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Cheap hobbies on a budget – learn a new language

Published 20 April 2015 by

For the fourth part of our series on starting a new hobby, we’ve got a real treat for you – learning a new language! If you didn’t fancy taking up jogging, writing or reading then maybe this could be the one for you.

If you learnt a language at high school, it was probably French, German or Spanish. Can you remember any of the phases that you learnt back then? You may be able to remember ‘je m'appelle,’ ‘Au revoir’ and ‘S'il vous plaît’ if you learnt French, but the more complicated words and phrases are likely to have been long forgotten.

So if you’re looking for a new hobby, why not revisit the language you learnt at school or pick up a completely different one? Learning a language can be so much fun and you can even learn for free, thanks to online resources.

Choose what you want to study

There are so many languages in the world that it can be hard to know which one to pick. A good tip is to choose the language of somewhere you plan to visit on holiday, or the mother tongue of a close friend or family member. Imagine how shocked your loved one would be to hear you ask them how they are in their own language!

The important thing is to choose a language that you are genuinely interested in and will have the opportunity to use at some point.

Learning at home

You don’t need to leave the house to pick up a new language – all you need is some dedication, a computer and internet access.

We found Duolingo, a free online language platform that you can use on your PC, laptop, tablet or phone, to be really easy to use. Duolingo has over 80 million users worldwide, and since its launch two years ago, has become one of the most popular ways to learn a language online.

You can learn Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Irish Gaelic, Swedish, Danish and Turkish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Esperanto, Norwegian, Russian, Romanian, Vietnamese and Polish to name a few. They are constantly adding new languages to their range so if your preferred language isn’t there just yet, keep checking back.

Another option is the American Foreign Services Institute, which offers free language materials for a huge range of languages not covered by the likes of Duolingo. Although the Foreign Services Institute website is basic, the standard of its resources are excellent.

You could choose to learn Amharic, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Chinese, Chinyanja, Czech, Finnish, French, Fula, General, German, Greek, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Italian, Japanese, Kirundi, Kituba, Korean, Lao, Lingala, Luganda, Moré, Norwegian, Polish, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Shona, Sinhala, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Twi, Vietnamese and Yoruba.

Once you have a basic understanding of the language you’re studying, then you may want to check out the website Busuu, which allows you to have real-time practice with other learners around the world. Chatting to others who can speak the language is one of the best ways to improve and it makes your hobby a social one too.

Another place to check out is YouTube. There are lots of free videos on there from native speakers offering tuition for free. French teacher Alexa offers 15 free lessons on YouTube and via her website, and the Travel Linguist YouTube Channel offers ten lessons in fifteen languages!

Learning as a group

If you would prefer to learn as part of a group, why not contact your local college or adult learning centre to see if they run classes in your chosen language. If they don’t run a class they may be able to point you in the right direction. Unlike learning at home, there may be a cost involved in group sessions, but being surrounded by like-minded people may help you pick up new phrases and words more quickly.

Beginners groups can be really fun and you shouldn’t feel nervous about attending for the first time. They will contain people from all walks of life and you could even make some great friends. Your tutor will start at the very beginning and make learning a new language lots of fun!

Next step

Learning a language is a long-term hobby, it’s not something you can master in just a few weeks – so stick with it. How much you get out of it will depend on how much effort you put in. You could listen to podcasts on your way to work, spend a few minutes a day on Duolingo or just enjoy a weekly class, it’s completely up to you!

As you learn, why don’t you try to save up and maybe once you’ve become a master of the language you’ll be able to reward yourself with a short break in the country where your language is spoken to give yourself the experience of speaking the language for real!