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Best Ways to Learn a Foreign Language Online

Jun 25, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

There’s no question that the fastest way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it. Go and live in the country for a year or two, and chances are you’ll be fluent by the end—especially if few people speak English and you have to depend on your foreign language skills every day.

However, most of us don’t have the luxury of moving to a foreign country just to learn a new language. And some people don’t even have time to take a traditional class—between full-time work and full-time family obligations.

Learning without immersion is more difficult, it will take longer, and chances are you won’t be truly fluent until you spend time immersed in the language. However, with dedicated study, you can decrease the time to fluency—and develop the skills you need to communicate and understand others in the language, even if you’re not fluent. You can study online at home, and get many of the benefits of a traditional classroom. Here’s how.

Find an online community


Learning a language is never easy. But the Internet makes it easier, with a wealth of resources available for people who really want to learn.


There are a few free online communities where you can find language partners to connect with. For instance, on LiveMocha, you can find people who want to learn the languages you speak and who speak the languages you want to learn; connect with them; and chat or Skype online to practice your language skills. There’s also SharedTalk, Mixxer, and, among others.

Take a class

Even when you’re practicing live with other people, you’ll need to spend some time studying the nuts and bolts of grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction.

For instance, check out’s courses on


There’s also BBC Languages,, and Mango Languages, among many others.

Download a podcast

To really learn a language, you need to hear it spoken frequently. If you’re learning online, it can help to subscribe to a podcast that delivers language lessons on a daily basis. A quick Google search should locate plenty of choices; to get you started, go to iTunes Music Store and click on “Podcast,” “Education,” and then “Language Courses.” A lot of these are free.

Find an in-person community

If you have some time to get out of the house, you can use the Web to find a group of like-minded people who want to either study your language or have the opportunity to speak it. Check out to find a group of people speaking your language in your area—and if there isn’t one, it’s easy to start one.

Graduate to real publications

As you get better at the language, go online to check out newspapers, videocasts, news podcasts, and other content designed specifically for native speakers in the language. It might feel overwhelming at first, but the more you can listen to real speakers speaking naturally, the faster you’ll learn.

Focus on your weak points

It’s not unusual to discover as you progress that you’re really good at understanding a spoken language, but not so good at speaking yourself; or maybe you’re great at reading, but terrible at putting a sentence together on your own. If that’s the case, you can self-diagnose and use the wealth of online resources out there to target the places where you struggle.

Learning a language is never easy. But the Internet makes it easier, with a wealth of resources available for people who really want to learn. Check out what’s available—from classes in almost every language to language exchange and conversation communities, podcasts, real publications in other languages, and more.




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