Most people think that once you reach a certain stage in life, you lose the ability and resources to learn another language. Well it certainly doesn’t have to be that way! There are plenty of FREE, CONVENIENT resources for all ages, and I’m going to list my top three suggestions below!
What is there not to love about Duolingo? Build language listening, reading, writing, AND speaking skills at the swipe of a finger. It’s so convenient I’ve learned to multitask with this app and just about every daily living activity outside of showering and sleeping. Seriously, it’s that easy.
As of now, English speakers can learn French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Esperanto, Turkish, or Norwegian. There are even more languages in beta testing, like Czech and Hindi. For those of you with another language already under your belt, you have that many more options. For example, I like using my Spanish profile to learn French, so I’m strengthening both languages at the same time!
The only disadvantage, in my opinion, is that the Duolingo app skips fundamental explanations like verb conjugations, sentence structures, grammar, and pronunciation, throwing you right into exercises to learn as you go.
Alison.com is one of my favorite learning resources in general. There are OVER 700 FREE ONLINE COURSES IN VARIOUS SUBJECTS, and some offer diplomas or certificates of completion! If you’re a huge education enthusiast (read: nerd) like me, you understand how epic that is.
As far as languages, there are courses for English, French, German, Spanish, Irish, Arabic, Swedish, and Chinese. These are offered by various entities, some examples being Global Text Project, Cambridge University, and individual language professionals. I’m currently taking French Language Studies Introduction, a course by the University of Texas at Austin. My favorite component is the videos of students and native French speakers. It’s very helpful for learning pronunciation and sharpening listening comprehension skills.
One disadvantage I’ve encountered with Alison.com is getting used to the online learning style itself. This doesn’t go for everyone, but I flourish in live academic settings. Something about the immediate interaction that I just can’t replace with online material.
You can pretty much gain the knowledge equivalency of a PhD in any subject if search YouTube hard enough. There are literally thousands of options for learning new languages, my favorite thus far being music, tv shows, and language instructor channels like Learn French with Alexa!
YouTube is great because it connects you to material all around the globe. You can learn Chinese slang and colloquialisms from a teenager in Beijing, or learn the difference between Spanish, Catalan, and Andaluz from a language professor in Barcelona! If you’re also slightly childish like me, I would suggest watching children’s videos. Think about how much language you learned from Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, or Barney growing up! I’ve learned a lot of language watching shows like Peppa Pig and La Ratita Presumida. There are also dubbed versions of our classic English shows, like Cailou and SpongeBob Squarepants!
As always, the disadvantage for using YouTube is that it’s basically Distraction City. One minute you’re logging on to do some speaking exercises, and the next minute you’ve spent two hours watching videos of babies eating lemons for the first time (yes, I do this often). As a tip, create playlists and put the videos on fullscreen. The videos will automatically play back to back and there will be no tempting nonsense on the sidebar to lure you away from learning.