Learn a language online for free

Are you heading overseas for a long holiday or have you simply always wanted to learn a second language? Or maybe you want to impress your friends the next time you order at a fancy restaurant? YourLifeChoices has found the five best websites for learning a language ­– and best of all, they’re free.

Busuu
Traditional ways to learn a language can be expensive, difficult and boring. So Busuu has created a new language learning concept by offering inventive methods of training. These include instruction from native speakers via an integrated video-chat application, so you can practise your language skills with live conversation. Busuu has prepared over 150 learning units covering diverse topic areas and the key grammar points. The content is image and sound-based. Learn for free, or choose the option to pay a minimal monthly fee to become a Premium Member, which gives you access to additional learning material.

FSI Language Courses
The Foreign Service Institute is the branch of the US State Department in charge of training would-be diplomats and foreign service officers in more than 70 languages ­– of which 45 are available completely free. The site offers a wide choice of languages, from French, German and Italian to a variety of local tongues. Most of its language courses include both the audio portions and student guide texts, though a few will only contain one or the other.

Duolingo
Duolingo is the free language education platform selected by Apple as iPhone App of the Year 2013, by Google as Best of the Best for Android 2013, and by TechCrunch as Best Education Startup. It’s no wonder that Duolingo has become the most popular way to learn languages online in only two years. A recent independent study found that when using Duolingo for 34 hours, students learnt the equivalent of one university semester of language instruction.

Lang-8
If you want to really master speaking a foreign tongue, you may need to learn how to read and write the language as well. The Lang-8 system does just that. The service is available in 90-plus languages and is periodically reviewed and corrected by native speakers. In order to keep the service free, you also act as editor for someone learning your native language. Everybody works, everybody learns, everybody wins.

Amendment: Livemocha is no longer available, so why not try BBC Languages instead?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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