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Learn Language

When I was in school I started to learn two extra languages: Spanish and German. I say “started to learn” because they were optional and I didn’t have to take the exams. Being a typical teenager I dropped these languages to pursue extracurricular- free timeactivities. This has been a decision that has haunted me ever since. Last year I decided I would relearn Spanish which was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

Knowing a second language opens so many doors, professionally and culturally. In the professional world, second languages are not simply an extra skill: they make you an important asset (a company could see you as the key to a new market).  In an economic landscape in which employment is so hard to procure, a second language could well give you the edge you need. Thirty three per cent of businesses want people specifically for their language skills.

Culturally, the more languages you know, the more the world opens up for you. When you visit a country and speak the language, you’ll find you have a much better experience; it’s proven to create an opportunity to see a different side of the culture and to save money.

If you decide that you want to take up a second language there are a number of options available. As this blog is all about saving money, I’ll run through the options best for you, exploring the easiest, best, and cheapest options available in the market.


Self-Taught options

It’s no surprise that the cheapest option when learning a language is the self-taught option. The best way to do this is by simply purchasing a book and a language learning course from iTunes. Purchasing a book and audio course will guide you through all the basics.

  • The book; grammatical, vocabulary and sentence structure.
  • Audio Course; Pronunciation, listening skills and ear for the language.

Set yourself challenges like a textbook at school. When teaching yourself, you won’t be dealing with a teacher, or helper of any kind but ask your friends to get involved and help quiz each other.

The main advantage to this method is that it’s cheap. Beyond that, this method comes with a whole host of disadvantages; keeping yourself motivated, avoiding procrastination, making sure you’re progressing at a good pace and not making a habit of simple mistakes. With the recent developments in language learning software people tend to veer away from books and audio learning.


Computer Software

Usually a little pricier than using a book, this method offers more feedback through video and visual elements. The software you would use on a computer is also far more interactive than a book or audio course. The software combines what a book or audio course will teach you and make it a lot more fun and much easier to take in. The software has designed different lessons for specific areas of the language to maximise the learning and user experience.

There are many manufacturers out there, most of whom offer samples of their software for you to try. You will find the majority of language learning specialists have free software available. If you feel this approach could be right for you, take a look at a few and see if they suit your learning style. For example Pearson PTE Academic specialists in English Language learning hold host of free resources.

Oh, I would like to mention that this approach to learning a language –as well as using a book- will probably not reward you with a certificate or qualification at the end, meaning you will probably need to take a language test, at a recognised centre. Most of the top language schools have test centres throughout the world and can be found easily online.


Taking an Independent Language Course

These are educational courses run outside of institutions like colleges or schools. They will include a certificate and qualification at the end. They won’t be cheap, but they will be cheaper than returning to college or university. An old flatmate of mine attended an independent Spanish course before spending a summer in Mexico and said she would have been lost over there if it wasn’t for taking the course. A lot of these courses vary in levels from beginner to advanced level. I’d advise to push yourself, if you have a natural aptitude for classes and a basic knowledge of the language I’d start on the intermediate class – get the most for what you pay for.


Going Back to College

I would argue that this is probably the best course of action if you are looking to learn a language to improve your options when applying for a job, as a course like this will be really in depth focusing on specific areas; listening, grammatical and conversational classes. The problem with a course like this is that it you will be investing a lot of money, and you’ll probably need a working knowledge of the language before you can apply.


My Advice

If you’re hard-core about learning a language, and money isn’t an issue, then I would recommend going back to college. Let’s face it though for most people in the real world, money or finding the time is a serious issue. My recommendation for getting the most out of your money is to use language software and find a language learning group, these are very popular where native speakers and internationals meet up to improve their understanding of a language and help each other – essentially knowledge exchange.  I’d then take a language test when you feel you have built up an understanding and competency in the language to validate what you have learned, even if you fail the exam it will highlight the areas you need to improve upon.


Bio; Olan Ahern is a language learning enthusiast and works on behalf of  English language learning specialists Pearson PTE Academic.

Glen’s Comments: I have always wanted to learn a new language, but I find that I never seem to have the time. How many of you know multiple languages? Where did you learn to speak them?