Your browser isn't supported
It looks like you're using an old web browser. To get the most out of the site and to ensure guides display correctly, we suggest upgrading your browser now. Download the latest:

The MoneySaving Forum: join to chat & swap tips with other MoneySavers. Learn how in the Forum Introduction Guide

Learn a language for free using online tools

Last updated: 25 Aug 2009
A quick message from Martin

All the latest deals, guides and loopholes go in MoneySavingExpert's
free weekly email. Don't miss out!

Get Martin's Money Tips email now!

(Suggest deals)

100% verified

We check every deal, but if something's changed, please report it

Can you find it cheaper?

Ensure you Compare prices first, offers aren't necessarily cheapest.

Shop safely

There's a risk any company can struggle, so learn to Shop Safely.

 logoBBC Languages

Ongoing

Best for : French, German, Spanish, Italian.

The BBC has high end dedicated language resources, with comprehensive online courses in French, German, Spanish and Italian, from beginner to advanced, as well as a multitude of learning resources for others.

Materials include language oriented soap operas and dramas, and mini learning games/puzzles, as well as more serious grammar tools. In short, it's an excellent resource.

Languages: All main European and many others
Format: Multi-format. Text, audio and video plus interactive games.
Link: BBC Languages

 logoLiveMocha

Ongoing

Best for: Interactive learning with native speakers.

LiveMocha's a clever idea which uses the power of the web to put language learners in touch with native speakers. It offers various courses which can be taken at your own pace, using plenty of interactive materials to teach.

Most important though is the innovative social networking element, which means you can befriend and help others towards their goal at the same time as they help you. Feedback for the site's excellent, and more languages will be added in due course, so it's definitely one to watch.

Languages: Mainly European, more to follow.
Format: Multi-format. Text, audio and video, plus webchat & instant messaging.
Link: LiveMocha

 logoMIT OpenCourseWare

Ongoing

Best for: University-level course materials.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology prides itself on making its course materials available to everyone, which is a boon for non-students, as some of them are excellent. If you're comfortable learning in an academic style, then there's lots to choose from; as well as straight language courses, there are plenty on local cultures to round off your knowledge.

Many languages are covered, and the site's free and open to all, though will accept donations towards its upkeep.

Languages: Worldwide at varying levels.
Format: Mostly text, some audio & video depending on course.
Link: MIT OpenCourseWare Languages

 logoOU LearningSpace

Ongoing

Best for: Straightforward German, French, Spanish.

The Open University's online offering lacks the range of the MIT site above, but makes up for it with simple-to-navigate, detailed courses in German, French and Spanish. The site tests you as you go, and uses audio & video to improve comprehension throughout.

Some modules also focus on the interplay between cultures and languages, to bring your social knowledge up to scratch at the same time as your grammar.

Languages: Mainly German, French, Spanish.
Format: Multi-format, including interactive tests.
Link: Open University LearningSpace

 logoLanguage podcasts

Ongoing

Best for: MP3 fanatics

There are now thousands of freely downloadable language podcasts, so finding one's usually easier than choosing one that fits. If you like the idea of learning through your headphones on your daily commute, web media directory Open Culture has an A-Z list of (mostly iTunes) language podcasts.

For more range, and especially if you don't use iTunes, just search for 'learn' plus the language of your choice on directories The Podcast Directory and PodcastAlley and you'll likely return lots of results. If you find a particularly good one, then please post its details in the forum to help others decide.

Languages: Worldwide.
Format: Audio (though many podcasts have accompanying websites).
Link: Open Culture, The Podcast Directory, PodcastAlley

 logoBefore You Know It (BYKI) Lite

Ongoing

Best for: Quick conversational skills

BYKI Lite's a downloadable tool which aims to improve conversational skills by teaching quickfire bite-sized phrases. The software monitors responses and adapts itself to suit the learner. It's also fully customizable, and it's available in an impressive 63 languages.

Whilst the Lite version of BYKI is free, and is quite comprehensive, it costs £30 to upgrade to the Deluxe version, which adds more features, extra lists of words/phrases, and a database of downloadable MP3s. Thanks to MoneySaver carrie_grace for suggesting this one!

Languages: Worldwide
Format: Interactive audio, text and pictures
Link: BYKI Lite

use the money mantras

Before spending, use Martin's Mantras. If you answer 'NO' to any, Don't buy!

are
you
Skint? ask:
  • Do I need it?
  • Can I afford it?
are
you
not skint? ask:
  • Will I use it?
  • Is it worth it?
Section 75

Free protection for all shopping!

There's a little-known piece of legislation that turns any credit card into a financial self-defence superhero. 'Section 75' of the Consumer Credit Act means your plastic must protect anything you buy for more than £100 for free, so if there's a problem or the company goes bust, you can still get your money back.

And although Section 75 doesn't apply to debit cards, there is something else to fall back on if you've paid using a debit card, or used a credit card for a purchase under £100. Known as Chargeback, this is part of banks' and card companies' internal rules and not a legal requirement. Read full details of Section 75 or Chargeback, plus how to claim, in our guides.

If a link has a * by it, that means it is an affiliated link and therefore it helps MoneySavingExpert stay free to use, as it is tracked to us. If you go through it, it can sometimes result in a payment to the site.

You shouldn't notice any difference and the link will never negatively impact the product. Plus the editorial line (the things we write) is NEVER impacted by these links. We aim to look at all available products. If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the top deal, it is still included in exactly the same way, just with a non-paying link. For more details, read How This Site Is Financed.

For the sake of transparency, so you can check there's no difference, here are duplicate versions of the * links that don't help MoneySavingExpert.com: Currently no affil links.

Cheap Travel Money

Find the best online rate for holiday cash with MSE's TravelMoneyMax.

Find the best online rate for your holiday cash with MoneySavingExpert's TravelMoneyMax.