Study 40+ Languages with Free Lessons from the U.S. Foreign Service Institute


I spent this after­noon chat­ting with a trav­el writer about how we first allowed our­selves to start learn­ing for­eign lan­guages. That notion may sound a bit odd, espe­cial­ly to those of you liv­ing in coun­tries where every­one grows up trilin­gual. But Amer­i­cans — even Amer­i­can trav­el­ers — have strug­gled with the con­cept of mas­ter­ing lan­guages oth­er than Eng­lish. Some­times it has seemed mere­ly unnec­es­sary; at oth­er times, down­right impos­si­ble. But no mat­ter our nation­al­i­ty, our increas­ing­ly glob­al­ized 21st-cen­tu­ry lives have put to rest any and all excus­es in which we might dress up our lin­guis­tic parochial­ism. Tech­nol­o­gy has also done more than its share, giv­en the ever-grow­ing abun­dance of free and effec­tive lan­guage-learn­ing resources on the inter­net. Take for exam­ple, our pret­ty mas­sive list of Free For­eign Lan­guage Lessons. Or dis­cov­er this trove of lan­guage learn­ing resources from the U.S. For­eign Ser­vice Insti­tute, a gov­ern­ment agency long tasked with teach­ing the widest pos­si­ble vari­ety of tongues to diplo­mats and oth­er offi­cials sta­tioned abroad. Though pro­duced sev­er­al decades ago, the lessons are still rel­e­vant .… and, more impor­tant­ly, they’re in the pub­lic domain.

Most of the down­load­ables avail­able for each of the over 40 lan­guages on the site include include text lessons in PDF form and audio lessons, suit­able for load­ing onto your mobile audio device of choice, in MP3 form. Nat­u­ral­ly, you’ll find a more robust store of FSI resources for the much-spo­ken Chi­nese, Span­ish, and French than you will for, say, Chinyan­ja, Lin­gala, and Sin­hala — but how often do you run across means of learn­ing that lat­ter class of lan­guages at all? I’ve found Japan­ese and Kore­an, my own East Asian lan­guages of choice, decent­ly rep­re­sent­ed; in fact, prepa­ra­tion for an extend­ed trip to South Korea this week has seen me go into study­ing over­drive, mak­ing use of every online resource avail­able. You can find more of them in our full list of free lan­guage lessons, where, if you’d like to learn any of the lan­guages men­tioned here — or maybe Ara­bic, Finnish, Swahili, or many tongues besides — you can get a pain­less start. We live in too big (and too inter­est­ing) a world not to take advan­tage of it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn 47 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More

Learn Latin, Old Eng­lish, San­skrit, Clas­si­cal Greek & Oth­er Ancient Lan­guages in 10 Lessons

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (3) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (3)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Amy says:

    The link for the free learn­ing resources from the US gov­ern­ment is not func­tion­ing prop­er­ly. It redi­rects you to oth­er sites.

  • Jeremy says:

    Thanks for the resources. Will cer­tain­ly check this out.

  • Lazaro Javier Garcia says:

    Please, l would like to tale class­es there of Eng­lish. I went to the for­eign ser­vice test, but l can’t pass. The Eng­lish gram­mar kill me. So, my phone num­ber to talk 717 877 2558.

    Sin­cere­ly: Lazaro J Gar­cia

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.