No Budget, No Problem: How to Learn Languages for Free
As the saying goes, the best things in life are free.
It’s even possible to learn a language without spending a single cent!
Yes, you heard right.
Read on to find out how.
- Is It Possible to Learn Languages for Free?
- How to Learn Languages for Free
- Where Can You Learn Languages for Free?
Is It Possible to Learn Languages for Free?
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to learn a language for free. Actually, it’s even easier to do so now than ever before.
With current technology enabling us to connect with people across the world, language knowledge has become vital to everyday life. It’s with that same technology that we can find an ever-growing plethora of resources that teach you languages, and from them, you can gain an impressive level of fluency.
Many currently available resources eliminate the need for you to attend a school or buy textbooks to get your language journey started. The sea of educational resources is deep, and it’s easy to reel in and nab a good catch. However, as convenient as all this freedom is, this also ushers potential problems learners have to deal with—namely, the issues of self-management and organization.
The lack of fees usually substitutes for a lack of a guided curriculum, but losing this aspect can make it hard to stay grounded in your studies. Thus, it’s largely up to you to manage your own education and be practical about your goals and priorities, though this can be quite difficult to do with something as complex and deep as learning a whole new language.
How to Learn Languages for Free
There are basic expectations you should have when you’re learning a new language, but when the score is to learn a language for free, other issues should be addressed. So here are a few tips on how to succeed at learning a language that keep your wallet safe and snug in your pocket.
1. Figure out your reasons and motives
Realize why you want to learn a certain language in the first place. Do you need a certified language license for a job? Are you aiming to add another tally mark to your polyglot agenda? Do you want to chat freely with a good friend in their native tongue? Or maybe you want to finally understand the lyrics sung by your favorite foreign band?
By reasoning why you want to step into the waters of a new language, you can chart your learning course, from how much you should aim to learn (and how long that could take) to what content you’re looking for specifically. Of course, your goals may change over time, and it’s important that you recognize when they do. Don’t think of this matter as intrusive—rather, see it as an opportunity to keep your studying journey fresh and invigorated.
2. Organize your resources
Organization will be key to making sense of all the free resources around you. As they say, freedom can be a cage, and having so many options can be overwhelming. Do a quick run-down of some of the free resources you’re interested in and try to categorize them by how they’re formatted and what they specifically offer to your learning.
3. Be both student and teacher
With a lot of free resources, there’s often the issue of having no instructor or assigned work to help you retain your studies. You might think it’s better that no one is forcing you to learn so that you can enjoy yourself in your education, but it’s very easy to get demotivated or uninspired.
So just as you are an eager student of a language, act as your own teacher and create a self-competitive system. You can set up quick quizzes or long-form tests, record yourself speaking the language to playback later or assign yourself homework to complete at a strict date. With all this self-supervising, you should also create a reward system that you can look forward to when you achieve your goals.
4. Don’t just memorize—learn the context
It’s a problem you see in any educational setting: a student can memorize content for short-term use, such as for an upcoming test, but shortly afterward he or she quickly loses retention of the material. This practice goes against the journey of language fluency, which is long-term and requires the learned content to basically become instinctual.
The best practice when learning anything new is to remember the context and function behind it. Figure out not just the what, but the how and why of the new things you learn.
Why does a specific grammatical rule not apply to this particular sentence? How come introducing this verb at this point ruins the correct interpretation of the phrase?
Digging to this level of comprehension makes the information sink deeper into your brain, so your level of recall and ability to apply concepts even to novel material is enhanced.
5. Seek more
It’s great that they’re free, but a lot of no-price language-learning resources can lack or be short on content.
Don’t be complacent once you use up all of a resource—either move on to another that can address your needs or do some self-research to supplement your learning. Being willing to go beyond is a great feature of a learner who progresses quickly and powerfully.
6. Carry a dictionary
The dictionary is a fantastic, readily accessible resource that is invaluable to language learning. Throughout your daily language musings, you’ll likely encounter the question of “How do I say ___” more than once.
As soon as you think it, don’t wait. Whip out your dictionary and find out the answer on the spot.
Most language dictionaries or translators also offer more than just translations. They probably offer example sentences or synonyms, so make sure you read those too. Treat the dictionary as your sidekick that is always available at your side, whether it’s a physical book or a digital app.
7. Find a speaking partner
One of the biggest dilemmas for self-learners is the lack of another person to whom they can express the extent of their studies in an honest and unscripted manner, and free resources may not always provide such an opportunity.
It’s crucial to vocalize and hear your own speech, as formulating conversation is one of the key manners in which you can quickly figure out flaws and trouble spots.
Ideally, you should find someone who is fluent in your target language, as they can both listen to you and correct your mistakes. However, it’s also fantastic to have a fellow learner in contact so that both of you can practice and motivate each other’s studies.
8. There is no limit to your study material
Learning resources don’t always have to be a book or website that loudly proclaims their purpose. Moreover, you don’t always have to actively search for them, as they can take on any form.
Instruction manuals translated into different languages, signs in front of bilingual establishments, a menu from your favorite fusion restaurant, announcements blaring around tourist hotspots, posts on social media—all of these are everyday things that can be sudden and quick opportunities for you to work out those language muscles.
9. Immerse yourself
You should certainly dedicate a specific time slot in your daily schedule for your language studies, but why not attempt to engage in the language as much as possible? This goes along with our tip to be open-minded about your study material.
Immersion can be done in a variety of ways, such as switching up your usual entertainment to content using your targeted language, changing the language settings of your tech devices and even trying out hobbies originating from the country that speaks the language.
This is a very intensive, creative study method that makes your language practice fit seamlessly into your day. Even better, it can often be accomplished without any expenditure.
Admittedly, it can be a bit difficult trying to figure out how exactly to incorporate a foreign language into your daily life without it being overwhelming.
You can try a language program that combines authentic content with language learning features, like FluentU. In the FluentU program, for example, you can watch native speaker content with the help learning tools like interactive subtitles, full transcripts, vocabulary lists and adaptive quizzes.
Many programs like this also have free trials (including FluentU!) even if they’re not free, so you can try the features before you commit to a bigger budget.
10. Make mistakes, make notes
For some reason, making mistakes when trying to communicate in a foreign language feels particularly painful. This really shouldn’t be the case, by the simple logic that you are participating in something unfamiliar to you.
Rather than crawling away to hide, be aware of and fully recognize your blunders. Write them down in a dedicated foreign language notebook or another notation resource and analyze what you did wrong, then find the correct solutions (and follow our previous tip of figuring out the how and why of it all).
By forming a bridge between a mistake and correction, you can have something to lead you through future encounters that can welcome the same or similar error.
Mistakes are a guaranteed part of the package, so you must glean more from them than just shame and embarrassment. Treat your mistakes as encouragement to keep studying and practicing, not as motivation-killers.
Where Can You Learn Languages for Free?
Your options are vast for your free language education, but some resources prove to be more than dependable tools for language learning based on their breadth of content or convenience.
Here are a few of the best places you can get some quality language education for zero dollars.
As the ultimate online video platform, there’s little YouTube doesn’t have. Educational content is abundant on the site, all available with a simple search and click.
Learners can watch dedicated language-teaching video playlists crafted by actual institutions or friendly language-savvy folks who are happy to share their knowledge.
But it’s not just actual language courses and formatted lessons you should be looking at.
The range of potential learning material is endless. You can easily practice your skills by listening to songs, watching movies or their trailers with or without subtitles or checking out video vlogs of fluent or native speakers going about their day. Even the comment sections of foreign videos can be great opportunities for you to flex your written language knowledge.
E-learning language courses are becoming hugely popular as primary learning resources, and there’s little question why.
There are many free language learning websites for learners of all levels of fluency. While some do require paid subscriptions, there are many free and excellent language-teaching websites that can provide you with much of the education you’re looking for.
You should also take advantage of the fantastic online translation sites as well. Although there are still some things a non-human translator can’t grasp, these kinds of sites often provide good enough results for your purposes.
You’re also likely to find great resources from sites such as tourist or culture webpages, which usually have sections that offer basic language education for curious individuals.
“On-the-go” has become the “way to go” for a lot of our wants and needs, and so digital apps continue to push their peak in everyday usefulness and convenience.
Language education has found a fine home in this realm and it’s now possible to find a language learning app in all kinds of forms, including multilingual dictionaries and translation services, flashcard creators, mini-lesson providers and even games.
Because there’s a lot of competition, there are a lot of free language apps that offer you some quality content with no financial strings attached.
Bookworms and language nerds rejoice! It turns out that there are plenty of digital e-books from other countries available online. Many can be downloaded for free in a variety of formats, including PDF and EPUB, so they’re accessible on any smart device, whether it’s your phone or Kindle.
Reading in a foreign language is an intensive but incredible way to progress in your studies—you get the double benefits of working your imagination and your lingual skills! Make sure to keep a dictionary or translator close at hand so you can understand trickier passages.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
By definition, MOOCs are web-based, open-access courses available for an unlimited number of people. While it seems too good to be true, there are many free MOOCs that can help your language studies, whether by teaching the language outright or offering a topic taught in said language.
They also tend to offer additional resources—such as student forums—to encourage interaction and further study. It’s a real treat to find a free MOOC, so don’t wait to hop in on it!
Forums are hubs for folks who share an interest in a certain topic, so you can see how they can be very useful for practicing and sharing language knowledge. You can easily find moderated blogs or forums dedicated to the learning of a new language.
And what’s even better is that you can expect to find a wide range of participants, from complete beginners to advanced or native speakers. Even if you don’t use a forum as your main source of learning, it’s a good idea to join one as a supplemental resource to encourage your studies, get some language learning tips from others and overall progress more quickly than you would alone.
You’ll be surprised at how far you can get in learning a language without the need to spend a ton of money on classes or books. With effort and enthusiasm, you can gain fluency skills that bear a value belying the fact you hadn’t spent a dime on them.
So give free language learning resources a try before delving into priced options. Your wallet will be sure to thank you!