Tuesday, 22 February 2011

How to Learn a Language for Free

Image thanks to vintage fairytale

Want to learn a new language? Want to get started but put off by pricey books and courses? Well I’m here to tell you how you can use the internet to learn a language 100% for free!

I’m learning Spanish. So far I’ve been doing pretty badly. Mi Castellano es muy mal. One of the most difficult things (aside from conjugating verbs and the masculine/feminine distinction) is the sky-high price of lessons. I just can’t do it. One hundred and fifty euro, plus sixty euro for books? I can barely afford toothpaste.

At first, I was all set to let this be my easy-escape-route excuse for giving up all together. Well, I thought if they’re going to charge so much, I guess it’s just not for me! But then, much to the dismay of my lazy alter-ego, I realised there are multiple, free language resources out on the World Wide Web, to kick naysayers like me square in the toosh.

Oh crud, guess I’m not off the hook after all.

Here’s a list of my favourite free resources for learning a language that I’ve found on the net. They range from super-easy-beginners stuff, to more intermediate. For the advanced among you, I’m afraid the free resources are a little more limited.


// ★ STAR Resource: MyLanguages.org
Bursting with helpful ‘courses’ on everything from adjectives, to adverbs, to general vocabulary, this is the site to bookmark above all others. Print their helpful lists of phrases and you’ll be chit-chatting your language of choice in no time.

// BBC Languages
Fun for a complete beginners, there are individual lessons which range from simply saying ‘Hola!’ to ordering a meal in a restaurant etc. There’s even a play-along ‘soap opera’ to get you talking! There is some grammar help but mostly you’ll find basic phrases.

// Learn a Language in One Hour
A bold claim, and of course an overstatement, but this article by Tim Ferriss does raise a terrific method of ‘deconstructing’ a language if you want to learn it. This isn’t a course, more a bit of inspiration and a way to build your confidence if you’re just getting started.

// My Happy Planet
From Tim’s article I also discovered this extremely useful (and sociable) resource for developing your language skills (particularly handy when you’re not living in the country of the language you want to learn.) An alternative is LiveMocha, which offers much the same service.

// BYKI – Transparent Language
BYKI is a downloadable gadget that uses virtual flashcards to help you memorise vocabulary. I’ve only just gotten started using it, but I feel like it will be a great alternative way to learn. There is the option to upgrade to a paid ‘deluxe’ version, but for beginners I don’t think it’s necessary.

Are you learning a language and is this helpful? Do you know any good, free resources for learning new languages?


Chelsea said...

I also HIGHLY recommend listening to music in the language of your choice. I found that listening to French music helped me to improve my accent dramatically. Also, when a good song gets stuck in your head, it helps with learning vocabulary and turns of phrase.

There's lots of stuff on youtube if you just want to listen that way. Once you find someone you like, you can check out last.fm to find similar artists. If you're having trouble finding artists in your language of choice, find out the term for "lyrics" and put that into a search engine, along with perhaps a few other words likely to be found in songs ("love", "miss you", etc) as a way of finding a few artist names.

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant, I love learning languages but never have the time or money to learn them properly, so now I can do it in my own time! This will definitely encourage me to travel further as well! Thanks Megan! xx

Sam said...

If you are living somewhere with a lot of foreign exchange students, i recommend doing a language exchange, so you meet up for a few hours a week and speak for half the time in your language and half in the other persons language. It is great fun and a good way to learn!

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