Learning Languages Cheaply

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Recently, the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler blog addressed the issue of learning a foreign language, looking for the most effective ways to gain foreign language skills without breaking the bank. Here’s a quick summary of what the Frugal Traveler found:

Podcasts on iTunes are a cheap (sometimes free) way to pick up foreign language skills. Chinesepod is especially noteworthy if you are interested in learning Chinese, Spanish, French, or Italian as it also allows you to interact with native speakers who can correct your pronunciation.

CD-based courses like Rosetta Stone may or may not be a thrifty choice-in less expensive countries, you can actually sign up for a travel-based program that lets you immerse yourself in the foreign language you wish to learn for less than you would spend on a course from Rosetta Stone. However, if you’re going to a destination where travel is expensive or you just want to become a proficient speaker in your spare time, these can be good choices. Also, check out your local library. Many libraries offer access to language learning software to patrons for free.

Phrasebook apps for smart phones may seem convenient, but old-fashioned books are often easier to use.

How does the Frugal Traveler suggest you learn a foreign language? Craigslist! That’s right…sandwiched in between all of the other useful and/or weird postings on Craigslist are people who are willing to trade language lessons. Usually, these are native speakers who want help brushing up on their English in exchange for teaching you to speak their native tongue.

Aside from price, trading language lessons over Craigslist has a couple of different advantages. First, you get help with your pronunciation from a native speaker. Second, the “textbook” version of a language can differ from the way people actually speak it in a thousand tiny ways. Learning from a native speaker might leave better prepared for your travels. Who knows? You might even make a new friend.