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Free language learning tools to help you upskill from home
If you are spending more time than usual at home due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, you may be looking for productive hobbies and opportunities to upskill. If so, you may want to use the opportunity to start learning a new language or refresh your existing skills.
Although this isn’t the ideal time to enrol in a face-to-face course, there are plenty of free virtual tools to get you learning. In this article, we have compiled a list of some of our favourites.
Unless you are new to language learning, you will probably have come across Duolingo, which has over 300 million registered users. Its courses are available in 23 languages and separated into wide-ranging topics from food to business.
Duolingo is not as grammar focused as some other tools, but its short exercises, using cartoon visuals and point-scoring gameplay, will help you quickly learn useful vocabulary and phrases. It uses an estimated fluency percentage to track your progress and its technology will tailor the exercises to you. Best of all, it’s completely free to use.
Tip: If you enjoy Duolingo, Mindsnacks takes gamification even further. Its apps offer a range of engaging games, many of which are available for free.
Memrise focuses on realistic language learning. Its courses contain thousands of video clips of native speakers, helping users to understand realistic language and authentic accents. Its aim is to immerse you in local culture and make you feel as if you are surrounded by native speakers. Memrise offers free courses in a variety of languages on its app, although a paid subscription will get you access to additional courses and features.
Busuu offers a selection of free exercises and fun quizzes, although you will need a subscription to unlock features such as real conversations with native speakers. Like Duolingo, Busuu uses a built-in fluency percentage to track progress, and it can offer personalised study plans and speech recognition to help you practice your speaking and receive feedback. If you want to learn a non-European language, Busuu might be the option for you. It only offers 12 languages, but these include Arabic, Chinese and Japanese.
Drops and Scripts:
If your priority is learning new vocabulary, try Drops. The app combines visuals and sound to help you quickly learn new words. Its free version limits you to five minutes of learning a day and you will need to find another way to learn grammar and structures, but these short exercises are ideal if you are looking to expand your vocabulary quickly. Scripts is a similar app that focuses on learning a language with a new alphabet, such as the Cyrillic script.
If you already have some knowledge of a language and are looking to practice your speaking, why not try finding a partner? Tandem is the world’s large language exchange community, with millions of members. The idea is to partner up with a native speaker of another language so that you can practice and help each other to learn your respective languages. If you are willing to pay for a professional tutor, Italki and Verbling offer virtual one-to-one lessons, but a free Tandem partner may offer you all the support you need.
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"Focus on…" articles are intended to provide users of the EURES portal with information on current topics and trends and to stimulate discussion and debate. They do not necessarily reflect the view of the European Commission.