How to Learn Foreign Languages for Free

Some people mistakenly imagine that learning a second language is expensive, that only wealthy people can afford to pay for the language teachers, textbooks, courses, travel expenses, etc. This is simply not true. You don’t need to be able to travel to a country where your target language is spoken everywhere. You don’t need to pay for any expensive classes or even textbooks. It is possible to learn a second language without spending a single cent on this endeavor. Some people also assume that it is impossible to learn another language unless you have a lot of free time. Again, this is not completely true—learning a second language does indeed require plenty of time, effort, and commitment, but it is doable also for a person with a very busy schedule.

Let’s imagine you live in the middle of nowhere, and every single person who lives nearby is monolingual. On top of that, you have very little money. Can you still learn a second language? Yes. If you have a computer with an access to the Internet, then you have all the language learning resources you need. And you can learn for free. Let’s say you are an American citizen who wants to learn Russian. You are already at an advantage, given how millions of Russians are interested in learning English. Just install Skype or any other voice chat software, go online and find a native Russian speaker who wants to learn English. Trade language lessons with this person. You can agree that 50% of the time you will be teaching them English, while the other 50% of the time they will be teaching you Russian. Alternatively, you can agree to have bilingual conversations all the time—they speak in Russian, you answer in English. If you instead want the hardcore option, you speak in Russian, they answer in English.

You don’t need a language teacher who has a degree in linguistics and is officially certified as somebody who is qualified to teach foreign languages. Any person who is friendly and willing to speak with you in their language will do. Personally, I learned Russian from a ten years old girl who was a native Russian speaker. I learned German from some university students whom I befriended. People learn languages by communicating in them. Have you noticed that almost every parent succeeds in teaching their child a language despite not being a professional language teacher? Similarly, they can also teach a foreign language to you.

Skype language lessons are a real thing and very commonly used among polyglots. There are numerous websites and forums for people who want to learn languages. There you can find somebody who will be willing to exchange language lessons with you. That being said, I have never personally used Skype for language learning. There are more options.

Do you live in a somewhat large city with a university and some immigrant communities? Go to the local university and post a note saying that you are looking for an exchange student willing to trade language lessons with you. Alternatively, get in touch with people who are immigrants. Befriend somebody from this community. There you have it, now you know a person with whom to practice speaking in your target language.

Of course, the Internet also offers plenty of completely free resources for language learners. You can read blogs, forums, and news sites in your target language. You can watch YouTube videos and various movies, you can also play video games in your target language. On top of that, especially for larger languages, there are free language learning materials out there. For example, back when I was learning German, I used this website []. There you can find extensive explanations about various German grammar topics. You don’t need to buy a language textbook or some printed grammar guide; for most languages this information is available online and for free. Another example: when I wanted to learn English punctuation rules, I used this website [], which is an excellent and completely free resource.

There are countless places where you can practice using your target language. For example, one of my hobbies is growing carnivorous plants, especially nepenthes. Back when I wanted to improve my German, I joined a German forum devoted to these plants and their cultivation. I also love photography, that’s another of my hobbies. I have spent a lot of time in German websites and online forums where photographers discuss their craft.

If you want to learn another language, throwing money at the problem and purchasing expensive language courses is not the only solution. In my opinion, language classes are a suboptimal way how to learn foreign languages, because personally I prefer to learn a language by actually using it. And that’s something I can do for free.

Having a busy schedule with too little free time is a harder problem to overcome. You do need time to learn a language. That being said, reality not as hopeless as a pessimistic busy person might imagine. If you only spend one hour per week on learning a language, your progress will be much slower than if you spend ten hours per week. But you will still make some progress. There are also some tricks how to get a bit of extra language practice here and there without specifically spending additional time on language learning.

For example, most people use their computer and mobile phone in their native language. Change the language settings for your electronics. Thus each time you use your computer or phone, you will get a little bit of extra language practice. Do you read newspapers? Do you read books, watch movies or play computer games? Stop doing these things in your native language. Whenever possible, switch to your target language instead. Do you like cooking? Use recipes in your target language. And so on. There are countless daily activities that you are currently doing in your native language, which you could do in your target language instead.

Throughout the day, there are also short moments of spare time everywhere. While commuting, you probably spend a few minutes waiting for your bus or train. While grocery shopping, you probably spend a minute waiting in the line in order to pay for your purchases. While cooking, you probably spend a minute here and there waiting for something to happen with your dish. You can use these short moments of free time in order to get a bit of extra language practice. Just pull out your smartphone and do something in your target language.

Moreover, you probably do some semi-mindless tasks throughout the day, for example, cleaning the home or washing the dishes. You can listen to some podcast or any audio in your target language while you do all of these tasks.

Being busy definitely is an obstacle that can slow down your progress when learning another language, but this problem can be overcome.

People who truly want to learn another language can do it. Sometimes people who aren’t particularly passionate about learning another language will just say that they cannot do it due to having too little time or money. Then these are just excuses. That’s fine, people who don’t want to learn languages are free to not do it. But if somebody who seriously wants to learn another language imagines that they cannot succeed due to having too little spare cash or time, then that is simply not true. It is possible to successfully learn languages despite hindering circumstances.

If you want to give a try learning a language (I promise it is super fun), then here  you can find a book written by Benny Lewis, who is a polyglot and explains his techniques how exactly he learns languages. My own personal preferences how I learn languages somewhat differ from his approach, for example, unlike him, I have never travelled for the purpose of learning another language. I am also much less inclined to speak from day one as much as he does. But I agree with his overall perspective. You can learn a language by using it, and you can do it for free without being wealthy. Imagining that learning a second language is a privilege accessible only to wealthy people with lots of free time is factually incorrect.

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