How to quickly and cheaply learn a new language
Hoping to learn a new language? It's actually a lot easier to do than you might expect. With this guide, you'll be speaking another language in no time.
One of the best ways to stand out on the job market is by speaking a second (or third, or fourth...) language.
Being able to speak other languages is so valuable, and you don't need to spend a fortune on courses to develop your skills. So if you're looking to learn a language at university cheaply and quickly, you've come to the right place.
We've got the down-low on the key benefits of speaking other languages, how speaking another language can help you get a job, and some top tips on the quickest ways to learn a foreign language at uni. Allons-y!
Benefits of learning a second language
These are the five main reasons why you should learn a language at university:
- Languages make you more employable – Plenty of businesses either have offices abroad or are keen to branch out into the global market, meaning employees with more than one language are extremely valuable. Plus, it's generally a very impressive skill if you have an aptitude for learning languages.
- You can earn easy money with language skills – Have you ever looked into how you can use your language skills to make cash? Many companies rely on translators to carry out their global communication, and as this is such important work, they can pay really well. Or, if you're completely fluent in a second language, you can also become a private tutor (and charge from £10+ per hour!) to teach others a new language.
- Speaking other languages makes travelling easier – It sounds obvious, but learning another language will help you communicate when you're in a foreign country. This could alter your experience of the country entirely as you could find out about a secret bar or small village festival that only the locals know about.
- Languages lead to great opportunities – When learning a language, you can begin to consider incredible career routes that hadn't been open to you before. With other languages on your CV, you could consider becoming a diplomat, ski instructor, professional translator, language teacher or more.
- Learning a language is great mental stimulation – By pushing yourself to learn a new language, you can massively improve your study skills and self-motivation. This could make a big positive difference to your uni studies, and in turn, could really help you pick up new tasks and knowledge in the workplace too. The more you learn, the more you can achieve.
Best ways to learn a language
Here are the best and most effective ways to learn a new language:
Enrol on a free language course at university
Plenty of universities offer free language courses to their own students, so this should be your first port of call.
In some instances, the courses may only be available to students from specific departments, but it's definitely worth enquiring in case they're flexible with who they let in.
Although the languages on offer will probably be restricted to the more popular ones (such as French, Spanish, Mandarin, etc.), a free language course taught by your university is an ideal way to learn a language quickly and cheaply.
Take a language module as part of your degree
Many universities allow (or even require) that you take a unit or module outside of your main subject, so it's possible to learn a language as part of your degree. This means there would be no extra cost, and it wouldn't risk adding to your overall uni workload.
In your first year, it's likely that there will be a wide variety of beginners' language courses in everything from French to Russian. These would suit you if you are completely new to the languages, and haven't learnt them previously at school.
However, we'd recommend speaking with your personal tutor or someone in your department before the term starts to find the best language course for you. As common as they are, open units aren't available on every course, so it's best to double-check first.
Learn a language from home
Companies such as Rosetta Stone provide language software that uses images, text, sounds and videos to teach you the vocabulary and grammar of a new language.
The beauty of self-teaching is that it's easy to fit it around your schedule. If you find you have a free evening or just want a break from uni work, you can teach yourself from the comfort of your own home.
However, even the most basic Rosetta Stone course will cost money. To give you an idea of prices, for three months worth of classes on there, you can expect to pay around £50. Might be one for the Christmas or birthday wishlist.
If you've been priced out of trying Rosetta Stone, worry not – there are also free online learning options too.
Best ways to learn a language at home on a budget
Here are some cheap ways to learn a language at home:
- Language learning apps – Online-based language learning tools like Duolingo, Memrise and TripLingo are a great way to learn a language at home. These resources often have free and paid-for versions, but the free versions are a pretty safe bet for learning European languages to a decent level.
- Language exchange apps – With apps like HelloTalk and Bilingua, you can connect with native speakers and exchange your language skills. For example, if you want to learn Spanish, you can connect with a Spanish native who wants to learn English and help each other.
- Find books in your university library – If you'd like an offline alternative, you could head to your university library to see if they have any useful free resources, like foreign language dictionaries or language learning software on the computers.
- Buy cheap exercise books – you could head to eBay, Amazon or Hive to find some cheap exercise books to supplement your online learning with some written exercises.
Study abroad or go on holiday
The summer break is your perfect opportunity to go abroad for a month or longer to learn a new language.
Speaking a language in a country where it's actually spoken is the easiest and fastest way to become fluent, as you're constantly putting every new word and expression that you learn into practice.
Alternatively, do some research into whether your uni offers a year abroad program in the country where your language is spoken – this could be your big chance.
Erasmus and year abroad programs usually entail no extra cost in terms of your tuition fees (sometimes it's even cheaper), and you should be able to receive at least a portion of your Maintenance Loan too.
What's more, you might be able to work while you're living abroad – another great opportunity to fine-tune your new tongue.
And don't worry if you're a bit daunted by the prospect of living abroad with basic language skills. Before you depart, you'll most likely be given free languages classes by your uni which will help a huge amount.
Join one of your university's language societies
Joining a language society at uni would be a great way to build on what you know elsewhere, but bear in mind that it likely won't be right for complete beginners. It would be more of a way to develop your language skills once you've picked up the basics.
At language society meet-ups, there will be a variety of activities including screenings of foreign language films and trips abroad to the country of your chosen language.
Most importantly, however, you'll have a real opportunity to practice your speaking skills in person. Most members of the society will be able to speak the language to some extent, but many will be at the early stages of learning it, meaning there's no pressure to be word-perfect.
Above all, language societies are a great social environment to make new friends and turn learning a language into the fun and fulfilling experience it should be.
Take part in a language exchange programme
If your university has a large number of international students, a language exchange could be pretty easy to arrange.
There will be many international students arriving in the UK who are desperate to brush up on their English. Lots of them will really appreciate an hour or two of your time each week to practice and ask any language-related questions that they may have.
In exchange for your time, you could ask them to teach you their mother tongue.
The key is to find students who speak the language you want to learn. Use university noticeboards and post on uni Facebook groups to advertise your proposal – you'll likely be pleasantly surprised by the response.
Try a local adult education course
Most local councils offer adult education courses, and languages are usually a permanent fixture on their timetables.
Classes will usually take place during evenings and weekends, but if you have a lot of free time around lectures, it might be worth seeing if any daytime classes are running too.
Prices vary, but some councils offer discounted prices for low-income households or students – so you may be able to get it extremely cheaply.
If your council doesn't run language courses, check noticeboards in local churches, charity shops, supermarkets or newsagents, as language teachers will often advertise their classes there. And, voila!
The best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in it, so why not try studying in one of these European cities where you can do a master's for free?