I want to learn a language but I don’t have much money…
Friday, 12th March 2010
You don't have to look far to find ways to practise a language very cheaply or even for free!
When times are tight, luxuries such as foreign travel - even if it falls into the self-improvement category of learning a language - can be put on the back burner as we spend our hard-earned dollars on only what is deemed necessary.
Even though learning a language in the country where it’s spoken is arguably the best way to immerse yourself in the language, there are many (much cheaper) ways to learn a language back home if you can’t afford to go overseas. Or perhaps you’ve already taken a language vacation and want to keep up your language now home - whatever the case, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a foreign language into our everyday lives without it costing the earth - or anything, for that matter.
Here’s our list of ways to practise a language on the cheap:
• Television: Thanks to varied digital packages, you should be able to pick up some television channels from Latin America and further afield. If not, you can often pay to upgrade to a package that includes foreign television. Television is a great way to practise a language, especially if you tune into the news which is often read clearly, using good language, and in a neutral accent. Or you can make it seem less like a language learning chore and watch a documentary or movie in a subject that interests you – it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand everything, as just listening to the language and getting the gist is great practice!
• DVDs: As above, watching a movie in a foreign language is an excellent, and fun, way to practise your favourite language. Most DVD rental stores have a ‘World Cinema’ section where you can take your pick. Put the subtitles on if you’re just learning, or switch them off if you’re feeling brave…
• Radio: Harder to understand than the television, perhaps, as you can’t lip-read or follow any movement, foreign language radio is often easier to access than foreign language tv. Try internet radio for a wide, easily-accessible selection.
• Internet: The rise of the internet has made news, articles, games and a plethora of other features available in almost any language we choose. Keep useful sources at your fingertips by bookmarking a foreign newspaper such as El País or Corriere della Sera, for daily news in your language of choice, or Google ‘language learning games’ for a few minutes of educational fun.
• Online Resources: As above, we can find almost anything if we look for it, thanks to the internet. Online dictionaries that also offer useful phrases, expressions and forums - a particular favorite of mine being wordreference.com - mean you don’t necessarily need to buy that big hefty dictionary.
• Music: Listening to foreign music is a great way to practise a language without really trying. The more you listen to a song, the more familiar you become with the lyrics, and the more likely you are to find yourself singing it back to yourself – without even thinking about from it. Check out the World Music section of your local music store, or, as above, just tune into a foreign radio station or download some tunes online.
• Magazines / Books: You can buy foreign language magazines and literature in the US, although unfortunately you’ll often pay more than if you bought them in-country. Still, reading is a great way to keep up a language and the investment usually worth it. I still flick through magazines that I bought years back. Subscribe to a magazine you know you’ll read, or buy a magazine dedicated to your preferred country (eg. Italia! Magazine, Spain Magazine, France Magazine) where you’ll usually find phrases, vocabulary and recipes geared around a specific subject each month.
• Language Exchange / Intercambio: Use the internet or the noticeboard in your local library/grocer to find foreign people living in your area wishing to ‘exchange’ language knowledge. This can take any format, but usually consists of chatting for one hour in your own language and then an hour in their language, to let you both practise. Make sure you meet in a public place, and language exchange is almost as close you can get to the ‘real thing’ – there’s no hiding from the person in front of you, yet the great thing is they won’t be judging you as they are in exactly the same situation!
• Evening Classes: Whether it’s through an Adult Education center, your local university or a private center running specialist courses, you should be able to find an evening language course in your nearest town or city. Ok, so you have to pay, but with courses starting from $180 it works out much cheaper than going overseas. Cactus, for example, runs
• Eating Out: Spending an evening in a local restaurant specialising in, say, Japanese cuisine, is a great way to surround yourself with your favorite language and culture. The décor and menu are usually in the foreign language, and the waiters often tend to be native speakers too – so why not surprise them and talk to them in their own language. And you never know, a glass of the local tipple sometimes goes a long way in aiding fluency too…
Do you have any other ideas of how to incorporate a language into everyday life at little or no expense? Please share them with us by adding a comment to this post!