How to learn a new language on a budget

Gemma and I had very little money and we wanted to learn a new language (Spanish), so here is how you can do it on a shoestring budget. We began home schooling ourselves to speak Spanish around 3 weeks ago now. Obviously, the best way to learn is to live in a Spanish speaking country, fully immersed. As we are currently ‘stuck’ in the UK, we researched what would be the best way to learn a new language without immersion. Many people want to learn a new language, but don’t quite get around to doing it. Like anything, if you want it enough, you will work at it.


Private Tutor – £20 per hour+

Let’s get this one out of the way. It’s the best way, probably the quickest way, and of course, definitely the most expensive way. If you can afford this, your primary school probably taught Latin anyway. Good luck to you if you can, but it certainly wasn’t right for our budget.

Evening/weekend classes – £5 per hour+

These classes are less personal, and you would probably need more classes in a group than you would with a private tutor. On the other hand you have a group of people in the same boat as you to bounce off, which may help some people. These were much more reasonably priced than we expected, but still way above our budget.

Paid online training – Various costs

Anything from a group of set, in depth videos, to Skyping a native for a fee. These can range from 99p to £10 per hour and the set videos looked like a bit of a con to us. The Gumtree ads we saw for Skyping Spaniards I’m sure would have been useful, but expensive and reliant on a strong internet connection, which we rarely have.

Online training – free

There are many websites claiming to help you learn a new language ‘fast and free’. We tried a few of them before coming across Duolingo aids you through the language step by step, and uses your microphone (if you have one) to help you annunciate words. We found it to be a fantastic tool and we both use it every single day. We’re not even halfway through, but I don’t believe that an entire language can be learned in a few weeks, and if a website tells you they can do that, they’re lying! An added bonus on here is you can practice by translating other people’s essays, and be marked on your work. Also, for every phrase or word that comes up, there is a ‘Discussion’ button where anyone can write what they think. If you don’t fully understand what is going on, this button can be a god send.

Books/dictionaries etc – £1+ per book

Books cost money, but we stole some from my kind Auntie so paid nothing, which is perfect for our cash flow! They’re not as useful as Duolingo for us, but we have them incase of emergency. For example no internet connection or no phone/tablet to hand (first world emergencies or what!). I use my Spanish/English dictionary a lot, and I imagine I will continue to for a good while.

Compact Discs – £0.25+ per CD

We purchased ‘Collins Easy Spanish Free With The Daily Mail’ CD’s off eBay. We would rather pay for a free CD than buy the Daily Mail! We downloaded the tracks onto Gemma’s iPod, then I get to keep the CD’s in my car for my long journeys. These CD’s are a godsend, and well worth the £1.98 we paid for all 6. They teach you some very handy phrases, and more importantly teach you to listen and understand what is being said when somebody is speaking a different language. These are just a bonus for us, and work because Gemma goes running with her iPod in and I often drive long distances for my job.

Overall, nothing beats immersion. It’s also worth noting that there is no ‘quick fix’ for languages either, you have to want it and work at it. We found free online help (Duolingo really is a cut above the rest), free books from a family member and very cheap CD’s online were the best way for us. We both have conversational Spanish skills already, and it cost us £1.98, so 99p per person. Even we can afford to learn a new language with that budget cost!

Are you learning a new language? Do you have a better or cheaper way of doing it? Leave a comment…


2 thoughts on “How to learn a new language on a budget

  1. One way I like to learn new languages is through language exchange groups and programs too. often has language cafe events in the bigger cities and if you’re a student at a college or university with a language department they’ll often set you up with a language exchange partner for free too. If you’re new to a place they’re also great ways of meeting up with the locals when you first get there. That’s how I started learning Korean back in 2007 before moving out there and starting on a full-time language course!

    1. Hi Claudia, having never been to Uni I hadn’t heard of these before. Just checked them out online and they seem pretty handy. Nothing beats speaking to someone who speaks the language you are learning as their mother tongue. Good luck with your Korean!

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