Want to Learn a New Language? Here’s Our List of Free or Cheap Resources
In an increasingly connected world, learning a second language is an incredibly valuable skill. The process of learning a language itself tends to be a very engaging experience. It’s also a chance to immerse yourself in another culture in a very tangible way, getting a glimpse of a different part of the world. And it’s a practical trait that looks very nice on a resume.
In short, the benefits of learning another language are massive. Countless studies and publications show the very real benefits of being bilingual, including an average pay increase of 19% — and about 40% of bilingual job applicants cite their language skills as the reason they got their job. There is also evidence that it improves mental health and problem solving skills, on top of everything else.
So with all of that, why doesn’t everyone learn a second language? First, it can be a difficult and time-consuming skill to master. Most people’s opportunity to learn a second language will come during high school or college and while those classes can be useful, very few people become fluent in Spanish just because they aced one semester of Spanish 101.
On top of that, the cost can be prohibitive. The costs of tuition for college classes aside, the average cost for a language class starts at $20 an hour without including costs of learning materials. Some languages will cost even more, depending on how removed they are from a person’s native language. An English speaker learning Mandarin Chinese may end up paying as much as $80,000 to become fluent.
Thankfully, there are effective ways to learn a second language that cost little to nothing. For the savvy future linguist, there are many ways from phone apps and websites to community efforts to help you learn while saving a bundle.
Want to Learn a New Language? Try These Free or Cheap Resources
Like everything else these days, there’s plenty of apps for learning a new language. Many of them use unique approaches to teaching languages as well, for people looking for a non-traditional learning experience. The most popular programs also have affordable, or even outright free, options to help you get started.
Duolingo is the most popular app for learning new languages, according to Statista. The app teaches over 40 languages, including less commonly studied languages like Swahili and Welsh. Just for fun, it also includes entirely fictional languages, like Klingon and High Valyrian.
Duolingo teaches through a variety of minigames and short, bite-sized lessons. All of its main features are available for free, for as long as you want to study any of their languages. There is also s paid plan, Super Duolingo, which costs $6.99 a month and comes with several benefits and perks, such as no ads. Super Duolingo also comes with a family option to help save even more money.
Another app that can also be accessed online, Bussuu offers free flashcards and writing exercises in 14 different languages. It does lock other exercises and programs behind a premium plan, however. The cost can be as low as $7 a month, though in exchange for the cost, Bussuu does claim to be able to teach you the basics of a language within less than 24 real hours of study, a much smaller estimated timespan than traditional classes.
Beelinguapp uses a novel approach in teaching languages, using audiobooks, music and literature to teach 14 languages by using a side-by-side comparison of your native language and the language you wish to learn. Its main program is free, but just like Duolingo, you can pay into a premium plan for $1.99 a month, or even just $22.99 for a lifetime purchase.
Other Language Apps
There are plenty of other apps with savings to be had for thrifty students. The PC Magazine has an excellent graphic that compares several language apps and their pricing to help you make a decision.
Each of them are also rated by their specialty, for example, Duolingo is rated best for its ease of use, but HelloTalk is rated best for those that want to learn how to speak naturally in conversation in a different language. Like any other shopping experience, it’s important to keep in mind what you want most out of any product.
While the thought of hiring a private tutor certainly sounds like an expensive prospect, there are benefits to getting one-on-one teaching or just being in a classroom environment. And if you’re looking to learn face to face, you do have options to save plenty of money.
One important venue not to overlook would be your local library. Many public libraries offer a variety of free classes to the community, including language courses. For example, in Orange County, Florida, all the branches of the public library offer free Spanish courses.
The type of classes you’ll find in your area will depend on the local history and culture. Public libraries located in states like California and Texas may offer Spanish courses, but libraries in states like Michigan may offer French courses through organizations like the French Institute of Michigan.
Libraries will also have plenty of language guides in their catalogs, which can be checked out at no cost.
If you do want to try and go bargain hunting for a tutor, you are not without resources. Preply has a network of tutors that covers 24 languages, and you can compare the prices each tutor offers. Popular or in-demand courses, such as Spanish, Chinese or German, have plenty of tutors available that may be hired for below the average price of $20 an hour.
You can also find several discounted classes from various sources for as low as 90% of the original cost on Groupon.
There are many options to find resources for free if you want to study a new language on your own. Open Culture, for example, has a database of free lessons covering 48 languages. The courses come from many different sources, including professors from universities across the country, spotify podcasts and non-profit organizations.
Class Central also has a collection of free online courses covering dozens of different languages, collected from universities across the world. They include written material, tests and YouTube videos.
For a less academic and more professional learning experience, the Yojik website has a collection of courses used by the US government and the PeaceCorps to teach people working in foreign affairs.
You can also access a massive catalog of language textbooks through the Open Textbook Library, a database of textbooks covering a massive array of subjects, languages included. Between databases like these and public libraries, there is no short supply of learning material to get anyone started on conquering a new language.
William Fewox has worked as a freelance writer since 2017, and his work is featured in literary magazines such as The Aquarian, The Navigator and The Historian. He has also self-published a handful of novels. He has worked as a Social Studies teacher and research assistant in local Florida museums and more recently has worked as an editor for start-up publishing company. William holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Jacksonville University.