In the old days, it used to be that if you wanted to learn a new language you’d have to go through the hassle of hiring a tutor, picking up a stack of tapes at your local bookstore, or driving out to the local education annex to take a specialized night class three times a week.
Now, the Internet has not only made the process of becoming fluent in French or Scandanavian simpler, it’s also cut the costs associated by a factor of 100 percent.
Gone are the days of language tapes and boring textbook lessons. Here are a few of our favorite ways to pick up a new language online without dropping a dime.
First things first, we’ll get the most obvious pick out of the way at the top of the playbill: Duolingo.
By now, you’d have to have been living under a pretty big rock that blocks all Wi-Fi signals to have missed a mention of one of the most popular (and some would argue the best) way to learn a language online for free.
The app and its desktop counterpart have quickly rocketed to the top of the pile as the go-to option for anyone who wants an easy and fun way to learn another language while at home or on the go.
Personally, my favorite feature of Duolingo has to be its leaderboard system, which, when logged in using your Facebook account, will automatically pit your progress against that of all your closest friends.
Each week, Duolingo will record stats on you and your competitors based on how many levels you’ve cleared, how well you scored on each lesson, and the progress you’ve made through the lesson tree of your respective languages.
Because all the points are allocated on a universal score sheet, no matter which language you’re learning the playing field is even across the board. This adds a fun incentive to the way you learn, and provides all the extra motivation you’ll need to get that much further into your dictionary than anyone else on your social media network.
What sets Livemocha apart from the rest is its personalized lesson structure, complete with human-to-human coaching sessions provided free of charge by teachers, language experts, and even other fellow students from all around the globe.
Duolingo is great for a lot of things, but it can also be impersonal, shoving you from lesson to lesson without ever really slowing down to check and be sure you’ve absorbed everything past the basic need to pass your digital test.
Livemocha takes the guesswork of knowing where you’re at by letting a real live person take over to evaluate your progress, and step in just in case there are still any areas you might need a boost in before you move on to conjugate anymore extra verbs.
Livemocha’s lessons are available on the company’s main learning portal, found here.
Busuu is another online language course that prides itself on providing all the tools you’ll need to start jabbering someone’s ear off in a foreign tongue, while still being able to offer the lion’s portion of its course materials on the web for no cost to the consumer.
Busuu acts as a sort of in-between intermediary for what you’d get either from LiveMocha and Duolingo individually. The site and its corresponding app run on a clean, minimalist interface which makes it that much easier to get started on wracking up points for the leaderboard. All the while, its vast network of assistants and real live tutors can help scoot you along in class if you ever find yourself lagging behind the rest of the pack.
Before you dive in headfirst, potential Busuu students should note that although much of what you’ll need to pick up your preferred language is available for free, the site does still keep some of its most premium features behind a paywall of $9.99 per month.
These include added bonuses like Voice Recording exercises that evaluate your annunciation in realtime, as well as the benefit of receiving faster responses and syntax corrections from the community’s 50 million other members.
You can sign up for your own free Busuu membership by heading over to their website today.
Obviously, even with all the extra frills added on, the pace and consistency at which you learn a language will ultimately depend on you.
Duolingo does make it fun, Livemocha makes it easy, and Busuu brings together the best of both worlds, but becoming fluent in another tongue is hard work. Thanks to free resources like these, though, at least the pressure of paying for your own progress doesn’t matter as much as it used to.