Language learning doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, if you have an Internet connection, it doesn’t have to cost you anything at all.
So in that spirit, here is a list of free language courses. This list contains links to hundreds of courses and thousands of modules, spanning over 40 different languages.Important: This is NOT an exhaustive list of free courses and materials. What I mean is, this list doesn’t contain each and every free course in existence. There are other sites out there that have already done that.
What I wanted to do differently was provide you with plenty of options in some of the most requested languages, while also filtering out a lot of sites to provide what is, in my estimation, the best of the bunch. I also limited the list to language courses, or materials that resembled courses in some way, rather than include references, general linguistic sites, comprehensible input, etc.
How to use this list:
- Check out the options in the section titled “The Heavy Hitters.” These are the places online that contain the widest variety of free materials, in a variety of languages. There’s a good chance your language will be represented there.
- After you’ve looked at “The Heavy Hitters” section, check out the individual languages to see if there are additional courses for your language.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t rely on courses alone to learn a language. This kind of instruction should be part of a much broader studying program. If you’re using the Language Master Key template, for example, all of the courses in this list would be great “learning activity” to supplement the other activities.
Now on to the list!
The Heavy Hitters
1. BBC Languages – BBC offers courses in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Chinese. It also offers “quick fixes”–i.e., essential phrases–in 33 other languages.
2. Duolingo – Kind of like Rosetta Stone but with more emphasis on translation, Duolingo offers comprehensive courses in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, and English, with more languages on the way. The courses, which are completely online, cover content up to a B2 level (although you probably won’t get to a B2 level on your own). My comprehensive review is here.
3. FSI Language Courses – The US State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) develops language courses for its diplomats. The owners of fsi-language-courses.org has made these publicly available, with curriculum available for over 40 languages.
4. Headstart2 – The US Defense Language Institute (DLI) offers beginner level language programs for servicemembers. These cover only the basics, but they are well put together, geared toward self studiers, and available in 28 languages.
5. GLOSS – DLI also offers Global Language Online Support System (GLOSS) modules for 43 different languages. Each module is self contained, meaning that it doesn’t really form part of a bigger curriculum, but it does contain vocabulary and grammatical explanations. Best feature–the difficulty ranges from A1/Beginner to C1/Advanced.
6. About.com – About.com offers lessons in several languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and English. I would say that together these lessons form comprehensive courses.
7. LanguageGuide.org – Lessons covering the basics for over 17 languages. Particularly useful for hearing how vocabulary words are pronounced.
8. Memrise – User-submitted courses in dozens of languages. A mix of gaming, spaced repetition, and good old fashioned flash cards.
9. Internet Polyglot – Courses in about 36 different languages. Most of the lessons are pretty basic–simple vocabulary, grouped by topic–but they usually contain audio, which allows you to hear the words pronounced correctly.
10. Learners TV – Video tutorials for English, Korean, French, Japanese, and Spanish.
11. LookLex Learn Arabic – A course that teaches you about 400 words and basic phrases in Arabic.
12. Madinah Arabic – Free Arabic courses, including options for both students who can already read Arabic script and those who cannot yet.
13. Carnegie Mellon Arabic – (After you click the link, you can register or simply click the button “Enter Course.”) Six lessons from Carnegie Mellon University covering Arabic basics, as well vital cultural points.
14. Learn Cantonese (cantonese.ca) – A Canadian site covering the basics of Cantonese, including pronunciation, tones, grammar, and vocabulary.
15. Learn Cantonese! (www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk) – A British site with instruction for beginner and intermediate students.
16. Chinese-Tools.com – Courses covering how to speak, read, and write Mandarin Chinese.
17. Rutgers Chinese – Over a hundred lessons from Rutgers University covering beginner and intermediate Chinese.
18. Connect with English – 48 video lessons, produced by Boston’s PBS affiliate.
19. English Page – In-depth tutorials, with an emphasis on English grammar.
20. French in Action – 52 half-hour video lessons, produced by Yale University and Boston’s PBS affiliate. The site says it’s only available in Canada and the United States, so here’s a pro tip: Search “French in Action” on Youtube if you can’t access the main site.
21. Carnegie Mellon French I – Also, CM French II – (After clicking one of the links, you can either register or simply click “Enter Course.”) Together, French I and II provide 30 comprehensive lessons, created by staff at Carnegie Mellon University.
22. Français interactif – A course from the University of Texas, with a 13-chapter text book, MP3 files, and supplemental grammar explanations.
23. The French Tutorial – A very popular course that provides step-by-step instruction in French.
24. Deutsch – Warum Nicht? – The classic German language course from the radio station Radio Welle. Covers content from levels A1 to B1. A little slow, but very high quality instruction.
25. Deutsch Interaktiv – An interactive online course, covering levels A1 to B1. Clearly designed with test preparation in mind, the content covers reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
26. Ticket Nach Berlin – A series of video episodes covering a variety of German language topics, published by the Goethe Institute. Great for intermediate learners.
27. Deutsch-Lernen.com – Over thirty lessons in German, ranging from beginner to advanced. Published by Germany’s ActiLingua Institute.
28. Hungarian – This is Aaron Rubin’s personal website at Penn State, with an old-school feel since it was created in 1997. But it has some very well put together information that would be useful to anyone studying Hungarian.
29. SEAsite Indonesia – Several lessons in basic Indonesian, from Northern Illinois University.
30. Learn Italian: A Course for English Speakers – Grammatical explanations, as well as 40 practice exercises.
31. Centro Studi Italiano – A comprehensive class covering all aspects of Italian.
32. Free Japanese Lessons – Ten lessons in basic Japanese.
33. NHK World Audio Lessons – 50 lessons in Japanese from Japanese media giant NHK, with both audio and text files available for download.
34. Pathway to Korean – 47 Korean lessons, spread out over 5 units, from the Ohio State University. Glossaries accompany each unit.
35. UC Berkeley – Online Intermediate College Korean – 27 Korean lessons for intermediate students from the University of California at Berkeley.
36. Korean Language Adventure – 30 lessons in Korean, centered on travel and tourism topics. Published by the Korean Tourism Organization.
37. Let’s Learn Korean – 29 Korean lessons from KBS World Radio.
38. Brazilian Portuguese – Provides grammatical explanations and vocabulary for learners of Brazilian Portuguese. Old-school website, but good information.
39. Easy Portuguese – Over 20 lessons, with additional vocabulary modules.
40. Russian Essentials – A comprehensive eight-section course, published by the University of Cambridge.
41. Master Russian – Dozens of lessons covering Russian language and culture.
42. Russian for Everyone – A comprehensive course that includes grammar lessons, phrasebook topics, quizzes, and tests.
43. Destinos – 52 half-hour video lessons, produced by Boston’s PBS affiliate. Incredible resource.
44. Learn Spanish – Dozens of tutorials on different aspects of Spanish. The tutorials are spread out throughout the site, but with a little elbow grease, you can easily figure out how to turn this into a comprehensive course.
45. Spanish Romance – Dozens of lessons in Spanish, covering a variety of topics.
46. Jiffy Spanish – High-quality Spanish lessons. The site is heavy on ads, but I think it’s in your best interest to look past that and take advantage of the content.
47. SEAsite Tagalog – Several lessons in basic Tagalog, from Northern Illinois University.
48. SEASite Vietnamese – 20 lessons in basic Vietnamese, from Northern Illinois University.
(Update: Ruth from morevietnamese.com informed me that the above Vietnamese site “doesn’t display letters like ô, ồ, or ế correctly.” By the way, her blog itself is a great place to get info on Vietnamese. I recommend starting here: http://morevietnamese.com/get-started/)