.
The resources listed below are each excellent tools for foreign language learning and growth. However, no one resource alone will make you a fluent speaker in another language. In order to gain a well-balanced and advanced level of competency, it’s best to utilize a wide variety of resources, and to explore multiple avenues of language development. This list should give you several options to get you started on your pathway to fluency!
If you haven’t quite decided on a language to learn, check out the article “Which Foreign Language Should You Learn?”
Free Online Programs and Resources
DuoLingo: DuoLingo is a revolutionary platform for language learning that serves two important purposes. First, this online program allows you to learn a language for free at any level through exercises and activities. Second, while you are learning a language, you are unknowingly helping to translate the internet between English and the language you are learning. Current languages available to study include: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Turkish, Hungarian, Esperanto, Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, and Polish.
Livemocha: Livemocha is a free collaborative online language learning program that allows you to learn from activities and from other members of the Livemocha community. In turn, you also help English language learners to learn English. Users collaborate and help each other with the language learning process by commenting on and critiquing each other’s practices exercises, and holding practice conversations. There are currently 35 languages available to learn through this website.
BBC Languages: BBC Languages is an excellent website with numerous resources for each language, including free courses, activities, and plenty of links to real world media and news sources from other countries around the world. There are currently 40 languages available to learn through this website.
Why not take advantage of time spent commuting, exercising, or even on your lunch break to help you learn a second language?
Radio Lingua: Radio Lingua offers short, informal podcast episodes designed to increase your understanding and competency in a foreign language. Although their website offers premium paid course packages, all of their basic podcast courses are available free online and on mobile devices. Ongoing podcast courses include:
Language Pod 101: Language Pod 101 produces a large number of language-learning podcasts for a variety of languages. Each respective language podcast has a large number of audio episodes and videos to help you improve your foreign language skills and competency.
Podcasts from other countries: If you’ve already developed a high level of proficiency in another language, consider searching for language podcasts produced by native speakers in other countries. Doing this will significantly boost your listening skills and your ability to keep up with real life conversations in the language you are learning. A good place to begin the search for a podcast from another country is itunescharts.net, where you can click on links to other countries and find a list of top podcasts for each country.
One of the best ways to learn a language is through real life practice and conversation. Consider exploring some of these outlets to facilitate ongoing connections and interactions with speakers of your target language.
My Language Exchange: My Language Exchange boasts over 1 million members from over 133 countries practicing 115 languages. Its website is designed so you can find a language exchange partner based on native language, practicing language, country, and age. Membership is free, and allows you to use text chat, voice chat, and play word games with a language exchange partner.
InterPals: InterPals is a website designed for meeting pen pals and language partners from around the world. Similar to My Language Exchange, InterPals allows you to field your search according to target language and country, and to see who is currently online for instant chat. You can register and sign in using your Facebook account, and the website design is relatively simple to navigate.
Find a local meetup group: Another option for practicing your comprehension and oral foreign language skills is to seek out a local conversation group for your target foreign language. Meetup.com is an excellent site that allows you to find and sign up for meetup groups in your area. Simply type in your foreign language in the search field, and you’ll be surprised at how many groups exist to practice foreign language conversation.
Photo credit: Galymzhan Abdugalimov / Unsplash