It’s the start of a new week, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already thinking about the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are when I’m able to do the bulk of my language study, and it’s something that I look forward to throughout the work week.
I talk quite a bit about the resources that I use most often, but I am firmly believe that the more contexts in which we are exposed to our target languages, the better we become at understanding and using them, so I’m always looking for new ways to add a little variation into my study.
Stocking up on resources can get pretty pricey, but language learning doesn’t have to be expensive. Not ALL of the good resources are paid resources. There are actually quite a few awesome language learning tools out there that don’t have to cost you a cent.
So without any further ado, here are 15 free language related things you can do this weekend (both online and in real life):
1 // Sign up for an account on iTalki and find a language exchange partner
While the main feature on iTalki is paid – lessons, there are actually quite a few free features you can take advantage of on the site. Along with language specific blog posts and a place to write in your target language to get corrections, you can also connect with other language learners. You can either chat with them through the messages feature on iTalki, or you can share information and chat on either Skype or Google Hangouts.
For further reading on how to get the most out of your language exchanges, I wrote this post along with a free worksheet a short while back.
2 // Head to your local library and check out a book from the language section
When I was at university, I spent a huge chunk of my free time in the foreign language section of the library. You can find really interesting resources at your local library, and not just on learning the language itself, but on the histories and cultures that are tied to the language that you’re learning.
One of my local libraries also offers access to the Mango Languages software (which is only available for a few languages) as well as access to Pimsleur (for example, my local library has Farsi, Cantonese, Polish, Vietnamese, French and Hebrew just to name a few).
3 // Check out Meetups and see if there’s a language related event going on near you
While I have yet to personally attend a language meetup, I’ve heard good things about them. There are several in my area including Meetups for French and Chinese speakers.
If you’re looking to get some speaking practice in, Meetups can be a fun way to do this. An evening or weekend afternoon is certainly well spent if you’re getting to practice your language and connect with other people who share your passion.
4 // Check out free courses in your target language on Youtube and binge-watch them, taking notes (of course)
My “to watch” playlist on YouTube is always full. There is so much incredible (and not so incredible) content available for pretty much every language on Youtube. Whether it’s watching a lesson in your target language or native content such as music videos, commercials, or vloggers, you’re bound to find something that intrigues you.
5 // Spend some time going through your old notes, distilling the useful bits into a new(er) notebook
I keep a notebook for each of the languages that I study, jotting down everything and anything I think might be useful later on down the line. This includes cultural tidbits, grammar rules, and new vocabulary. But I often wonder what to do with all of the notes I’ve taken once I’ve filled the notebook up.
So rather than stick the notebook up on a shelf to gather dust, I open it back up to the first page and get ready with a new notebook, copying down things that I didn’t retain the first time around and that I still think might be useful. Getting in that extra review increases the odds that the information sticks with me the second time around.
6 // Aim for an all-time high score on Memrise
I am way too addicted to Memrise, but only because I feel that vocabulary acquisition is an important task, especially at the early stages of learning a language. I make an effort to maintain my learning streaks (based on goals I’ve set through the app) every day and I add in new decks whenever I finish one that I’ve been working on.
The basic version of Memrise is free to use and you can get a lot out of it. On days that I want to really focus on vocabulary, I like to aim for my highest personal score. But I don’t ever do it in one sitting. I split my study time up into several blocks throughout the day.
7 // Try out Duolingo
Duolingo is a free app that’s both web-based and available for mobile devices. It is constantly adding new languages and can be good review.
The effectiveness of Duolingo as a learning tool is often debated, but I personally enjoy using the app when I only have five to ten minutes to study a language. I’ve found it to be a fun way to review basic grammar and keep the languages I’m studying fresh in my head.
8 // Take a language related course on MIT OpenCourseware
While you might not be able to complete this task in a single day, the free courses on MIT OpenCourseware can be a great way to get in some extra instruction for your target language. I’ve enjoyed taking some of their culture oriented courses as well as their Chinese courses.
They have several languages available, and while the courses are free, the supplemental reading materials are sometimes not (you occasionally need to purchase the book referenced on Amazon).
9 // If they have one available in your target language, watch a tv show or movie on Hulu (there’s also free Inter TV)
Whenever I run, I tune into one of my favorite Chinese language television shows or a new film. I sometimes indulge in the occasional French movie and I’m getting ready to start watching some of the Russian content available on Hulu.
I’m a huge advocate for getting a lot of audio input in for your target language and watching a movie or tv show can be an engaging way to do this. Plus, it gives you some insight into the culture of the language that you’re studying.
As a side note, I don’t feel the movies and tv shows are an effective way to learn a language on their own, but I feel as though they can be an entertaining supplement to other study tactics you’re already working through.
10 // Listen to the radio in your target language on TuneIn
TuneIn offers listeners access to tons of radio stations around the world in a nice range of languages. You’re also able to select cities, so there’s an opportunity there to really focus in on a specific dialect.
11 // Read an article on Wikipedia in your target language
Wikipedia has published articles in a nice selection of languages and they even tell you approximately how many articles they have available in each language right on the home page. If you want to get in some free reading practice, Wikipedia is great because the entries are relatively short and you can learn about things that interest you while practicing reading in your target language. Plus, since it’s an online resource, you can quickly translate portions of the text if needed.
12 // Write an entry on Lang-8 and get it corrected by a fluent speaker
Lang-8 is a fantastic resource if you want to get some writing practice in for your target language. You can submit entries, whether long or short, and get relatively quick feedback from native speakers.
Just be sure to pay it forward and correct other learners’ entries as well!
13 // Get an introduction to a new language (or a language you’re learning) on BBC
The BBC website has basic introductions to 40 different languages available on their site. You can learn a bit of Chinese, Bulgarian, or even Icelandic and still have time to tackle another item or two on this list!
14 // Work with a resource you already own
Yes, I’m talking to you. Pull that book down off the shelf that’s served no other purpose than to collect dust until now. I know you might not have liked that book the last time you opened it (if you ever opened it at all, and I’m so guilty of this), but that doesn’t mean it’s completely useless! There are ways to make almost any resource work for you, it’s just a matter of being a little creative.
15 // Spend some time evaluating your progress and language learning goals
One of the best things you can do for your language learning is to set aside time to regularly evaluate your progress, your goals, and what you’re doing to achieve those goals. By doing this, you can really make sure that you’re on the right path (and staying there) and boost the efficiency of your studies significantly.
It can be difficult to kind of take an outside look at what you’re doing, but the more practice you get at it, the easier it will becoming. If you find something you’re doing is working for you, consider spending more time doing it. And if something you’re doing really isn’t working for you, quit doing it.
I hope you find this list of 15 free language learning related things you can do this weekend useful.
If there’s anything you enjoy using, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.