Learning a Language on a Budget

Learning a language takes time. The US Foreign Service Institute has divided languages into different groups of difficulty. It’s expected that even the “easiest” languages require at least 600 hours of studying to learn. Harder languages can take over two years to become fluent.

In addition to taking quite a bit of time and dedication, learning a language can be expensive. Whether you’re trying to become fluent through a college course, taking an online class, or working through an app/program, you’re going to end up spending quite a bit to reach a standard level of fluency.

Even living and learning in a foreign country can be costly, though it’s one of the best ways to immerse yourself in that language.

But, language learning is something that should be accessible to everyone. If you’re on a budget, there are still ways you can learn a new tongue without having to overextend your finances.

Not sure how to get started? Let’s look at a few different ways you can start learning a new language without breaking the bank.

Take a Step-by-Step Course

Taking a college course is a great way to learn how certain languages work. Most of them have structures, patterns, and “rules” that a college professor can help to make clear for you. Once you get the basics down from a college course, you can continue to advance and take higher levels.

But, if you’re not currently in college or you don’t want to add another class to a hefty tuition bill, going to a physical campus to learn a language might not be your best financial option. Thankfully, you can make a huge slash in that tuition bill by taking a language class online. While you might have to enroll in that school, you can choose to only take one class instead of putting on a full workload.

If you still can’t afford it, consider looking into student loan options that will help you cover the upfront costs, so you can pay the money back over time. Even if you have bad credit, you might still be able to qualify for certain types of loans, or you can use a co-signer to find loans with better interest rates.

There are some online programs specifically meant for language learning, and schools that offer language programs as completely separate options from the rest of their curriculum. So, don’t be afraid to do your research and find an accredited program online that you’re willing to invest in to learn exactly how to break down a foreign language.

Utilize Free Apps

Linguistic diversity is becoming increasingly important, especially in the U.S. So, as more people are interested in learning new languages, more resources are becoming available. Thanks to advancements in technology, you can now learn a language from the palm of your hand.

There are several notable and reputable smartphone apps dedicated to making language learning easy. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • DuoLingo
  • HelloTalk
  • Memrise
  • Babbel

The good news? Most of these apps are completely free or require a very small monthly subscription. Plus, they allow you to work at your own pace, and since you probably have your phone on you at all times, they provide a sense of convenience without causing you to feel pressured.

Be aware of apps that seem to be “too good to be true” or those that are charging a lot upfront. With many quality free apps available, there’s no need to overspend for something that won’t work as well.

Hire a Personal Tutor

One of the best ways to learn the nuances and intricacies of a certain language is to spend time with someone who speaks it fluently. That’s why traveling and living abroad is a great way to learn a new language quickly. And, there are plenty of ways to stretch a dollar when you’re living in a different country, including:

  • Taking public transportation
  • Using debit cards for better exchange rates
  • Buying and cooking your own food
  • Exploring on your own without a tour guide

But, traveling or living abroad is still an expensive endeavor. It might not be in your budget right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with someone from a specific country, or someone who speaks the language you’re interested in fluently. It can be beneficial to hire a one-on-one tutor.

When you’re working directly with someone who speaks a different language, you’ll spend less time learning from a book or practicing textual exercises, and more time actually speaking. This way of learning will allow you to participate in conversations faster and understand other people when they speak the language sooner. If you’re more of a hands-on or auditory learner, this is one of the best ways to go.

Hiring a tutor doesn’t have to be expensive. Ask around in your circle of friends to see if there are any foreign language speakers already in your circle. You might be able to learn from someone you already know, which can save you money, time, and a lot of stress.

By choosing to be bilingual or multilingual, you’re opening up doors for yourself, and you might even inspire others – including your kids – by working on your social, intellectual, vocational, and financial dimensions of wellness. So, whatever route you decide to go, don’t let your finances keep you from learning a new language.