Language Learning The Cheap Way

We already derailed the K-drama thread discussing language learning, so I figured it was good in another thread. Here we will discuss cheap, free, and other language acquisition/retention fantasies here.

This top post will be modified to included free or cheap language learning resources



Most Common, Duolingo (Free):

Learn Language with Netflix (Free+ Netflix Cost):


Croatian from Croticum for A1/A2 (Free)


WaniKani (Kanji), $5/mo
Bunpro (Grammar), $30/yr
CureDolly on YouTube


Continuing convo from other thread…

In the past month alone, I have fantasized about going to:
St Petersburg to learn Russian for a month
Teaching English in Egypt to learn Arabic
Moving Austria to take a conversational/pronunciation intensive in Austrian German

So I feel you. I am definitely going to go to Croatia if I do get the passport to do a Croatian intensive. My goal with Croatian is more common respect if the country gives me a passport, and ability to muddle my way through documents and common interactions, and less fluency.

Yea, all the Arabic intensives I’ve seen have specific intensives just to learn Qur’an Arabic, which is not my personal goal.


Oooo I like this topic.

Right now my languages are: English, Esperanto (fluent), Japanese (intermediate?), and German (late beginner/early intermediate?).

Someday I would love to really actually learn Japanese. I studied it in college, I did a summer study abroad program, I can have…like, intermediate level conversations pretty well? I can get around Japan on my own without a dictionary just fine, but I’m definitely a long way from fluent. But I’ve just stalled out; I don’t have the free brain space to keep it up and it sucks. For a while I was using WaniKani for kanji acquisition, and it was amazing, but it only works if you do it regularly, so. I don’t think I’d call it cheap per se, but I got the lifetime deal for $200 and used it for several years, and actually added ~1000 new kanji to my vocab, so that was cool.

Back in Ye Olden Days I used to go to in-person language meetups as a way to get some social time, and I’d float between the English and Japanese tables. That was awesome. There was a weekly group in my city that regularly had 100-200 attendees and it was something like a $3 suggested donation.


I absolutely love the way that Austrian German sounds and this is a good fantasy.


My language exposure:

Actively learning Japanese (Beginner) using:
WaniKani (Kanji), $5/mo
Bunpro (Grammar), $30/yr
CureDolly on YouTube

Stalled learning Quranic and Modern Standard Arabic (Beginner to Intermediate):
12 years of lessons LOOOOOL, fuck meeee

Actively using (though not learning) Spanish: my family speaks it, my nanny speaks it to my kid, and I read kids books in Spanish now


I had a friend who really wanted a bunch of us to learn esperanto in college, but I’ve never heard of it “in the wild” until now.

Greyman has been using this thing “Mango” through the library to help learn Russian, especially the speaking. I don’t know if it’s cheap in other contexts but it might be worth seeing if it’s free in your library system.


So, languages I am learning and how:

German (C1 fluency and slipping)
I took 6 months of German before I moved to germany in a traditional classroom, and then I moved to Berlin in 2012 and tested (barely) C1 business fluency before I left after 6 months of 3 hours * 5 days a week of german classes plus complete immersion in everyday life.

I now keep it up, barely, by talking to german friends in DM and text, following german speaking YouTubers, doing Duolingo every day, listening to german news podcast every day, and sometimes watching german shows.

I am great at vocab, awful at grammar. Getting worse and worse at speaking by the day with no one to speak to. I pretty much cannot understand someone with a strong Bavarian accent because I learned in Berlin.

French (a3)
I took this in school for 5 years as a kid and 1 year as an adult. I can listen to basic stuff, navigate a train station and airport, say basic sentences, get the jist of what I am reading. I am only do Duolingo for this, and it shows in my poor retention :joy:

Croatian (A1)
I am working on my Croatian heritage citzenship, so I am trying to learn this.

This is the free online course for learning Croatian from Croticum for A1/A2

It is VERY VERY Hard to find Croatian learning as the language is relatively new (30 years since it was considered a separate language from Serbian and Bosnian) and only spoken by one small country.

I am considering taking this course from University of Zagreb March of next year, which is a combo of e-learning and skype sessions but it is 500 Euro

Arabic (baby)
I am learning this using Duolingo starting a few months ago.
I used ann Apple app called “Arabic Script” just for the alphabet and it was VERY helpful because Duolingo threw me in the deep end. Also it has pronunciations from three different regional/variation speakers which was helpful. I also follow a youtuber who uses Arabic so I understand some of the words by sound.

Spanish (kitchen and travel only)
Had a Mexican exchange student for a year when I was a kid, never took it in school, but between that and American pop culture/years of working in kitchens, I’m decent at Commercial Kitchen Spanish (Behind you! Hot!) and I was able to navigate and order food and tequila when I was at a conference in Guadalajara.

Russian (alphabet and skating only)
Tried to learn this due to knowing many Russian speakers at the skating rink and also because I love it for travel, I got through the alphabet and basic “I” “You” sentences, did not keep it up, made my brain hurt trying to do it with Arabic and and I gave up. Mostly used duolingo.


I have a friend who actually spoke esperanto as her first language. Both her parents were presidents of the Universal Esperanto Association at one point. She ended up with a friend who she married, years later, who incidentally spoke esperanto.


Whoa, that is really cool.

I had a small friend group of language nerds who decided to learn it together when the Duolingo course was released. Some of them dropped off but we did get to a point where five of us were using it for our regular everyday social chatter. It was fun!


Does anyone want some accountability checking in for language? That might spur me on


The slightly threatening reminders from Duo the Owl aren’t enough? Lol

So I’ve been doing Duolingo spanish for a while now. 574 days straight and counting. I feel comfortable with like, the basic, elementary level stuff. Do I want to converse with people in spanish? Oh hell no, I am not comfortable with that yet. Reading is probably at the elementary level too.


I could use some help with that also. I feel like I get a good few weeks in and then I miss a day and it’s down hill. I just end up trying again a couple months later. It’s an unproductive cycle.


Also I’m having trouble learning when resources use the latin alphabet for all their lessons. It makes me lazy and confused and I start to forget my Hangul.


Ohhh are you learning korean?

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Yes, very… very… slowly.

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I took Spanish all throughout school but never felt like I progressed much. I certainly never gained enough confidence to have an actual conversation in Spanish. I’d like to keep it up/get better at it, but I don’t seem to be very motivated. I am subscribed to one Spanish learning YouTube channel (that I never watch) and do a couple duolingo lessons a week.

My current focus is Finnish! I started learning it on duolingo when they added it this summer. I have Finnish ancestry and grew up with a very few words. ETA: I have also subscribed to a couple of Finnish learning podcasts. I listened to one episode in which I picked out approximately three words.

I also know a tiny bit of Japanese and Welsh. I’m not actively studying those.


Has anyone used italki to get conversation partners? I’m thinking of doing it but also am scared of people soooo


I love this thread!

My personal language knowledge

I am highest level in Italian, estimated B2 CEFR (maybe), though when I don’t practice or use it for long periods (like now) I start to lose things. I’ve also learned a bit of Japanese and Polish, and took Spanish in high school and can still understand some, but since I’m not a native speaker most of it has been subsumed by Italian.

Italian is my priority as I’m furthest along and have actually spent real money on it (I attended classes through Intermediate level at Istituto Italiano Scuola in San Francisco)

Polish is my second priority - really I should learn German (I have living relatives in Germany) but I also have Polish heritage and :woman_shrugging:. Right now I only use Duolingo (which is tough) because there aren’t tons of resources. I find it fascinating and have even thought about adult classes (easier now that I am back east in an area with a non-insignificant Polish population), even though it is very difficult and I’ll never have any sort of real fluency.

I may someday try going back to Spanish, but preferably Castillian Spanish as I have Spanish-speaking family in Spain, not the Americas.

Re: Resources:

I use Duolingo (though I am not consistent with it because some of the lessons are SO. RIDICUOUS. and once I dropped off the highest level it felt like it didn’t matter anymore.) I’ve used it for Italian, Polish, and Japanese, mostly just for reinforcement. (Although for Polish it is my primary as there aren’t really a lot of online resources, let alone free ones.)

I’ve used Mango in the past for Japanese, and I liked it during the short time I used it. I used it through the library (so it was free for me).

I also use Fluent Forever for Italian, and I actually like it a LOT. It’s a subscription-based phone app (maybe 9.95/mo I think? I pay for it with my Prolific proceeds, lol - still cheaper than in person lessons) that is built around spaced repetition. You could do something very similar for free with Anki (and I have set up some decks in the past), but building up anki decks yourself is time-intensive. (Some argue it’s more effective that way, but it really does take a lot of time, and I think my time is probably better used elsewhere). It also gives you the option to use any of your own photos or things from the web as reminders for words *unlike some other resources like Duolingo, and I like the idea and think it does have some merit that choosing or taking your own photos helps you to retain them better because you have personal connection. Since I am still in the learning phase I’ll keep using it for the time being, once I max out the levels there I might quit and rely on other free resources. (Not a shill, I just like the app is all. :smile:)

I sometimes watch Netflix shows in Italian because there are a fair number available. I’m eager to try the Netflix extension mentioned above! I also sometimes just listen to Italian radio over the internet but that isn’t really active learning.

I’m interested in hearing about other resources!


For Japanese, I also used to use lang-8 as a way to get writing practice & feedback. Not sure what the community is like these days since it’s been a few years, but at the time I would usually get very rapid feedback from native speakers (like, within a couple of hours). Your posts get more visibility, and therefore more comments, if you give more corrections in your native language, so I would also spend some time giving feedback on others’ English posts.


@Meowkins would you mind sharing what you think of Bunpro? I’m curious about it since I am terrible at internalizing grammar and could use a more structured approach…