There are many ways for people to learn one or more languages without spending thousands of dollars or wasting hours of your time. Here are a few tips on how to learn a language for all types of budgets and schedules.
- Immerse yourself. One of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. This can be achieved by living in a country where the language you want to learn is one of the national languages AND where your native tongue is not heavily spoken. Now, you ask, how is this a budget-friendly way to learn a language? Find a job or volunteer in the country of your choice! As I wrote in this article, there are many countries seeking English speakers to teach English; there are also volunteer opportunities that provide free room and board in exchange for your work. The tip below will help you get creative on ways to immerse yourself in a language.
- Get Creative. Think outside of the box on what language to learn and where to learn it. It has been said that it is easy for English speakers to learn Malay/Indonesian, Afrikaans, Swahilli, Dutch, and many of the Romance or Nordic languages. Furthermore, immersing yourself in a language means more than going to France to learn French or Spain to learn Spanish. For French try Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Haiti, French Guiana, Guadeloupe/Martinique, or Montreal. For those interested in Spanish, visit Equatorial Guinea, Colombia, Guatemala, Cuba, Panama, or Honduras. To learn Portuguese head to Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, or East Timor.
- Find a Language Partner. For many of us, going abroad is not an immediate viable option. Instead, find a language partner in or around your city who speaks the language you want to learn. This can be done through websites such as Couchsurfing or Craigslist. Although not usually for this purpose, it is also possible to find a language partner in unexpected places such as on Tinder (I recently found a French-Speaking language partner on Tinder who is interested in brushing up on his French! There are many purposes for Tinder beyond dating and hook-ups, especially abroad). Meet with your language partner a few times a week to practice your language speaking skills.
- Go Online. Watch TV shows or movies in the language you desire to learn — with or without captions; you can also listen to podcasts, news radio, or music radio. Learn basic language skills or improve upon existing skills on apps such as Duolingo or Babbel. There are many language apps available for free or for a small monthly fee that provide short lessons that can be completed during daily commutes to and from work or school. Incorporate a few of these tips into your daily routine to enhance your language comprehension.
- Take a Course. Take an in-person course at a college/university or community center. If in-person courses do not work with your busy schedule, take an online course such as with Rosetta Stone (buy their courses during a sale), or use Google to find free lessons; there are many websites with free lessons available to the public. You can also subscribe to a lesson plan that can be sent to your email on a weekly or daily basis.
Learning a language can be stressful enough without having to consider how to fit it into your budget or schedule. These tips should ease some of that stress, and keep learning a language a fun and light activity as it should be.