Learning a new language can enrich your life in ways you wouldn't expect, but it still sounds intimidating, doesn't it? Kids seem to pick up on new languages so easily, but once you're a bit older... well, it's tough to learn new skills in general.
And it can be expensive, too. There are a ton of costly options, from online courses to night school to full college or university courses.
What you may want to try first is a free online course. There are some great options ranging from beginner and intro-level courses to conversational courses, to comprehensive ones that will leave you fluent in the language of your choice. These free courses let you dip your toes in the pool, in a sense, to see if you really want to invest your time in learning this new language.
Becoming fluent, or even just mastering enough of a language to carry a conversation, can be a huge help if you're considering expanding your business into a new market, or accepting a job in another country. Some languages can even help you do better business here at home.
Before you throw down a whack of cash on a language learning system, check out these 9 places you can learn a new language online for free:
Not only is Duolingo useful when learning a new language, it's fun and addictive. This service takes a game-like approach to learning and offers apps for iOS, Windows Phone and Android. To get started, you create a profile and either launch a beginner's course, or take a test to move into an advanced lesson (if you already know the basics). Duolingo is one of the "pure" free services that promises it'll be free forever.
2. Open Culture
OpenCulture can help you learn one a popular language like English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, or Mandarin. But there are a total of 48 language options listed on this portal to free language course downloads. Farsi/Persian, Estonian, Icelandic, Gaelic and many other languages are available here, often as free mp3 downloads you can load up and listen to later.
Livemocha gives you access to free lessons for 35 languages, but also offers a vibrant community of native language speakers from 190 countries you can connect with to practice your speech.
You can learn 14 new languages with Babbel, including English, French, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish and more. While some online language learning platforms focus strictly on speech, Babbel teaches you speak, read and write in the language of your choice. There are beginner courses available for free, and you can upgrade to a paid course if you choose, with prices as low as $6.95 a month, if you sign on for one year.
One of the more popular platforms, Busuu boasts over 50 million native language users. Its approach is unique, as you will become part of a social community that allows you to learn languages from others. They offer the GSET (Global Scale of English Tests) certification, as well, if you've been practicing English and want to see where you stand.
6. Learn a Language
If a simple learning experience is what you want, Learn a Language is good option. Created by the U.S. Institute of Languages to help people bridge communication gaps caused by differences in language, it's based on the Visual Link teaching methodology developed by David S. Clark.
7. Mango Languages
Mango has a massive repository of language lessons for over 60 languages including Spanish, Swahili, Punjabi, Icelandic and more. It's unique in that it was the first film-based language and culture learning system on the market. With both a web-based system and app availability, you can learn from home, the office, or while on the go. You can purchase Mango for $20 a month, or access it free at any public library in the United States or Canada.
8. Transparent Language
Transparent Language offers paid language courses with a free trial, or you can sign up here to receive free language-learning resources by email. They cover over 100 different languages, so if you're looking for something slightly obscure or have had trouble finding your language of choice elsewhere, definitely give this a try.
9. Surface Languages
Surface Languages is a decent choice if you're traveling to a new region for work and just want to pick up some conversational cues before you go. It uses audio, flashcards and some language learning games to teach words and phrases you might encounter in common situations in another country.