• With all nonessential travel halted in response to the novel coronavirus, most people around the world are finding themselves at home taking up new hobbies.
  • E-learning is a popular option, and for those with travel plans paused, the extra time could offer a way to learn a new language for when that trip eventually happens - or a few essential words anyway.
  • From casual free apps to structured classes and software geared towards visual learners, we curated a list of the best cheap and free websites and apps to learn a new language online.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider South Africa.

With all nonessential travel screeched to a halt in response to the novel coronavirus, most people around the world are finding themselves at home. Many have set up new home offices, and pass the time by baking or finishing another puzzle. Others have relished the opportunity to seek stimulation through e-learning, even auditing a class on happiness from Yale for free.

And while we can't travel right now, online learning is also a fantastic way to engage with places and peoples. If you're looking for a worthy educational opportunity to grow a deeper connection with other countries during newfound downtime, consider learning a new language, even if only a few words.

It could prove especially useful if you're one of the many people who canceled overseas trips until the time is right. Perhaps your vacation to Italy was pushed to next year. You could use that time to learn how to actually order your future plate of pasta in Italian.

Looking for more e-learning? Here are some of the best online classes you can take

While nothing will quite fill the void of actually packing a suitcase and checking into a sumptuous hotel or crossing a destination on your bucket list, pausing travel doesn't have to mean halting exposure to other cultures. A plethora of affordable online resources make it easy and cost-effective to learn a new language.

From casual free apps to structured classes and software geared towards visual learners, learning a new language can cost as little as a few dollars each month, and often includes free trial periods.

After ample digging, and picking up a few cursory phrases myself, I've compiled the following list of online programs. While we haven't been able to extensively vet and test each single program (yet!), these offerings are all highly rated and reviewed by past learners, offer comprehensive language and lessons, are free or affordable with varied payment plans, and present a wide variety of instruction styles to suit every type of student.

These are the best cheap and free resources, websites, and apps to learn a new language.


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Babbel is a subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, available in 14 languages. The German-founded company claims to offer the shortest path to real-life speaking ability with 73% of users reporting that they could hold short, simple conversations in their new language within five hours of using Babbel.

Courses are tailored to your native tongue and interests from food to travel. Plus, Babbel builds on grammar and vocabulary you already know, and lessons are created by experts and voiced by native speakers. You'll learn to speak with confidence through interactive dialogues and speech recognition technology, and review sessions reinforce what you've learned to help commit it to memory. Best of all, you don't need to set aside hours; lessons are offered in quick 10-15 minute formats. Of course, you can spend much more time if you like.

A subscription to Babbel starts at $6.95 per month for a 12-month commitment or $12.95 to go month-to-month. There are also three-month and six-month plans with pricing that falls down the middle. There is no free trial, but they do offer a 20-day money-back guarantee. Students can also learn for free for three months this spring.

Rosetta Stone

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Rosetta Stone has long been considered one of the most well-known names in language learning and continues to lead the pack with comprehensive offerings. The software and apps help users to read, write, and speak more than 30 languages. By developing a strong foundation of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, it's ideal for beginners with little to no knowledge of a language. It's also a good fit for someone committed to the process and needs structure akin to an in-person class. It's not only trusted by individuals around the world but corporations and classrooms, too.

Cloud-based programs allow you to learn online or on-the-go and incorporate audio and images, though, if you find yourself somewhere not suitable for listening out loud, you can adjust settings. Programs can be customized to suit your level and goals, whether it's learning phrases for an upcoming trip or more serious ambitions around career.

Rosetta Stone has a variety of subscription packages. Learn three months of one language for $11.99 per month, or commit to a year-long subscription and only pay $7.99 per month and enjoy access to unlimited languages. Extend that to 24 months and the monthly costs dips down to $5.99. Or, pay $199 once for a lifetime subscription of unlimited languages. If you're unsure, they do allow for a free three-day trial.


Sign up here with a special discount for Business Insider readers

Fluenz is a comprehensive program specifically designed for English-speakers to anticipate confusing pain points and challenges. The customized approach is intended to feel like working one-on-one with a tutor through hundreds of video tutorials led by multi-cultural coaches including the likes of Anna Wintour's assistant, who was born in Italy to an American-French family.

Instead of games or matching exercises, which Fluenz argues is only intended to arbitrarily unlock new levels, Fluenz offers extensive tutorials in English with tips for retention and pronunciation. Subscribers practice comprehension, writing, reading, and verbal expression, and an assessment tool indicates areas that need work. In addition, users can access flashcards, audio materials, assessments, and a learner's community.

Courses are only available in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin or Portuguese, and unlike other monthly programs, pricing is a one-time lifetime purchase based on the number of levels you want to access. One level starts at $187 and goes up to $378 for all five levels.

As such, it's costlier than other programs, however, Fluenz is offering Business Insider readers a special 33% discount for those purchasing the levels 1-5 programs or the 1-3 Mandarin program. Click here (or above where it indicates to sign up) to select your language and automatically receive the discount or enter the code HFA18P5EGDSD at checkout.


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Duolingo is a fun, casual way to learn a new language whenever the time suits. I used it to learn a few key Polish phrases before a work trip and to brush up on Hebrew before visiting family in Israel. Lessons are bite-sized, free, and gamified. You'll earn points for correct answers and win rewards for leveling up. The fun is science-based too, created around a methodology proven to foster long-term retention with courses aligned to international standards. Mostly, it's useful, with content tailored to real-life goals like being able to order at a restaurant.

Develop vocabulary and grammar skills through reading, writing, listening, and speaking in a way that doesn't focus on language rules - kind of like how you learned to speak as a child.

Most all content is free, though, for $6.99 per month, Duolingo Plus makes content available offline, without ads, offers progress reports, and supports a mission of bringing free education tools to millions. If you're unsure, you can try premium free for seven days.


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One of the best ways to integrate into a new culture is to live like a local. Sure you can Airbnb, or you can learn a language that way too. Busuu connects users with a network of 100 million native speakers who provide instant feedback on written and spoken lessons. Over 1,000 lessons in 12 languages are available from expert linguists created with machine learning technology and speech recognition.

Flow seamlessly between a website platform or mobile app. Some content is free, though the most helpful and immersive lessons are behind a premium paywall. A premium plan for casual learners is available for approximately $6 per month, while Premium Plus adds on features such as personalized study plans, official certificates, and the ability to learn multiple languages for $1 more per month.


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As the name alludes, Memrise teaches languages through engaging memorization techniques. Watch and learn real conversational skills from thousands of native speakers and receive a personalized experience through fun and proven memory challenges that speed up retention. While the method employs memorization, there's no staring at boring flashcards.

The user-generated content works with locals and utilizes visual keys and easy to recall graphics. Premium plans include monthly, quarterly, annual, and lifetime pricing ranging from 8.99 for monthly, $6.67 for annual, or a one-time lifetime charge of $119.99. All Premium memberships grant access to all official language courses and unlock exclusive features such as pronunciation features, grammar skills, working with locals, and more.


Sign up here

Visual learners will appreciate the option to learn with FluentU, which teaches a new language through real-world graphics and videos. Watch clips of people talking, movie trailers, news excerpts, inspiring speeches, and music videos. Interactive captions are presented in both the language you know and the one you're trying to learn, and you may click on any word to see an in-context definition, along with examples of how to use it in a sentence.

There are nine languages available and quizzes help reinforce what you've learned to master vocabulary and measure progress. Try it for free for 14 days, and if you like it, FluentU costs $20 per month for an annual subscription or $30 to pay on a month-to-month basis.

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