There are a number of free online resources for learning new languages, which are great ways to learn the foundations of a given language, but most of them lack the ability to put your skills to use with other people. These 3 language social networks are ways to meet other travelers who are native speakers or at the same level as you are in that second, third, fourth, etc. language. It’s an excellent way to practice and put your skills to the test to improve upon what you’ve learned.
Last week I took a look at the language exchange network LingoMatch. A fairly straightforward interface, you can post ads to teach, learn, or exchange language skills with others across the LingoMatch network. There are no set rules to engagements which can be face-to-face or over Skype.
Busuu is primarily focused on the Romance languages, English, and German. Busuu not only lets you connect with other travelers but has free online courses and integrated video chat as well.
A language exchange community run by Rosetta Stone, the most useful aspect of SharedTalk is its forums and text chat. SharedTalk would be so much more useful if it could integrate with existing social networking platforms like Skype but is a good place to find the answer to that obscure Spanish grammar question.
More Free Language Resources
Since I last wrote about these free online language resources, I’ve come across a few others. None are particularly social but teach each language with different methods, some of which may work better for you than others. Also, they’re all free as well.
- Lifehacker reports that the US Foreign Service Institute’s language courses (given to US diplomats and other employees) and are now available online.
- David lead me to Survival Phrases, a series of podcasts in 19 languages that cover basic words, greetings, and questions.
- Newelty grades a few of the most popular online courses including the Flash Card Exchange where members create online flash cards for other users.
- My Several Worlds has several lessons in Chinese from Peggy Teaches Chinese, whom you can also find on YouTube.
- Speaking of Chinese, you can learn one free character a day on the aptly named website, Learn Chinese Everyday.
- Shiela let me know that you can find free language courses on About.com – although it takes a bit of digging to find the language you’re looking for.
- Find out how hard it is to learn a new language and now long it will take (for English speakers).
- Save time by looking up words right in your browser using the Firefox Tooltip plugin.
Use The Variety
These online language social networks all give you different levels of sociability, whether you want to meet people in person or just practice your skills via chat. It’s important to converse with native speakers as well as other students to feel comfortable speaking when you’re actually traveling and pick up on cultural context and slang. As travelers you shouldn’t neglect the strong connection between language and culture, and despite the fact that English is the universal language it’s not used everywhere. Besides, it will make it that much easier to order danishes in Denmark.
This is a great collection of language resources, Anil. Thanks for including me on it.
I meet Taiwanese students and they all inevitably ask how they can improve their English. I used to tell them that English magazines, books, television programs, and movies are all excellent (and entertaining) methods for learning English, and they still are.
Nowadays, I’m more apt to tell students to get online and use the resources that are already at their disposal. Some of them never even think about using Facebook in English, and when they realize that they could be using Facebook chat services to improve their English, it’s like seeing a light bulb switch on.
The same is true for any language learner. The world really is at our fingertips. Sometimes we just need a friendly reminder like this to show us that there’s more to surfing the Net than tweeting, Farmville, and games. 🙂
You’re welcome Carrie, I’ve been enjoying the series on your site. I totally agree there are so *many* good resources online for just about everything, it’s easy to miss them or get complacent. Great idea to switch languages on some common sites we use, it’s jarring at first but helps force us to use what we know and expand on it.
We pick up so much language just by being exposed to it and seeing it everyday, even outside of the classroom.
Anil, you haven’t mentioned LiveMocha.com where you can get free language lessons online and chat to any online member for language exchange. They teach the broadest range of languages I have come across and was great in preparing my daughter and I for living in Mexico for 6 months
Hi Fran! Been a while, glad to see you’re back 🙂 Thanks for reminding me about LiveMocha which should have been here (the online chat slipped my mind). They’re probably my favorite language-learning website.
This is great, and if I didn’t already have someone helping me with my Spanish and a Japanese tutor than I would check it out. Studying and learning a languages is no good unless you actively use it which is why sites like these are great.
It’s part a lot of people avoid but I think one of the best ways to learn – you’ve got to converse 🙂
Oh wow! Thanks for posting this! We recently decided to put our daughter in French Immersion starting Senior Kindergarten here in Canada (it’s offered as an an option). That means, 100% of her school subjects will be taught in French from SK-Grade 4. Grade 5-8 is 50% French 50% English subjects. So, I need to learn French as well if I want to help her with homework! Thank you for this invaluable resource.
Fascinating, I’ve always wondered how it works in Canada. I took several years of lessons at the Alliance Francais, they’re everywhere and I found the immersion program great. A bit expensive but really effective. I’d highly recommend them.
I love the idea of all these travel learning sites but I think you have to be very motivated to learn this way – I think if I was serious about learning a language I’d just go there and enrole in a language school but I guess a little preparation never hurt anyone
It’s nice to have the option to practice when you want and the chats are good places to clear up tricky grammar questions.
Good idea to learn a little of the language before going on a trip using these resources. I’d much prefer a course with face to face teaching for more serious studies.
It’s a nice way to get your feet wet with the local culture 🙂 I can see these types of services really expanding.
WOW! What a great list of resources. Upon my return to the States in late June, I’ll begin using my Rosetta Stone to learn Mandarin in preparation for my trip to China in September, but I can use some of these resources to start the process now. Thanks for this exceptional list.
You’re more than welcome, good luck with Mandarin. There are many good resources to learn it out there 🙂
Good post. Coincidentally just a few days ago someboy asked me if I knew anywhere online where he could find such help. I have gone back to his question and asked him to check this post of yours.
Awesome Frederico, glad to hear the post was of good timing!
Yes, “learning a languages could be very hard and slow unless you actively use it”. These sites are great for practicing the language.
Not only is it tough to learn a language if you don’t use it, it’s also just as difficult to retain it.
great list Anil, very extensive!Now I don’t have any excuses to pick it up on my almost forgotten crappy german basics. cheers
haha, well there you go!