Language Learning on a Budget

Every high school requires at least a couple of years of a foreign language as part of the requirements to graduate. But after that, most people do not continue on. Spanish is the most common foreign language that students study in the United States. Today, many jobs note some knowledge of Spanish as part of their job requirements or offer a pay raise for bilingual workers. The demand for knowledge in other languages, such as French, Japanese, Chinese, or Arabic has grown in recent years. Even outside of the job market, perhaps you just want to study a language simply because you’re interested in it, or you know someone who speaks it.

But with today’s economy and money being tight, how can you effectively study a language without breaking your budget? Not many companies will reimburse you for classes or materials. Because I’m living this dilemma right now, here are some of the effective sources and resources that I’ve used that may help you learn a language and NOT force you to take a small loan out to do it.

BUY A BOOK: Any commercial book store, such as Borders or Barnes & Noble, has an extensive section on foreign language materials. It’s a good place to get a basic start. There are usually plenty of dictionaries, phrase books, and grammar books, as well as CDs and computer programs available for certain languages. The price range varies, and that allows you to choose books according to your level and budget. Sometimes you can find some good used books (if you don’t mind the occasional page with the answers already written) at resale shops or Half Price Books. and are two sites where you can also find some cheap books to start you off. I’ve bought several language dictionaries and verb conjugation books from eBay, and they were in very good condition.

BBC: The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has a great website that gives interactive lessons for several languages at They have extensive audio and video courses for French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Chinese, and shorter lessons for many other languages. I personally went through the Spanish lessons, and have started on the French ones. I found it a great way to get a grasp on listening and reading. It’s easy to learn words from a book, but hearing them spoken is another aspect of language that is difficult. But the BBC’s lessons are a good place to start.

LOCAL LIBRARY: Your local library has a plethora of materials available to your use for free. Many libraries have books, dictionaries, and books-on-tape to try out. If it doesn’t work for you, then you can try something different. Some libraries may even offer classes or have language labs in them. Plus, every public library has computers with Internet access that you can use to get to other language learning sites.

MEET-UP: is a site used to connect people in an area via their hobbies. There is a category for languages and cultures with many groups centered around learning and speaking that language. Most of the major languages are included. This is a great way to meet with other people in your community who are either learning the language as well. These groups also include ex-patriots who get together and speak the language in order to not lose it, and they are a valuable resource in listening to the language and answering your questions.

MUTUAL TUTORING: One of the things that I did while I was in college was mutual tutoring. I would help my Japanese friend with her English in exchange for her helping with Japanese. It was convenient for us to meet over lunch or dinner, or sometimes for coffee in the afternoon or evening. We would normally speak in English for 30 minutes and in Japanese for 30 minutes. If you are interested in this, then I would suggest contacting the foreign language department of your nearest college, and see if anyone is interested.

Language studies do not have to be a budgetary burden. Not only will you save on your budget, but you’ll be learning the language, meeting new friends, planning for career advancements, or possibly a trip overseas in the future.