Everyone has one of those friends who never wants to try or learn anything new because he doesn’t want to spend money. What is fundamentally wrong with these people is that they always assume that in order to obtain new skills, you absolutely have to attend classes or hire a teacher to spoonfeed you the whole way.
If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language but were turned off by the cost, don’t give up. It’s not like those mother tongue lessons at school helped much anyway. Here are 3 ways to learn a language to fluency for free. Ultimately, it’s not what you do, but how consistent and how determined you are that will help you attain fluency in your target language.
Use online resources
There is more information on the Internet than you could ever need, and it’s mostly free. If you pay a teacher to coach you, it’s possible they’ll either use a standard-issue textbook or simply print out material from the very same websites you have access to on your computer without have to pay a cent. No matter what sort of method you prefer to use, you can find it online. Here are some tips:
- If you don’t want to worry yourself with complex grammar explanations and your main priority is to start speaking as quickly as possible, the United States Foreign Service Institute has developed a whole bunch of courses designed to get their foreign service personnel functional in a language as quickly as possible. A wide range of languages on offer can be found here.
- Browse subreddits for learners of your target language. Most subreddits have lists of resources of everything from podcasts in your target language to online comic strips. Here are the subreddits for Chinese, French, German and Japanese learners.
- Most language learners are familiar with Duolingo, a mobile app that gamifies the learning experience.
- If you’re doing grammar and vocabulary exercises on your own, get native speakers to correct them for free on Lang-8.
Join a free language practice or exchange group
So you’ve learnt the grammar rules and memorised a ton of vocabulary. So why do you sound like a three-year-old kid when you speak (and we’re not talking about a Mozart-like prodigy of a three-year-old)? Speaking skills are a whole other component you’ll need to master, and it’s possible to be able to read and write quite fluently while still being a poor speaker.
Don’t go and beat yourself up for being a failure, though. All you need is lots and lots of practice. Meetup is a hotbed of regular language practice events, and if you commit to attending them regularly you’ll not only get to speak in your target language more often but might also make friends with whom you can maintain a more intensive practice schedule. There are groups for Japanese, Spanish, Korean and more. There’s also a popular German language group on Facebook that meets weekly.
You benefit most from these sessions when you become a regular participant. As you make more friends, you’ll be able to get past the introductory greetings and handshakes to have real conversations.
Finally, most Singaporeans in the language learning community are familiar with Tête-è-Tête, a big group made up of speakers of various languages that meets about once every two months. Speak Easy attracts a similar mishmash of polyglots who come together to practise multiple languages.
Hit the library
Why pay some teacher hundreds of dollars to teach you from a textbook you could very easily borrow from the library for free? Virtually every national library branch has a section dedicated to language learning, and you’re free to borrow grammar books, readers and dictionaries for your own self-study. Audio-visual materials are also available for those who want to improve their pronunciation.
If you sign up for the PAssion POSB MasterCard Debit Card, you get complimentary National Library Board Partner Membership for 5 years. This enables you to borrow up to 10 items (up from the usual 8), including 4 (up from the usual 3) audio-visual materials.
Do you know of any other free language learning resources? Share them with us in the comments!