Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Learn a New Language for Free... the Social Way!

A friend of mine recently asked for advice on finding a foreign language tutor online. Rather than pointing her to Craigslist and other classified ad sites, I found myself urging her to explore the social media route.

My reasoning? Well, for starters, interacting with a network of people offers more exposure to a language than a weekly meeting with a teacher. You have the option of sending e-mails, instant messaging, talking on the phone and even video conferencing (perfect for sign language). Secondly, learning a language socially is practically free - a real selling point in this economy.
There are plenty of options on the Internet, but I've narrowed them down to my two favorites, Babbel and Meetup.

Babbel is a social network, much like Facebook and MySpace, that offers free online language courses. The lessons are actually similar to those of Rosetta Stone (flash card-style), though not as intense (hey, it's free). While the exercises are great, the best part of Babbel is that it allows you to connect with people from other countries that speak your language of choice. It's like having thousands of virtual pen pals! Talk about immersion, right? As I mentioned, Babbel is free, however, it is only available in English, German, Spanish, French and Italian.

If in-person interaction is what you crave, then is probably for you. Believe it or not, there are tons of Meetup groups that meet to learn and/or practice foreign languages. For a while I was part of a Japanese language learning group that met over sushi and sake - it doesn't get much better than that! Meetup is free, though some groups may charge a small membership fee (still way cheaper than a tutor).

So that's it! Which language do you want to learn and where do you plan to learn it? Let's hear it on the comments! :)

Joe Says: If you still prefer to take a course or work privately with a tutor, why not include social media as a supplement? It'll certainly enrich your learning experience :)

This is Joe, signing off.


Mike said...

Another very good site is simply's education portal. It contains very extensive articles from the basic alphabet, numbers, pronouns, and articles, to correct grammar structure. Languages you can learn include: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Be sure to check it out!!! There are other interesting things you can learn as well.

Van said...

Byki also is a freeware (you can pay to upgrade) much like Rosetta stone. Best part is that UGC capability, those who are fluent speakers can upload word lists which you can download for free. There's even a free iPhone/Touch app that allows you to take your language learning with you. They even have a Twitter feed that shows you tweets in the language you're learning for further comprehension. :) I used it to learn Greek just before my trip this year.