By Tony Casteleyn
Are there any languages you would like to speak or would like to improve? You might be wondering how to start. Luckily, when it comes to learning a language, there are plenty of choices in terms of learning resources such as apps, DVDs, CDs.. In fact, language learning resources are everywhere. Most of them come with a cost though.
Any free online resources I can use?
If you don’t have money to burn, there are many free online language learning resources which are easy to use and won’t cost you a penny. I have selected five which I particularly liked and that I would recommend to anyone. The best website for you will depend on what type of learner you are. But first things first – do you know what you want to learn?
I want to learn a bit of everything
Livemocha: With millions of users in 190 countries, Livemocha is one of the most popular free language learning resources on the Internet. Its language learning community is packed with native speakers around the world. Livemocha is a free language resource whose lessons are available in over 35 languages. Lessons are broken down into target skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking and each skill can be studied separately.
Based on a free-to-play model, users can either pay for LiveMocha’s site currency (“coins”) with real money or they can earn credit on the site by ‘tutoring’ other learners, by correcting their exercises or giving feedback. I particularly enjoyed this feature! The more you help people, the more you have access to the site’s content. A perfect win-win situation!
I want to improve my conversation skills
WeSpeke: This website is a language resource which provides a matching system for language learners. Users get paired with someone whose native language is the one they would like to learn. It’s easy to communicate with other people thanks to an all-in-one interface which integrates video and text chat with dictionaries and helps with scheduling across time zones. Since WeSpeke is a relatively new website, their user-database is quite small.
I want to understand grammar rules and learn vocabulary
Duolingo: A well-rounded study resource which is completely free and is available on the web, Android and iOS. This website is the perfect tool for those who want to strengthen their grammar skills while learning vocabulary. Learners study vocabulary and build it into simple sentences though reading, writing, listening and speaking, with grammar tips along the way. Essentially, you will translate various online texts.
Although Duolingo only provides material in six European languages (namely Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Italian), its courses in those languages are complete. The lessons are very entertaining as they work like video games: skill points can be earned as lessons are completed, and “lives” (or hearts) are lost each time a mistake is made. If too many hearts are lost, the lesson has to be repeated. What I like with this website is that you can keep track of your progress: you can see your mistakes or which types of questions you have trouble with.
I want to learn more vocabulary/sentences and remember them
Memrise: This website is best for those who are visual learners and would like to memorise particular words or sentences. Learners learn through a planting system: first they plant, then they water. The more they water, the more likely they are to remember. For each word/sentence, there are “Help me remember this” pictures which illustrate the word or phrase in a funny or interesting way. Users who are willing to help other learners can load their own original pictures onto the site.
I want to improve my reading and writing skills
Lang-8: The Lang-8 system is focused on reading and writing skills. If you know how to write and read the language you’re learning and would like to improve these two skills, Lang 8 is the perfect site for you. Users write a journal which can be reviewed and corrected by a native speaker. In order to keep the service free, you can review other people’s work.
Any other free online resources I can use?
There are other resources which are often recommended:
- Anki – focuses on memorisation :
- Internet Polyglot – features digital flashcards :
- FSI Languages Courses – materials in over 45 languages, even in rare languages such as Hungarian, Lingala, and Thai
- Busuu – vocabulary and phrases supported by dialogues, writing exercises, audio recording options, and the chance to network with other language learners and native speakers:
- Word2Word – useful online language learning tools
- The BBC website – Courses and phrases, audio and video, vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, activities and tests
- The Mixxer is similar to WeSpeke, but it doesn’t provide as many features, as it relies on the use of Skype. However, this website has a much larger and more international user-base.
- Openculture.com – has a collection which features lessons in more than 40 languages
At the end of the day, the most important resources of all are time, effort, and motivation – these are the keys to success! If you know why and how you learn a language and if you practice regularly, you will be able to learn it very quickly.
Over to you
Have you tried to learn a language with an online language resource? Is there one you particularly liked and would recommend? Share your experience in the comments below!
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