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By the author of The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices.
I suppose I’ve long had an intermittent interest in trying to solve the puzzle to learn another language. I’m not proficient in any of that languages I’ve toyed with, really, but I am able to keep my interest raised long enough to learn a few phrases before I move on to something else.
I’ve taken plenty of classroom courses, studying three different languages for a total of 3-6 years (if I’m doing my math right and remembering correctly), too, though, and it’s given me a bit of an insight as to what are the expensive ways to learn a language and what are the expensive ways to learn a language.
If you find yourself contemplating the need to learn another language, here are some of my thoughts on the various costs.
I think that classroom instruction is arguably the most expensive way to learn a language.
Particularly college courses. If that’s the route you’re going to go, you’re going to end up spending several thousand dollars per class. Consider that after you finish Spanish 101, the limit of your vocabulary will be the equivalent of the One Semester of Spanish Spanish Love Song (look it up). You’ll know some stuff, but you likely won’t be at the level that you’ll want to be at.
To get to the level that you want to be at, you’re going to then have to spend several thousand more dollars on other classes. Is it all worth it? Maybe, but I think there are cheaper ways to go about this.
Rosetta Stone-style programs are fairly inexpensive.
To me, Rosetta Stone was the pioneer here. They opened the door, showing people how language acquisition programs are supposed to work. A number of spinoffs quickly surfaced, and at the moment, it appears that Babel is the main forerunner in this department.
You can typically pick up one of these types of programs now for under $100. I’ve only used one of them before, but I did find that it was useful in helping me to grasp a number of concepts and vocabulary terms without actually needing to pay a teacher to do so.
Teach Yourself guides rock.
I’ve always liked these books. You can typically pick them up for around $20. You’ll get a good grasp of some basic vocabulary but a strong grasp on grammar. I don’t think you’ll become proficient with just a Teach Yourself guide, but you will become better.
Library books and audiobooks are always free.
The library is actually where I discovered Teach Yourself guides. There are a lot of other language books at your local library that will help you to improve your vocabulary and grammar, too, though, and they won’t cost you a dime.
The audiobooks are a nice touch as well. For example, I just got back from a long car ride halfway across the country. I had a French audiobook with me. I’ve long attempted to learn French and have never been able to get much of it to be able to stick other than the useful French phrase “Je me rends!”
I quickly discovered that I had the wrong type of audiobook with me – I had borrowed one that required you to read a guidebook as you listened, a difficult task when driving – but there are language learning audiobooks out there that are audio only – no guidebook required.
Had that been the type of audiobook I had picked up from my library, I could have actually ended up learning something over the course of that multi-day drive other than that I don’t think I will ever like Florida Georgia Line’s music.
Visiting the country is price variable.
While immersing yourself in the language is a fantastic way to learn a lot on the fly, it by no means is an inexpensive endeavor. You’ll have to have your travel expenses covered, your lodging, and your food. I don’t recommend doing this solo unless you’re going somewhere where English is common as a secondary language or you’re already semi-proficient with the language, thanks to a lot of self-study.
You’ll end up getting lost otherwise.
That being said, this can be an excellent means of learning a lot for about the same cost as a single semester of a college course. There are a lot of variables here with the cost (Is it an expensive country? How far away are you traveling? How long are you staying? Are you going to work while you’re there?), but I would say that hour for hour you will learn more in-country than you will in class.
DuoLingo will teach you some basics for free.
Duo Lingo has both a free version and a paid version. You can access it as a website online or as an app on your phone or tablet. This virtual course teaches you the basics of grammar, vocabulary, and spelling of dozens of different languages. It’s a good way to get a handle on the language before going more in-depth with something more costly. Daisy says this is how she learned Spanish and learned how to read Greek well enough to understand the street signs.
Private tutors have different costs.
I did this with German on two separate occasions. The first occasion was semi-private tutoring/semi-classroom teaching, and cost me $100 for about eight weeks of instruction. The second time was free and one-on-one for a few months with a German professor.
I learned a lot of vocab this way, it was an easy way to learn, and it was inexpensive as well. If this is the route you’re looking at, I would recommend scouring the bulletin boards online or at college campuses. Maybe you can work out an arrangement with a friend in exchange for chopping firewood or something like that.
Making friends with a native speaker is a fantastic way to learn.
You may already know somebody that is a native speaker. If that’s the case, ask them to teach you a bit of their language. This is somewhat related to having a private tutor, but I think there’s a distinction here. You can learn a lot over a year just by hanging out with your buddies and asking them how to say certain things in their language and then using that in conversation when you are with them.
It’s free, and you may not become proficient this way, but you’ll definitely get a handle on the pronunciation and accent of different words.
These are just a few of my musings on this.
I wouldn’t really consider myself a polyglot or anything like that. The use it or lose it principle very much applies here, and since I haven’t used a lot of what I’ve learned over the years, a lot of it has been forgotten. But I do remember the costs involved with some of these different language endeavors.
And perhaps this will prove to be of some benefit to you. But what are your thoughts? Do you speak any other languages? How did you learn them? What do you think were the cheapest ways to learn? Tell us in the comments below.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.