Learning languages online is an increasingly popular topic of discussion and even lucrative business strategy as people realise the value of multilingualism.
Many people – especially monolinguals - are too hard on themselves when it comes to language learning. They assume they are too old or dumb or poor or lazy, but the truth is that what most monolingual English speakers are really lacking is the necessity to learn a second language.
Well if your lack of self-belief is holding you back from learning a language then it’s time to break free from the chains of monolingualism and realise the potential of learning languages online as well as the amazing effects it can have on your brain.
Time of linguistic change
Things are changing and not necessarily in ways that we would predict. For example, English may still be the language dominating the European job market, but outside of the UK, it’s often not enough to guarantee you the job you want.
The internet has been an incredibly effective catalyst in the spread and demand of languages as globalisation grows and companies fight to compete on an international scale.
Another example is the sudden boom in demand for German speakers, and a vacuum is forming in the job market as recruiters and employers become more and more desperate to attract these elusive speakers. The high demand for German across Europe is intensified by the fact that Germany is enjoying a period of very high employment, meaning that very few Germans are leaving their home country in search of bigger and better opportunities – which simply do not exist.
The German language may be awesome, but it’s really tough to learn so, unlike English, there is not a huge amount of non-native German speakers.
At the same time a debate is raging about whether Dutch is dying as, particularly in the world of academia, it is slowly being replaced by its Germanic cousin, English.
Learning foreign languages online – for free!
It’s never too late to learn a language and it’s a sure (and potentially free!) way to improve your employability. The more languages you speak the more employable you are; you never know what opportunities will arise and which skill will give you the edge on the competition.
Of course, certain languages are more employable than others so being smart about the languages you learn is a good idea. You should also know what you want to achieve with your language skills and (equally as important) where your languages are employable.
Before getting started it could be a good idea to check out our blog on which language you should learn.
Ways to learn languages online for free:
1) Free Apps
Assuming that you’ve done the smallest bit of research into learning languages online, you have probably looked into the idea of learning from an app. This is one of the most popular ways that people are learning with some apps even offering a virtual reality conversation experience.
If the idea of learning in a virtual situation excites you, then Mondly is an app you should try. Free to download and use (but not free to access the VR technology!) Mondly is relatively new on the online language learning scene but with lots of cool features and great usability, it’s now one of the market’s biggest contenders.
No list of online language learning tools is complete without this app. Duolingo is the original language learning app. It’s free (although they have added a lot of adverts to “keep education free”) but it does work well and after being so widely used for many years, it has stood the test of time.
Duolingo offers a wide range of courses and notifications help you keep up your streak.
This only really works if you are in the country you that you are trying to learn the language of. Many languages have a phrase which basically says that the quickest way to learn a language is to acquire a partner who speaks it. Some of the phrases are cruder than others, but there must be some truth in the theory.
You won’t be short of people willing to talk to you and, as they’re total strangers, there’s nothing to get embarrassed about! Just don’t tell your significant other about this method...
I won’t go into listing these apps – you probably already have a favourite one.
2) Make it your routine
If you’re serious about learning a language online then the only way is to incorporate it into your routine – preferably daily routine.
Generally people get very excited and incredibly motivated in the beginning and so often binge learn on their first day. If you don’t reinforce that knowledge with regular reminders then it leaves your short term memory within hours.
Find a half hour slot of free time, set a reminder on your phone and eat the elephant one bite at a time!
Top tip! Results say that you remember things better when you learn them just before bed!
- Smartphone Calendar
3) Online language exchange
Language exchanges are a great way to learn languages online and offline. The whole idea is that two native (or high level) speakers exchange their language skills with someone whose language they want to learn, and who wants to learn theirs in return.
Typically, no money changes hands (perfect for the language learners on a budget!) and the "class" is usually split in to two halves, one for each language. Alternatively, each person speaks in the language that they are trying to learn for the entire time.
There are now several free online services where you can be matched with native speakers from all over the world! You simply make some international friends in a new language by texting, speaking on Skype and sending voice notes.
Tandem and HelloTalk are two of the most famous language exchange apps, but you can find special Facebook groups or even friends of friends.
4) Online pen pals
This is kind of similar to a language exchange but you can practise your writing skills more extensively. Of course, exchanging messages online takes away a bit of the charm of the traditional letter writing, in that the messages arrive instantaneously, but it’s definitely a good way to learn languages online.
Many people form strong friendships with their pen pals and the power of the internet can now match you with someone with similar tastes, interests and language level. The latter is especially important, because if yours and your partner’s levels are imbalanced then one language will dominate the other.
Here are some popular international pen pal websites:
5) Audiobooks and podcasts
If you find yourself literally without any free time to study in a class or an app, then this can be one of your only viable, and yet effective options. As they’re ideal for squeezing into time spent travelling or to listen to while you go to sleep, audiobooks and podcasts can be a great way to learn a language
The important thing is to find topics that interest you, are appropriate for your level and that you will persist with. You could choose to listen to language lessons (good for beginners as the whole thing won’t be in your target language) or stories or news, depending on your level.
Don’t make the time spent listening too long and be consistent with when, and for how long you listen to them.
If you can’t find any free podcasts or audiobooks, YouTube is a great place to turn. There are numerous vloggers who publish language learning videos and you don’t have to watch them.
Top tip! If you’re listening on the commute to work then, to save data, make sure that you load the video on your wifi at home before you leave!
6) Imagine that you already speak that language
This sounds crazy and not necessarily a concrete action, but it involves several changes in attitude and habit that will have a huge effect on your language learning.
Language is such a huge part of your life that if you want to learn Spanish and were to assume the life of a Spanish speaker, then you would learn very quickly.
What does this involve?
- Changing the language on your phone
- Changing the languages on your social media accounts
- Joining Facebook groups for that language
- Watch Netflix in your target language
- Listen to music and the radio in your target language
- Follow celebrities and accounts in your target language on social media
By getting into the culture of the language you want to learn, the words begin to enter your vocabulary almost without you realising.
Changing the language on your phone can be immediately effective. Think about how much time you spend looking at your phone. You know where everything is so you will still be able to navigate easily whilst picking up the language at the same time.
Here are some top resources for learning languages online. Some have already been mentioned in previous sections.
Language learning websites and apps
Detailed lists of resources
The absolute key to language learning is passion combined with consistency. You should know that these methods and tools can be hugely effective but as the old saying goes...
A good workman never blames his tools.
In a similar vein, a good language learner should not blame their tools. We live in an age where resources we could never have dreamed of are only a tap of the finger away. You have a golden opportunity to enjoy one of the most rewarding experiences there is in learning foreign languages online.
Dec 19, 2017 by Matt
I have learned 3 languages withous online ressourcces, this article is quite helpful to start learning new languages online, maybe Portuguese or German =)posted 4 months ago by Magzhan
I can recommend Duolinguo! An excellent tool!posted 4 months ago by Viktoria
I want to learn, I will be happy to back here give my testimonyposted 4 months ago by FRANCK
I also suggest Memrise with a very efficient mobile app. I have been using it since March 2016.posted 4 months ago by anonymous
Thanks for the tips!posted 4 months ago by Luca
DuoLingo is a fun and easy way to learn a new language, it helped me allot with my Spanish, I would definitely recommend it!posted 4 months ago by Wouter
Very useful information.posted 4 months ago by Dragan
Excellent article! I have always believed you can learn even the hardest language ever as look as you have the motivation.posted 4 months ago by Selen
Languages skills are the best asset their is.posted 4 months ago by Miguel José
Thanks for these useful informations!posted 4 months ago by Medine