Work/Life Balance

4 Hacks That Are Helping Me Learn A New Language For Little-To-No Money

By | Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Learning a second language is fun and can often be leveraged into amazing opportunities for your career. Chelsea has spoken on TFD before on how her fluency in French allowed her to work in France and helped pivot her into other opportunities. In today’s global world, it is definitely a plus to be proficient in a second language or more.

At the moment, I’ve reached the intermediate levels of Korean and Bahasa Indonesian, and I am absolutely loving my journey towards mastering new languages. I’ve hit plateaus with learning languages before and felt disheartened. However, over the past year, I’ve found some amazing budget-friendly ways that have helped speed up the process, and I hope they will help others as well.

1. Base materials

As a starting point, you need some source material to work with. Many people assume that you need to purchase expensive textbooks or engage a tutor to learn a new language. However, there is actually an amazing trove of resources that can be tapped into (for free!). For instance, I have borrowed language textbooks from the public library. I have also found amazing courses and worksheets online. These online resources can be extremely comprehensive, and I am constantly finding new and extensive materials.

Besides written material, I find that audio really helps in learning languages. YouTube videos are really useful for me, especially as a beginner. I’ve found that there are usually a variety of videos that teach you commonly-used phrases, or phrases useful for tourists, which are excellent starting points to learn common vocabulary.

Additionally, apps can really make the process more fun. I use the Memrise App and I find it super helpful in memorizing vocabulary easily. The app is really clever and tests you in a variety of ways, including short video clips of spoken sentences. I find these clips helpful not only in memorizing the sentence but also in improving my listening skills by getting acquainted with how natives speak the language. I loved the app so much that I upgraded to their yearly package for greater access to the material.

I also really like apps because of the convenience. I have no excuses to procrastinate learning. I remind myself that if I have the time to check my phone or social media, I also have time to open the App and learn a few new words.

2. Learn through osmosis

Osmosis is defined as “the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas and knowledge.” This is basically my ethos in learning languages as painlessly as possible.

A few tips that I’ve found really useful personally are as follows. First, I change my phone language settings. At first, this can be a bit tricky. However, most of us are so familiar with the functions of our phone that you can guess what certain words mean even if you don’t understand them immediately. For instance, copy, paste, mail etc. Another way that I like to incorporate “unconscious assimilation” of language is to watch foreign dramas or shows with subtitles or watch English shows with foreign subtitles.

Finally, whatever language you are trying to learn, try listening to their music! Another bonus tip is that some songs are internationally renowned, and there may be covers in different languages (a semi-recent example being Frozen’s “Let It Go” ;)) and since you are already familiar with the song in English, it might be easy to listen to the foreign version and pick up a few new words.  I also find that learning children’s songs can be a great way to learn basic words in a fun way.

Did you know that you can actually learn in your sleep? This may be something you want to try to speed up your learning process. (Read about this fascinating topic here.)

3. Talk to native speakers

Speaking to natives is the best way to improve your language skills. While a full immersion in your country of choice is probably the best way to improve your skills, there are substitutes for this. For instance, find a language-swap buddy online. There are many websites that cater to language-swaps, such as italki.

Another way that I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone is to go to a restaurant and order something in the language I’m learning. This may not be applicable to everyone, but you can try going to Chinatown and order dim sum in Chinese or to a Korean restaurant and order some bibimbap. This is a fun way to test if native speakers understand you! You never know — this might spark into a conversation and you might gain a new friend.  

4. Get a sponsor

This tip may not be practical for everyone, but it is something useful to consider. Many companies nowadays are willing to sponsor their employees in upskilling and training. For me personally, my company does have a set budget for each employee to take courses. While most of my colleagues use this budget for industry-specific courses, I asked my bosses if I could use this budget to take language classes, and they agreed.

Even if you don’t have a defined protocol at your workplace, you can always broach the topic to your boss and see if they are willing to sponsor your language classes. Oftentimes, they are more than happy to do so if the language would be useful in business transactions or furthering relationships with clients. There is no harm in asking, and you never know what you might get!


I would love to learn more tips from fellow language enthusiasts. Please share your experiences and any useful tips you may have in the comments below!

Ally G. updates her beauty blog regularly with product reviews and recommendations. She spends an abnormal amount of time browsing cat memes on the internet and channels the rest of her creative energy in writing dystopian fiction available on Amazon.   

Image via Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.