Everyone loves something for nothing. And we’re all lucky enough to be living in an age where free resources dominate the cultural landscape. Online forums, podcasts, foreign-language websites, and grammar guides are all accessible with a few clicks of a mouse. If you’re unsure of the implications of this statement, think about this for a second: it’s now easier than at any time in human history to learn a language.
So, what are you waiting for? Well, the incredible variety of free language-learning resources has a bit of a downside. There’s just so much out there, who knows where to start? Authoritative and comprehensive online materials compete for our attention against spammy, money-making websites. Worse than that, some of the information online is just false.
Well, we’re here to help. This article is going to give you a jumping off point for a whole range of resources on seven of the most popular languages being learnt on italki.com.
The vast majority of these resources are absolutely free, with some of them offering premium content at a cost. However, with the sheer scale of resources online, you can quite easily fill your study schedule at no cost at all (well, the cost of your time and dedication to learning that is).
So, let’s get started by taking a look at just some of what’s out there.
italki language partners
Who could ignore the contribution italki has brought to online language-learning? Being able to find a language-partner on the other side of the world through the click of a button is revolutionary in its ability to open up channels of direct communication from day-one of your language-learning journey. If you haven’t already found a language partner on the site, here’s how to do it:
For language partners, visit here, and select one of the more than 100 languages on the drop-down menu. You can also select by gender, nationality, and any other languages they may be learning. This means you can find someone who speaks your target language and wants to learn your mother-tongue (perhaps a great way to begin filtering down your search journey).
Then simply visit their profile to find a little more about them. Do you have the same interests? Are you a similar age? Send them a message or add them as a friend to make contact. Remember to include a short message introducing yourself: your reasons for learning, your approximate level, something you may want to discuss or why you think you’d make great language partners.
After that, it’s just a case of finding a convenient time to schedule a practice session. Many learners also double as Community Tutors (non-professional native or non-native speakers), meaning you can book a session to focus entirely on your target language.
It says something about the youthfulness of the internet that YouTube should be considered a bit of a granddaddy in terms of online language learning, but that’s what it is. And don’t ever forget what an incredible language-learning resource this video-sharing site represents.
Feel like learning some greetings in Swahili? Here you go. Or how about in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan)? That’s here as well.
There are literally thousands of channels devoted to language learning on YouTube, but some stand-out as higher quality than others. Let’s take a look at some of the more well-established channels:
- JenniferESL (English)
- Señor Jordan (Spanish)
- French from Beginners to Advanced (French)
- Learn German with germanpod101.com (German)
- Marco Nisida (Italian)
- Learn Chinese with Emma (Mandarin Chinese)
- Learn Japanese from Zero (Japanese)
Language-learning has found a natural home in podcasting - a sort of internet-only radio show - and listeners are now spoilt for choice to complement their language-learning. The great thing about podcasts is that they can be used on-the-go, as you transit to work or school, or when you’re at the gym in the evening. They’re also great for honing your listening skills as you’re forced to attempt comprehension without the aid of the written word - pretty trick at first!
Although many podcasts make their full range of materials available on their respective websites, it’s often handy to use iTunes to download the files directly onto your phone.
Take a look at this list of language podcasts to get you started:
- Luke’s English Podcast (British English)
- News in Slow Spanish (Spanish from Spain or Spanish from Latin America)
- Popup Chinese (Mandarin Chinese)
Looking for well-written, regularly updated, informative foreign-language articles online? Well, surely you’ve been perusing online news media? These sites are a great (usually untapped) resource for improving your reading skills while utilizing real topics and relevant current events.
Even if you don’t agree with the editorial line, they provide a great insight into the hot topics of their respective nations and so are great for getting a better understanding of what makes a particular country tick.
Even better, some of them have English-language editions, so you can ease yourself into reading foreign-language articles. Take a look at this list below:
- The Guardian (English)
- El País (Spanish)
- Le Monde (French)
- De Spiegel (German)
- La Repubblica (Italian)
- China Daily (Chinese)
- The Asahi Shimbun (Japanese)
Reddit proudly proclaims itself as the ‘front page of the internet’, meaning the memes, trends and in-jokes you see plastered over social media often originated from there. But rush past the adorable cat pictures and check out the groups (known as ‘subreddits’) dedicated to language-learning.
Here you’ll find a mixture of learners and native speakers who are (usually) happy to help out with a grammar question or a query about vocabulary. The popularity of these subreddits means many of the most common questions have been asked before, so take advantage of the search function on the page to see if your query matches a previous one.
This article acts as an introduction to the various sources of language-learning info online. Perhaps you have your own favourite podcasts, YouTube channels or informative blogs to share? Or maybe you’re learning a less-common language which is not represented here? Add a link in the comments at the bottom of the page to give your own recommendations about free online resources.
(*Disclaimer: Spammers will be removed*)
Hero image by Toa Heftiba (CC0 1.0)