7 Websites for Learning Languages, Free!

You do not have to pay a fortune to learn a foreign language, and you certainly do not have to travel to that country if you do not have the time.  Below are seven websites to help you learn another language – for free. 


1. Duolingo  https://www.duolingo.com/


This is especially useful for building vocabulary from a very basic level.  It asks you to listen and repeat to test your pronunciation.  I’m not entirely convinced by this system in general having experienced technology that officially tests pronunciation for English but doesn’t understand any accent that is not pure British and American (a Scottish friend and myself (Irish) ran into trouble with this).  Duolingo in Spanish seems to be specifically set to South American Spanish for example, and the words and sentences that are used reflect this.


Having said this, I like the regular reminders, the competitive element (against your own record or friends), the little bit every day idea (instead of 2 hours once a week), and the building on “weak skills” feature which helps memory.  I’m currently using it myself to try to learn Irish.  It is lacking, completely, in a conversation element, which is absolutely necessary if you want to speak the language but it is a great way to start.


2. BBC  http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/ 

This is a great website for many languages.  In the Learning English as a foreign language it  focuses on the lower intermediate level and updates every day of the week with new articles and every few days with a podcast.  And of course, the benefit here is that you can link directly into the BBC news service to listen to the news and build your listening skills.  As you can also click into other languages in the news (like BBC el mundo for Spanish) you can develop other languages and discover what’s happening in the world.


3. Memrise  www.memrise.com


This website doesn’t only have methods for learning languages but its strong point is focused on this area.  You can find a mix of free and paid links on this webpage that use mnemonic techniques to help you learn a language.  You will need to explore a little and try different links but there are many gems in here (and you can take the chance to also dip into other areas of general knowledge while you’re on the website)


4. Italki  https://www.italki.com/


One of the problems with the other websites is that they do not give you the opportunity to speak the language (which is probably the end goal for most language learners).  Italki is the exact opposite - it puts you in contact with native speakers of your target language and gives you various opportunities to learn that language  (you can pay for a teacher or you can “swap” your language for their language).  You can now learn German without going to Germany or Arabic without going to Saudi Arabia.


5. Foreign Services Institute https://www.livelingua.com/fsi-language-courses.php


This is a wonderfully complete (if a little old) source of materials for learning a language.  Unfortunately English is not one of them as this material was originally designed by the US government for people travelling outside the USA.  There is a lot of material here and the livelingua site then gives you the opportunity (paying) to set up Skype classes with native speakers of your target language (over 40 in the FSI index!)


6. Surfacelanguages  http://www.surfacelanguages.com/


This website uses a system of learning a language through sentences.  This is a good website for learning unusual languages (when I say unusual I mean languages outside the big 6 – Chinese, Urdu, Spanish, English, Arabic, French, though all of these are also covered here, except English) that you need to source extra material and learning information to supplement other courses you are already using.


7. Linguim



This is an interesting website, though perhaps less complete than others (in my experience). I found that it was not a completely interactive learning experience so you could not see how you were advancing.  However in the section on learning English for Spanish speakers I found that the explanations of different grammar points were excellent, and in Spanish.  This is a site therefore that could be used in conjunction with another more interactive sites like Duolingo where the explanations were missing.


There are other websites like BUSUU, BABBEL and BYKI  that allow you to try the first lesson free and while they may not be expensive they do start to charge you from there on.  We have not included them above for this reason.  If you choose the paid route we also strongly suggest the Michel Thomas system for French, Italian, Spanish and German.  No homework!


Do I still need a teacher?


That depends very much on you.  Some people have successfully learned languages without ever having a formal class with a teacher (going to the other country is an option) by combining free and paid resources and learning systems with ‘meet-ups’ with native speakers or free exchanges like italki above.


However, just like people hire personal trainers or pay for a coach at the local gym (as opposed to running around the local park every day for free), many people still prefer to have a teacher (as part of a group, or individual) to help them.  The reasons are as varied as the teachers themselves:  motivation (when you know that you have to see the teacher you do your work), investment (you work harder because you have paid money!), discipline (you have a set time every week etc. and someone who is pushing you), personalized (they can teach you what you need – perhaps you do not need vocabulary about the parts of a car or your last holidays but with an on-line course you cannot choose that), speed (you can normally learn much faster with a teacher than on your own), etc.


Others still will read this article and think about how to combine both – free material, resources and courses, with a teacher.


Whatever your learning system we believe that learning another language is always a good thing – it opens up career opportunities, speeds up your brain, opens your mind, lets you meet new people, and tests you in a way that makes you want to experience more in life.


Good luck with the language you choose!



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