In the world of winter sports, speaking a foreign language can give you a considerable advantage. Many mountain resorts cater to an international clientele, and the ability to communicate with customers in their own language will help you out greatly. What’s more, learning new languages brings undoubted cognitive and psychological benefits. Learning a foreign language from a teacher can be pricey, but the Age Of Communications has made life for the aspiring language student much easier. There are a lot of apps out there which will help you on your journey to polyglotism either for free or for very little money. Here, we round up some of the best:
Duolingo has a winning formula which has seen it gain plaudits and admiration from some very established linguistic sources. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s even a lot of fun. The format is simple, but beautifully designed and comprehensively executed. Basically, users pick the language they wish to learn, and work their way through sections involving listening, translating, writing, matching, speaking and much more. Your interest is maintained by clever devices like a points system, advancing ‘levels’ prizes for achievements, and bite-sized ‘lessons’ – but these never become intrusive. Should you wish, you can connect with friends and check out each other’s progress. Highly recommended.
Busuu relies upon user input to work, which has the advantage of letting language learners connect with native speakers. This is of undeniable benefit when more culturally-specific questions come up, as native speakers can advise not just on language, but also on things like currency issues and cultural standards if you take the time to query them. Lessons start simple, with a flashcard format, but advance into wider comprehension and translation exercises. Those who partake in these more advanced lessons will have their answers reviewed by the Busuu community, which generally works but does rather depend upon the reviewer’s own comprehension of the language! Generally, however, the Busuu community is a supportive, intelligent, and encouraging one which will spur you on to greater heights of linguistic fluency! You need to pay for premium membership to unlock more advanced content, but there’s a lot you can learn for free here nonetheless!
This website contains free language learning materials developed by the US Foreign Services Institute for the use of US government personnel. It’s all in the public domain, and very useful for people who need a boost in fluency in pretty much any language! If you’re looking to learn a more obscure language, this is the place to come. Lessons center largely around grammar, and work on the principle of repetition as a learning tool. The lessons are of a good quality, and the format works well – if perhaps not quite as ‘fun’ as Duolingo or Busuu.
It will come as a surprise to many that the BBC offers free language courses – but it does. Arguably, this website is best for its ‘quick fix’ sections, which will arm you with the essentials of a language quickly, without going into major detail. However, it does also offer a more in-depth tuition in all the languages of the British Isles (ever wanted to learn Welsh? Or Guernesials?)plus French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Chinese. The site initially tests your abilities, and will launch you into lessons appropriate for your own level of ability. This is handy, as working through ‘beginner’ lessons when you’re already reasonably proficient can be tiresome! Most notably, the BBC offers video lessons, which are extremely helpful for people wishing to hear languages in a conversational context.
Memrise is a fun, quirky app which is great for people who learn visually. It relies upon user-generated flashcards, which are often surprisingly witty. It also has an awful lot of languages in its database. While its linguistic tuition is only as good as the ‘mems’ uploaded by users, a lot of Memrise’s users are very clever and creative! More and more ‘mems’ are being uploaded all the time, meaning that many languages now have a pretty comprehensive arsenal of flashcards behind them. It’s a great way to expand your vocabulary and admire some creative linguistic flashcards at the same time!