How to Learn Languages For Free: Resources and Tips for Studying on a Budget
As the saying goes, the best things in life are free.
It’s even possible to learn a language without spending a single cent!
Yes, you heard right.
In this guide, I’ll explain how to learn a language for free, including tips for studying on a budget, and free resources that you can use to improve your language skills without spending anything!
- Where Can You Learn Languages for Free?
- Tips to Help Learn Languages for Free
- And One More Thing...
Where Can You Learn Languages for Free?
Your options are vast for your free language education, but some resources prove to be more than dependable tools for language learning based on their breadth of content or convenience.
Here are a few of the best places where you can get some quality language education for zero dollars.
“On-the-go” has become the “way to go” for a lot of our wants and needs, and so digital apps continue to push their peak in everyday usefulness and convenience.
Language education has found a fine home in this realm and it’s now possible to find a language learning app in all kinds of forms, including multilingual dictionaries and translation services, flashcard creators, mini-lesson providers and even games.
Because there’s a lot of competition, there are a lot of free language apps that offer you some quality content with no financial strings attached.
Some examples of great language learning apps with free plans include:
As the ultimate online video platform, there’s little YouTube doesn’t have. Educational content is abundant on the site, all available with a simple search and click.
Learners can watch dedicated language-teaching video playlists crafted by actual institutions or friendly language-savvy folks who are happy to share their knowledge.
But it’s not just actual language courses and formatted lessons you should be looking at.
The range of potential learning material is endless. You can easily practice your skills by listening to songs, watching movies or their trailers with or without subtitles or checking out video vlogs of fluent or native speakers going about their day. Even the comment sections of foreign videos can be great opportunities for you to flex your written language knowledge.
E-learning language courses are becoming hugely popular as primary learning resources, and there’s little question why.
There are many free language learning websites for learners of all levels of fluency. While some do require paid subscriptions, there are many free and excellent language-teaching websites that can provide you with much of the education you’re looking for.
You should also take advantage of the fantastic online translation sites as well. Although there are still some things a non-human translator can’t grasp, these kinds of sites often provide good enough results for your purposes.
You’re also likely to find great resources from sites such as tourist or culture webpages, which usually have sections that offer basic language education for curious individuals.
Bookworms and language nerds rejoice! It turns out that there are plenty of digital e-books from other countries available online. Many can be downloaded for free in a variety of formats, including PDF and EPUB, so they’re accessible on any smart device, whether it’s your phone or Kindle.
Reading in a foreign language is an intensive but incredible way to progress in your studies—you get the double benefits of working your imagination and your lingual skills! Make sure to keep a dictionary or translator close at hand so you can understand trickier passages.
If you’re lucky, your local library may have a small selection of books published in your target language. In terms of language guides, look for self-teaching books, ideally with an audio component, such as Assimil or the Teach Yourself series, rather than classroom-oriented texts.
Use your local library to take potential learning books you may want to purchase for a test run. This will ensure that you end up with a book that you’ll actually use, and that works for you.
Be sure to ask your librarian if there are more books covering more languages available offsite, as they can usually request what you need from other libraries in the area, or from a nearby college or university.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
By definition, MOOCs are web-based, open-access courses available for an unlimited number of people. While it seems too good to be true, there are many free MOOCs that can help your language studies, whether by teaching the language outright or offering a topic taught in said language.
They also tend to offer additional resources—such as student forums—to encourage interaction and further study. It’s a real treat to find a free MOOC, so don’t wait to hop in on it!
Online language exchanges
These are completely free.
You’re just paying with the time that it takes for you to help your language partner with their goals. Examples of how to start finding partners include free websites like Polyglot Club, (under the “community” menu), forums and programs specific to your target language. If you’re a native English speaker, you’re in demand.
If you pay just a little bit on sites like italki, you can also schedule private online lessons with professional tutors from around the world. You’re paying so as not to spend any time speaking your native language (like you’d have to do with a free language exchange partner). Rather, you’re only spending time on the language you’re learning.
Offline language exchanges
These can be even more motivating and fun. Couchsurfing, InterNations and Meetup meetings can be a good way to meet people in your area who speak your target language, or you can post a message in those forums about what you’re looking for.
Also look for community events and volunteer work in your target language if possible. For example, I’ve practiced my Portuguese a lot by taking Samba de Gafieira classes. If you’re in an area with a community that speaks your target language, what are ways that you can make yourself useful to native speakers while practicing? Can you volunteer with children or old people, or do community activism?
Forums are hubs for folks who share an interest in a certain topic, so you can see how they can be very useful for practicing and sharing language knowledge. You can easily find moderated blogs or forums dedicated to the learning of a new language.
And what’s even better is that you can expect to find a wide range of participants, from complete beginners to advanced or native speakers. Even if you don’t use a forum as your main source of learning, it’s a good idea to join one as a supplemental resource to encourage your studies, get some language learning tips from others and overall progress more quickly than you would alone.
Tips to Help Learn Languages for Free
There are basic expectations you should have when you’re learning a new language, but when the score is to learn a language for free, other issues should be addressed. So here are a few tips on how to succeed at learning a language that will keep your wallet safe and snug in your pocket.
1. Organize your resources
Organization will be key to making sense of all the free resources around you. As they say, freedom can be a cage, and having so many options can be overwhelming. Do a quick run-down of some of the free resources you’re interested in and try to categorize them by how they’re formatted and what they specifically offer to your learning.
2. Be both student and teacher
With a lot of free resources, there’s often the issue of having no instructor or assigned work to help you retain your studies. You might think it’s better that no one is forcing you to learn so that you can enjoy yourself in your education, but it’s very easy to get demotivated or uninspired.
So just as you are an eager student of a language, act as your own teacher and create a self-competitive system. You can set up quick quizzes or long-form tests, record yourself speaking the language to playback later or assign yourself homework to complete before a certain date. With all this self-supervising, you should also create a reward system that you can look forward to when you achieve your goals.
3. Seek more resources
It’s great that they’re free, but a lot of no-price language-learning resources can lack or be short on content.
Don’t be complacent once you use up all of a resource—either move on to another that can address your needs or do some self-research to supplement your learning. Being willing to go beyond is a great feature of a learner who progresses quickly and powerfully.
4. Make the most of a dictionary
The dictionary is a fantastic, readily accessible resource that is invaluable to language learning. Throughout your daily language musings, you’ll likely encounter the question of “How do I say ___” more than once.
As soon as you think about it, don’t wait. Whip out your dictionary and find out the answer on the spot.
Most language dictionaries and translators also offer more than just translations. They probably offer example sentences or synonyms, so make sure you read those too. Treat the dictionary as your sidekick that is always available at your side, whether it’s a physical book or a digital app.
5. Immerse yourself
You should certainly dedicate a specific time slot in your daily schedule for your language studies, but why not attempt to engage in the language as much as possible?
Immersion can be done in a variety of ways, such as switching up your usual entertainment to content using your targeted language, changing the language settings of your tech devices and even trying out hobbies originating from the country that speaks the language.
This is a very intensive, creative study method that makes your language practice fit seamlessly into your day. Even better, it can often be accomplished without any expenditure.
Admittedly, it can be a bit difficult trying to figure out how exactly to incorporate a foreign language into your daily life without it being overwhelming.
You can try a language program that combines authentic content with language learning features, like FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Many programs like this also have free trials (including FluentU!) even if they’re not free, so you can try the features before you commit to a bigger budget.
You’ll be surprised at how far you can get in learning a language without the need to spend a ton of money on classes or books. With effort and enthusiasm, you can gain fluency skills that bear a value belying the fact you hadn’t spent a dime on them.
So give free language learning resources a try before delving into priced options. Your wallet will be sure to thank you!
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)