4 Free Internet Resources for Learning Languages

The Internet is teaming with resources for language learning, but which ones can you trust not to teach you the wrong things?  Which ones are worth your time?  There are four resources that I heavily recommend.  Each of them has their own advantages but none of them are a complete language problem in themselves.  Use them for what they are: tools to build the house, not the house themselves.

#1: Duolingo.com

Duolingo is probably one of the few websites that actually comes close to a complete language learning program.  And it’s completely free with no annoying ads!  Wait, hold on a second.  Probably just like you, my mom always taught me that there’s no such thing as “free.”  So how does this website make its money?  The exercises you complete are translation exercises—you end up translating sentences from actual websites.  Duolingo then reaps the benefits of these translations.  That seems fair to me.  Duolingo focuses on grammar and vocabulary, just like an elementary level language course.  Sure, this website covers advance vocabulary and grammar as well, but it lacks a communicative approach.  At a certain point in your studies, you’ll need to start looking for other resources to practice other language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).

#2: iTunes

Have you visited your iTunes store lately?  Don’t let the word “store” fool you.  Many of the items in this store are actually free.  Type the name of your language in the “search” box and then take a look at the results under podcasts and iTunesU.  Some people create podcasts as a hobby expecting nothing but the pride brought on by having followers.  And some people create a free podcast to lure people to their websites to buy the accompanying textbook or pdfs.  Either way, podcasts are good for developing your listening skills in a foreign language.  iTunesU is rather similar to podcasts in that iTunesU has language courses made by people out of the kindness of their hearts and to lure you to buying additional resources (such as textbooks).  The big difference is that iTunesU courses are made, for the most part, by colleges and universities so the information is a bit more trustworthy.  Also take a look at the apps that show up in your iTunes search.  Sometimes there are some great apps that show up as well.

#3: YouTube

If you are a more advanced student, you can follow YouTube users who speak in your target language.  However, that’s not the only way you can use YouTube to work on your language skills.  Many people post music with videos that include the lyrics.  Reading the lyrics as they go across the screen while listening to the songs helps train your mind to recognize the connection between the sound system of the language and the writing system.  Also there’s another little gem that, as a language teacher myself, I thoroughly enjoy.  In the YouTube search function, type in the grammar concept you are studying.  Then type your target language and the word “song.”  Many language teachers have made their own videos to teach grammar by song and have had their students make videos as well.

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