So, you want, or need, to learn a new language, you’ve been told by your company, university or school that it’s necessary if you want to continue progressing. For natives of English speaking countries, this is not usually the case, but if you were to venture to a country such as Spain in search of work, you’d quickly realise that being bilingual (or often trilingual, depending on the community) is a necessity for modern-day working and academic life.
Combine this necessity with the astronomical cost of language learning at the majority of academies or schools throughout your country and it’s likely that a significant amount of your paycheck will be spent on learning this language. There are, however, some things that you may be able to do in order to learn a new language without spending a single penny or cent.
LANGUAGE EXCHANGE WEBSITES
Firstly, you can use Studenz to connect with people all over the world for absolutely free. There is no charge to use our language exchange service and you’ll be able to chat with thousands of people in hundreds of countries without any hesitation or difficulty. You can use this to your advantage by searching for a specific language or location to refine your search and interact with this person through direct messaging, instant messaging or video calls, all of which are available on the site.
It’s likely that the other person will be looking to benefit from the language exchange in some way as well, probably through learning your native language, so make sure that you respect their wishes and try your best to integrate both languages as thoroughly as possible. You can set up a schedule for each day in order to ensure that both your needs are being met. You do tend to find that most of the people who are interested in language exchange are fairly intellectual, so they won’t have too much difficulty understanding you on a basic level and they’ll probably be up for correcting your writings via email if both parties have enough time to do so.
One of the beautiful aspects of language exchange is you never know who you’ll find. Your language partner could be a lifelong friend, a potential business partner or they could even end up becoming your spouse, a prospect with which this writer is happily familiar, but we’ll save that story for a later blog post.
ONLINE STREAMING SERVICES
It may seem like we talk about them a lot, but that’s because we are so thrilled with the capabilities of these versatile services. The most popular services are without a doubt Netflix and Amazon Prime, both of which offer a variety of incredible series and movies at the click of a button, or the touch of a screen, depending on which device you’re using.
It sounds silly, but it’s extremely effective. All you need to do is switch your audio from your native language over to English through the audio and visual settings button. We advise starting with the audio in English and subtitles in your native language, then switching over to English for both audio and subtitles.
This method is known as the acquisition of language through modern media. You’re not physically writing down and repeating anything, although you are free to do if you so wish and there is a lot to be said about taking specific vocabulary from television shows as some of them can use extremely intellectual and complex grammar or vocabulary. Feel free to grab a notebook and jot down anything you think is noteworthy, it can only heighten your experience.
FREE ONLINE COURSES
They’re not a common commodity and one may find it difficult to secure a place on a free language course, as they are incredibly popular. Online is likely your best bet as there are a number of websites who provide courses for absolutely no charge. They may be a little more basic than you would prefer though.
Depending on your location, your local council or school may offer courses for free. This is one of the advantages of living in London, it’s easy to find language courses close to you and in many areas, these classes are free of charge. Merton currently has one of the most popular English language courses in the Greater London area, so if you are around the areas of Wimbledon, Tooting or Collier’s Wood, it’s worth taking a look.
The issues with these types of classes are that they are often midweek and not flexible. This means that you have to work your schedule around them or it will be impossible to attend.
Games and virtual reality are increasingly becoming a staple of modern life. There aren’t many people who don’t use social media and there’s the thought amongst the technological community, that eventually virtual reality games will be utilised by over 80% of the worldwide population. That’s a huge amount, we’re talking billions of people all connected via the world wide web.
Although the 80% figure of users may be a way off, there are still a lot of people connected to games online that are using them specifically for the purpose of learning or strengthening a target language. The obvious choices are MMORPG’s (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Second Life. These are games that have been around for some time and have developed into the expansive games that they are today. This isn’t a modern frivolity either, trends like this started in the early 2000s with games like Club Penguin, Runescape and IMVU.
VR Chat has gained popularity over the last few years, mostly thanks to its expansive world, easily customisable avatars and a plethora of places to visit in the virtual world. There are a lot of people from many different countries and you can choose to talk by voice or through text.
If you’re a student at university or you’re a teacher at a high school, it’s worth taking note that the University of Valencia has spearheaded a project known as TeCoLa, which focuses on language learning through gamification and international collaboration. They are often considering new candidates for the project so it’s definitely a good idea to get in touch with them and see if you can set something up for your students.
TALK ON YOUR TRAVELS
One of the pitfalls for people learning a foreign language is that they are faced with an invisible wall of fear when confronted with a native speaker. They have very little trouble speaking in front of their classmates or family, but when a native speaker of that language is introduced, they freeze up and often refuse to speak at all.
While travelling is not free in and of itself, it’s always a good idea to try and immerse yourself into the native language if you have a trip planned already. You’re not going to get away with speaking in your own language if you come to the United Kingdom, with the possible exception of London. This means that you’re going to have to bite the bullet and face your fears. That rusty English that you learnt in high school should be enough for you to order a coffee in a cafe, but it’s not going to be enough to get you around the city.
Not a problem, there are plenty of people who are willing to speak with you during your travels for no charge. They are just living their day to day life and they’d be more than happy to extend their knowledge to you. Just make sure that you take advantage when people are speaking to you and that you take note of what they are saying. It takes a true traveller to listen to a foreign language and question the grammar rather than simply asking what it means.
So, there you have a little list of helpful tips to get you started on your language learning journey. Enjoy the money you’ve saved by not forking out to learn a language!
Written by: Jordan Benyon, Staff Writer