Can You Really Learn a Language For Free?

Hey guys! First of all, how’s the first day of 2016 going for you? Anyone still feeling a bit delicate after last night, or are we all good?

I’m back again today to ask a question that I’m not sure of the answer to: Can you really learn a language for free? And by that, I mean, how far can you actually learn a language for free?

Can you learn a language for free

So I’m posing this question for a three different reasons.

  1. There are so many free resources popping up online or as apps nowadays, so it seems interesting to see how far they can take me. I think there are lots for beginners, but I don’t know what’s going to happen if/when I get beyond that stage, so that’s one of the things I want to find out.
  2. The British Council have launched a campaign this year to encourage Brits to learn a phrase a day in a new language because language learning is increasingly declining in the UK. I am obviously well on board with this idea and I hope that if I can show that you can learn easily online, it might encourage some of you to have a go (I know a lot of people who read my blog are language learners already, but hey, some of you might not be yet! 😉 ).
  3. Language learning can get expensive. Yes, courses like Assimil or Teach Yourself are great, but they’re also costly (though you can often find them cheaper) and I know that there are plenty of people who want to learn languages who don’t always have lots of money to spend on things like this. I started learning languages at school when I was 11 and so through my teens, I definitely didn’t have lots of cash to spend – and you can’t always convince other people to buy things for you! Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that you should never spend money on your hobbies and I understand that language courses and resources are generally expensive because of the time and effort it takes to make them – as well as the fact that you’ll end up using them for a while – but I do think the costs can be off-putting, and I’d really like to see as few barriers as possible if you’re considering becoming multilingual.

That all said, here’s what I plan to do. I’m taking a new language – one that I have briefly looked at before (about five or six years ago, I think) – and I’m going to learn it using only free resources that I find on the internet. Remember: libraries are also good for resources, but as I’m moving about a bit this year, I’m going to just stick to things I can find online.

Now, I’m going to try this for the first 100 days of 2016 and see how it goes – with updates every ten days or so to talk about the resources I’ve been using and my progress. I am not trying to become fluent or anything like that in 100 days; I am going to try and study for at least 20 minutes a day where possible and see how far that takes me. Also, with the language I’ve chosen, I understand that there are lots of native and L2 speakers, so it’s going to be easier to find resources for than it would for a less widely-spoken language, but I’m sure it would still be possible.

Right, I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to there, so now comes the big question: which language have I chosen to learn for this challenge?

The answer: Japanese!

Like I said, I have briefly looked at Japanese before (in that I looked at the different writing systems, learnt a handful of greetings and hiragana…) but I have never taken a class and I don’t own any resources that I can use to learn it. Also, I realise that I might have a tiny advantage when it comes to learning (some) kanji because they originally came from Chinese characters – but considering the fact that I’ve learnt simplified characters, as well as the fact that I imagine there are some differences, I don’t think this advantage will carry me over for too long.

I’m also going to do the IGLC in Japanese this month, so look out for that too!

That’s it from this post, then. If you know of any really good free resources you want to promote – then feel free to let me know. Also let me know if you’re learning a new language for 2016! It’s one of my favourite resolutions. 🙂


  1. I think you can somewhat learn a language for free. I have been using Duolingo, Memrise Android apps and some Youtube language learning videos to learn French and German. The effectiveness of them is okay but I still have need more practice and repetition.

    Best of luck with language learning!

    • Hi David! Yeah, I think remember to practise all the time can be difficult, especially if you’re not taking a class (without deadlines, it’s one of the things I have the most trouble with). But I’m glad to hear you’re having some success! I haven’t really used YouTube much for language learning, so I’ll be interested in checking that out a little more with this challenge.

      Thank you and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. I like it – an interesting twist on the popular new years resolution of learning a language. I’m curious if you’d consider a conversation exchange or skill swap as “free”, as you are paying in time and dispensation of specific knowledge.

    • Thanks Nick! It’s really something that I’ve been thinking about for a while (especially anytime I go on Amazon to check out language courses…) so I thought other people might benefit from it too.

      Honestly, I would consider that free in terms of cost because, like with the other resources I want to use, you can do it so easily online or with smartphone/tablet apps now – so you save some of the time that might have been wasted with a traditional exchange as there’s no travel time, struggling to make appointments, etc. There’s always a time cost in learning languages anyway and since the effectiveness (after a certain stage) of a conversation exchange is usually much higher than a textbook/course, I’d argue that the time spent is well worth it. Language exchanges are something I want to look at in more depth in this challenge too, though maybe in a month or so! 😉

      Thank you for stopping by! 😀

  3. Only just stumbled across your blog but I really appreciated this post and am looking forward to seeing how you get on with this language challenge!
    I agree that there are a lot of free online resources for beginners but less so for people who reach an intermediate/ advanced level, I find reading in the language really helps.. so blogs and news sites, and also watching free films online! I suppose just exposing yourself to the language online 🙂
    But I do think once you’ve mastered the basic grammar, which I’m sure is possible online, the best way to progress quickly is meeting up with native speakers for an exchange. I try to do this with French and Spanish speakers when I’m in England and can’t be naturally surrounded by the language! Its free, social and a great way to learn the subtleties of the language 😀

    Anyway, loving your 2016 language challenge! Good luck with it!

    • Hi Clara! Sorry it’s taken me a little while to reply to your comment!

      Yeah, I think that’s going to be the main problem; it’s always that intermediate, kind of plateauing level that is the most difficult to keep making progress at, so I’m not sure how I feel about that. But like you said, there’s plenty of native materials that are easy to access online.

      I’m hoping in a few weeks I can meet up/talk to native speakers online too. I need to just remember to do that for my other languages, haha!

      Thanks for your advice and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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