Gearing up for your next global travel adventure? You might want to brush up on your foreign language skills before packing your bags. While the use of English is more widespread than ever before, the ability to stumble through a few phrases in the native language of the country you’re visiting will still be very much appreciated. This remains true in even in parts of the world like Sweden and the Netherlands, where English fluency rates are high.
Luckily for us monolingual travelers, there are plenty of online resources out there designed to help boost your foreign language knowledge. Here are the top 5 free online resources for language learning, along with a few notable mentions!
Duolingo has quickly established itself as the gold standard for free online (and mobile!) language learning. The platform is built on the back of a lot of research, and it shows. Duolingo currently supports about a dozen European languages, ranging from Irish and Dutch, to German and Spanish. Additional languages are currently in development.
Exercises are neatly organized into different categories (e.g. verbs, nouns, basics, phrases, numbers, etc.), which test your ability to read, write, and listen in your chosen foreign language. The best part? Duolingo is completely free to use.
“According to an independent study conducted by the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina, an average of 34 hours of Duolingo are equivalent to a full university semester of language education.” — Duolingo.com
Click here to visit Duolingo.
Busuu brands itself as “the world’s largest social network for language learning”. The site currently supports 12 popular languages. Learners are guided through the foreign language acquisition process through a combination of structured courses written by professional language teachers, as well as instant feedback from native speakers.
The result is that you get the best of both worlds: participants benefit from the foundation provided by the structured lessons, but also sharpen skills quickly from feedback provided by native language speakers.
Click here to visit Busuu.
Memrise is a learning tool that primarily focuses on, well, memorization. Building vocabulary is one of the toughest parts of learning a new language, and it is the goal of Memrise to not only make this process easier, but to also make it fun.
More than a simple flashcard site, Memrise uses adaptive learning algorithms to cater to your personal learning style and help you build up your foreign vocabulary faster than ever. Dozens of languages are currently supported on the site.
Click here to visit Memrise.
In the early days of podcasting LanguagePod101 stood out above the competition. Today it is still the leader in language learning podcasts. These podcasts are 100% free and are available in dozens of languages, ranging from Cantonese and Arabic, to French and Swedish.
Each specific language podcasts releases several sets of episodes each week. Each set corresponds to a different level of language learning (e.g. complete beginner, beginner, intermediate, advanced).
The beauty of LanguagePod101 is that it teaches languages in the same way you would learn them as a child or from living abroad: through conversation. Every episode features a conversation between a native and a non-native speaker. At the end of the dialogue, the pair discuss the vocabulary and grammatical nuances of their chat.
Click here to visit LanguagePod101.
WeSpeke is a language exchange site where learners can connect with native language speaker for free. Like Busuu, WeSpeke is also built around learning modules to give learners some basic instruction before they leap into conversation. The site offers a handy notebook feature where you can save notes during your chats with native speakers, and also offers some free short courses made especially with travelers in mind.
Click here to visit WeSpeke.
- Coursera and FutureLearn are two amazing online learning platforms that occasionally offer structured language courses from top universities.
- Get a crash course in any one of 40 different languages courtesy of BBC Languages
- IELanguages is a site run by a PhD in Linguistics. It offers free tutorials and guides on practically every major European language.
- The Radio Lingua Network is a great resource for free French, German, Italian, and Spanish podcasts. Each episode is short and designed to fit around your daily coffee break.