Whether you’ve got plans to travel abroad or simply want to work your brain and improve yourself, learning a new language is fun. But, don’t despair—there are plenty of ways to learn a foreign language without shelling out for college courses or Rosetta Stone packages, which can cost anywhere from $230 to $1,000.
1. Harness The Power Of Social Networking.
Livemocha fuses social networking with more traditional lesson-based learning. It offers free lessons in 35 languages (at a range of skill levels). You can also tap into the site’s community of over 5 million members to find a language partner. Upgrade to a paid membership for more detailed courses and expert tutors who will review your work and give you detailed feedback. Another option is Babbel, which provides online lessons for $11.95 per month (or three months for $23.95).
2. Just The Basics.
Say that you don’t have time to get fluent, but you need to know how to get by when you’re abroad. For $1 (yes, one buck) Coolgorilla Talking Phrasebooks will provide you with handy travel phrases in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese or Spanish, right on your iPhone. Babbel also offers a handy iPhone app (free if you’re a subscriber, $7.99 if not) that gives you words and phrases in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, or Swedish.
3. Try Out Language Exchange.
The best way to learn a language is to speak it often. To find someone willing to put up with your awkward, fumbling attempts, look online—where speakers of other languages want your expertise, too. These sites might be a little bare-bones, but the language experiences they can help you find are rich. Find someone to teach you Spanish in exchange for English help, or learn French (or Spanish, German, or Italian) from a native speaker.
4. Make Like Jason Bourne.
The U.S. Foreign Service Institute teaches foreign languages to government diplomats and personnel. Its courses are available online for free, giving you access to audio, texts, and tests in 41 different languages. They also are sufficiently old school to give you that retro, fresh-from-the-Cold-War feeling.