People always assume my answer will be something along the lines of school and immersion – and lots of it! And while that’s true, there are other ways to learn a language that don’t cost anything. Courses and travel can be expensive, stopping people from taking that first step, but you can learn a language fairly deeply at absolutely no cost. You always could, actually, but in today’s world The Internet has made it especially easy. Even for somewhat obscure (at least in the Western Hemisphere) languages – like, for example, Croatian!
Web Sites for the Win
There are plenty of web sites out there that offer language courses. Even if you narrow your search down to a language like Croatian, which has neither the huge diaspora of, say, Portuguese nor the economic and political heft of Mandarin, you can find some excellent cost-free resources. Most of these won’t make you fluent or an expert in the language – but some are well-designed enough and offer enough resources to get you to a point where having a basic conversation in Croatian is possible – and for most people, that’s all they want anyway.
Whether for a vacation trip or because your in-laws are Croatian, if you want to learn a bit of the language without spending a dime, you can find several sites to help. Here’s a guide to choosing the right one.
How to Choose a Free Language Site
1. Consider Their Claims. First and foremost, any site that claims it will make you fluent is, to be blunt, lying to you. Look for a site that has more moderate goals – it may seem less ambitious, but it’s simply more honest, and honesty will get you better results.
2. Look for Tie-Ins. Is the site just a “taste” that leads you inevitably to some expensive course materials (books or CDs)? Nothing wrong with buying a course, but if the site is misleading from the beginning, how can you trust it?
3. Look for Audio. Many free sites offer excellent MP3 downloads or other audio files at no cost that either augment or extend the online lessons. Often these are truly priceless resources when it comes to both practice and learning correct pronunciation.
4. Look for Other Resources. The best sites aren’t afraid to point out other resources you might use, whether it’s Croatian-language sites, movies, or music, or other language web sites that perhaps offer something they don’t.