Taking classes is the traditional route. But, for a variety of reasons, this may not be your best option. Maybe you don’t have the time or money, or maybe you don’t want to take the risk of having a bad class or teacher. You are in luck – there are plenty of ways to learn any language you want, for free (or close to it).
The most important thing to remember is that you must approach the language from several fronts. Buying a book and doing exercises is certainly better than doing nothing, but you can study that way for years but still be lost once it becomes necessary to actually use the language.
There are, more or less, 5 essential components to learning a language: speaking, listening, reading, writing, and grammar/theory. You can get grammar, theory, and reading out of a book.
For the other skills, you will find that free resources are often your best resource. For listening, you can find plenty of podcasts online in almost any language. Also check out iTunes education, a free collection of educational audio and video. Just open iTunes (it is free for Mac and Windows users) and click on “iTunes U” – part of the iTunes store.
Of course don’t forget movies and music. You can watch foreign movies with subtitles in either English or the original language, and the lyrics for almost any song, whatever the language, can be found with a quick Google search.
Next week I will write about the best way to learn speaking – a language exchange with a foreign student or immigrant who is studying English.