Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to learn another language you needed to either sign up for a course or fly to the country in which the language was spoken. Resources were sparse and firmly in the hands of the teachers. Access to books, to recordings, to courses, to anything that would be useful for an independent, self-directed e, were limited.
But times have changed!
Now there are vast oceans of resources for nearly every language on the face of the earth. A quick Google search for any of the major languages will net hundreds if not thousands of pages of everything you could possibly imagine. Limited as transformed to unlimited and a new problem has arisen – how do we sift through it all to find what is most effective?
Google’s algorithms combined with our tendencies to tell our friends on social media about the stuff we like have begun to solve this problem and allow the “cream to rise to the top” as my dad says. But, there is still more out there than most of us can sort through.
And so today, I would like to share ten free resources that I have used or newly discovered that will help you learn nearly any language that you wish to learn. I don’t see any of these as a silver bullet or as capable in and of themselves in taking you to fluency in your target language. I don’t really believe in silver bullets! They can all be a part of building an overall personal language learning program that will lead to success.
Livemocha is one of the first free online learning platforms that I discovered and the one I recommend people sign up for in the Ten Week Journey. It offers structure to a personal learning program with it’s lessons, the opportunity for interaction with native speakers with it’s community feel, and the freedom to learn on your own time and schedule.
Duolingo is a fairly new learning platform. I’ve begun using it to dive back into Spanish after feeling like just listening wasn’t doing enough to restart it. The think I like about Duolingo is that it is multidimensional. It throws the language at you in a lot of different ways which keeps it fresh.
LingQ is a reading based language learning program that is improving every year. At LingQ, learners select a text, which includes audio, and then create “lingqs” for new words that come up in the reading. LingQ is an excellent program and they have created a great video that will walk you into how exactly it works on their homepage. Take a look at it!
Lang-8 is one of the programs that I used the most as I worked to learn Turkish. Lang-8 allows you to submit your writing to be corrected by native speakers. You in turn can correct the writing of those working to learn your language. I created a word document that I kept on my desk top to collect my corrected writing samples.
Like Lang-8, Rhinospike is community driven. You submit a text to be recorded by a native speaker of the language you are learning and in turn you create audio recordings for those trying to learn your language. I used Rhinospike to get a number of journal entries recorded and to have also begun to have my free ebook Sustaining recorded in Spanish Spanish and French French.
If you have not yet signed up for a Skype account you should do so now. It is an incredibly useful platform that allows you to call anyone in the world from your computer to theirs for free. Calling phones is nearly free! Skype is a great platform to create speaking opportunities in your target language. Skype has gone a long way to help you find language partners as well, creating the Skype Language Learning board where you can find speakers of your target language with whom you can speak.
I first came across Verbling when I read Benny’s review at Fluent in 3 Months (read review here). Verbling allows you to video chat with native speakers at the touch of a button. Just sign up and get started. You practice the language you wish to learn with someone, somewhere in the world who wants to learn your language.
Digital Dialects is fun. It isn’t super robust but is a basic collection of online games that will help any learner get started with basic vocabulary and phrases in the target language.
I think flashcards can be an important part of helping move new vocabulary quickly into your long term memory. Learning to use flashcards well is the topic of an article I wrote last year. Anki is a computer based program that uses a spaced repetition system that makes flashcard review more efficient and effective than ever. Read Rich’s article about Anki.
I have tried to build a solid list of language specific resources for learners and continue to develop and grow the Language Specific Page here at EDLL. But there is still a long way to go and many hundreds and hundreds of smaller languages remain under represented. If you are searching for resources for smaller languages or hard to find languages, look no further than Omniglot’s A-Z index. It is an amazing wealth of information and resources that remains unparalleled online.
Are there more resources out there? Are there better resources?
On both accounts I’d say there certainly are. These are just a few of the free resources I’ve used or learned about that I think can be part of creating a robust language learning environment – anywhere!
What is your favorite FREE online resource for learning your target language?
Ready to get serious about learning another language?
"Aaron consistenly pumps out top quality language learning advice and motivational posts,
and is probably one of the best sources of encouragement you'll come across."
-Donovan Nagel, The Mezzofanti Guild