Is Paying For Your Language Learning Resources A Good Idea?
I have been learning several languages from scratch for a couple of years now and I’m overwhelmed by the number of the language learning resources that exist. I’m referring to resources you have to pay for as well as the ones you can use to learn languages for free.
It may be hard and confusing to make a decision, especially when you are a beginner at learning languages. And you may be wondering, “Is it worth paying for my language learning resources?”.
Nobody likes to waste money. Me neither. So I analyzed the types of paid language learning resources and their alternatives. I want to share my findings with you.
It’s time to be honest.
What paid language learning resources do exist and what are their alternatives?
Let’s start with the pros (advantages), cons (disadvantages), and alternatives of:
- Vocabulary and grammar books
- Online courses and physical classes
- Personal teachers
Those are -in my opinion- the most common language learning resources for people who are a beginner at learning their target language. Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments!
Vocabulary and grammar books
If you are learning on your own, vocabulary and grammar books can be useful. You can also use them as an additional language learning resource when you attend a course.
Pro: Books include the explanation of complex grammar and exercises that will help you understand the basics of the language faster. Most of them also include vocabulary lists.
Con: You have to find someone to practice with in order to improve your speaking. And it may not match your language learning style.
The free alternatives: social media (profiles that share words and their definitions), YouTube (to watch grammar explanation), and other online language learning resources that allow you to practice by doing some exercises.
If you want to learn on your own but you don’t want to buy a book, an app can help you learn a language.
Pro: It has more features than a book. For example, you can listen to the pronunciation of words and sentences. The explanation is visualized and may be better to understand than when you read it in a book.
Con: There are many different apps and each of them claims to teach you with a slightly different approach. You may be confused and not sure what application works for you. And for some language learning applications, you have to pay monthly, while you can use a book for a lifetime.
The free alternatives: free apps like Duolingo and Memrise. But they don’t teach you grammar.
Online courses and physical classes
If you learn better when a teacher is explaining to you, you can choose to take online courses or attend a physical language class.
Pro: You will be surrounded by other language learners and learn with them. It can help you stay motivated.
Con: Your speed of learning will depend on the length of the course. You may only practice when you are attending the course or when you have to do exercises as homework.
The free alternatives: YouTube channels that share the explanation of grammar, expressions, and vocabulary in your target language.
You can consider paying a personal teacher when you want someone explaining the grammar, expressions, and vocabulary to you personally.
Pro: In comparison with a language course, your speed of learning won’t depend on the length of a course. You can make your own schedule with your personal teacher.
Con: You may only practice when you are with your teacher or when you have to do exercises as homework.
The free alternatives: language exchange partners who are native speakers of your target language and want to learn your native language. You can use applications like HelloTalk, uTandem, and MeetUp to find them.
Image by Dimitri Popov via StockSnap
What is main the difference?
Based on my own language learning experience, I can say that paid language learning resources teach you a language step by step. They are build up in a logical order and help you getting more knowledge every time you practice. They challenge you in different ways by providing you different kinds of exercises.
In contrast, most of the free language learning resources don’t share a lot of content or are focused on a tiny part of your target language.
For example, some websites share news articles in your target language you can read and listen to at the same time. They don’t allow you to learn grammar. Websites that allow you to practice grammar do exist, but you have to select a topic (e.g. the imperfect tense in French).
To learn the language without paying money, you have to combine different resources including grammar websites, websites that share news articles, websites with flashcards, social media, etc. You have to make a plan by yourself to learn grammar and creative/find your own exercises to practice them in different ways.
You also have to reflect on your own progress and make sure you practice frequently to stay on track.
What does your choice depend on?
You have to choose either a paid language learning resource or a free language learning resource.
Your choice depends on two things. Your language learning experience and goal.
Language learning experience
When I was learning Spanish by myself, it was the first time that I learned a language from scratch. I bought a grammar book and a vocabulary book because I didn’t know how to learn otherwise. I discovered the things that work for me and the things that don’t work in memorizing words, phrases, and applying the grammar rules I’ve learned in the correct way.
If it’s your first time learning a language, it can be hard to decide where to start and how to practice. You have to discover the things that work for you. In this case, you can be dependent on someone who can teach you the language step by step and practice with you over and over again until you get it. Or you can buy a book or pay for an app that will guide you through the vocabulary and grammar you have to learn.
If you already have learned other languages by yourself, you won’t need so much help. You already know where you can find resources and explanation. But if you still feel confident to use a book, an app or have a personal teacher, you can consider paying for one of them.
Your choice also depends on your goal, in how much time you want to learn a language and what level you want to reach.
If you want to reach a high proficiency in order to study or work abroad, you can consider paying for your resources.
But if you are learning languages or fun or just for a holiday, it will be enough when people can understand you. You won’t necessarily need to learn academic words and complex grammar rules. Paying for your language learning resources is not necessary but it can be useful.
So… Do you have to pay for your language learning resources?
Every paid language learning resource has its free alternative.
If it’s the first time you are learning a language or you know that it’s hard to stick to your language learning plan, you may consider paying a teacher or any other language learning resource.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I disciplined enough to grab my book once a day or week and spend 1-2 hours on learning without skipping a day? If you can’t, pay a teacher
- Do I find it easier to learn from language learning books? Or do I want to learn with images and audio? You can consider paying a language learning app if you find it easier to learn with images and audio.
I would like to advise you to read the reviews of other language learners before you buy a language learning resource.
If it’s not the first time you are learning a language and you are able to learn independently and frequently, make a plan to learn languages use the internet and look for free language learning resources.
What language learning resources do you use?
What language learning resources are you using to learn a foreign language? And what is your opinion about them?