Want to learn a foreign language but don’t want to spend a lot of cash? Here are my go-to affordable language learning resources.
Have you considered learning a second (or third) language? Maybe you’ve been put off by the cost of language software programs or private lessons with a native speaker. For some people, putting money toward learning a language seems impossible or irresponsible when there are other more crucial bills to pay and savings to maintain.
You might ask yourself, Is it possible to learn a new language on a tight budget?
My answer? Of course! As someone who has done both the cheap (think websites and apps) and costly (think a language school abroad) ways of learning a foreign language, I’d argue that anyone can learn a new language for less than $100 per year!
All you need is the desire to learn and the discipline needed to stay on track. Keep reading to check out my top picks for affordable language learning tools plus some honorable mentions.
Babbel is my personal favorite because it helped me quickly learn over 1,700 German vocabulary words and countless grammar rules over the course of three months of near-daily practice.
It’s more effective than my high school German classes were because each lesson lets you progress at your own pace and encompasses all aspects of language-learning (listening, vocabulary, grammar, writing and even pronunciation with its speech recognition function). Perhaps most helpful of all, the vocabulary words are not only accompanied by translations into English, but also pictures to associate with the new word and ingrain it in your memory.
Babbel’s website and smartphone apps offer lessons in many different European languages such as Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian and German, as well as other languages like Indonesian. Babbel offers a free first lesson in each of its languages, so you can choose a paid subscription to gain full access to all of the courses in your desired language if you decide to continue.
Prices start at $12.95 per month and go down to as little as $6.95 per month if you choose the 12-month, one-time payment option ($83.40 upfront). Sure, other language programs and apps are free, but Babbel is one of the most effective tools I’ve found in my 10-plus years of learning foreign languages, so why not try it out? (Tip: They also have a 20-day, money-back guarantee.)
Want free, comprehensive lessons for most of the popular foreign languages out there? Check out Duolingo, which has become one of the best language learning sites in the past few years with millions of users worldwide. And it only continues to get better!
Not only does Duolingo offer fun, easy-to-learn courses in the major European languages, but it also lets you keep track of your progress, earn points for correct answers and master reading comprehension, listening and pronunciation.
Seriously: It’s the frugal language learner’s dream at the low cost of $0. What do you have to lose by signing up?
Memrise is another fantastic resource for learners of many popular languages like Russian, Spanish, German, Chinese and French. A lot of content and options are available for free, or you can go “pro” for $9 per month or $59 per year, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee for access to videos and more personalized learning sessions with help from native speakers.
Memrise offers apps for both Android and iOS devices, and it has a massive collection of crowd-sourced lessons available to supercharge your foreign language acquisition. It even has a bit of a competitive twist where you can compete for points for each word learned then compare your scores to other Memrise users on the same course.
Although some users say there’s too much emphasis on memorizing words instead of all-encompassing lessons in grammar and how to use the words in the right context, it’s still an excellent resource for anyone looking to learn a new language beyond a boring old pocket dictionary.
The following websites aren’t necessarily the best resources for learning a new language, but they’re good enough to mention:
Livemocha: It’s a great, free website that’s worth checking out simply because of its massive variety of languages available that other websites may not have. Lessons and tutoring are offered by native speakers from around the world, which makes it a social language immersion experience.
Foreign Services Institute: I didn’t find this website too user-friendly, but it’s still an awesome resource for anyone looking to advance their language skills beyond the basics.
YouTube lessons: Check out language videos for free on YouTube (or listen to your favorite songs dubbed in a foreign language). Easily search for videos based on what you’re currently trying to learn, such as “basic Spanish grammar” or “business German lessons.”
Community college classes: Although this option costs more than the others I’ve listed above, taking a foreign language class at your local community college will give you access to a qualified professor and keep you accountable for regular language learning (hey, it’s easy to slack with online lessons sometimes).
Meetup Groups: Want to hang out and practice a foreign language with other folks in your area? Check out Meetup to find language groups and perhaps make some new friends along the way.
Happy language learning!
Written by Kelly Kehoe