Saturday, 16 August 2014

Online resources

I must admit that, until recently, I was largely unaware of the massive amount of resources available online.

Planning to be away for several months has led me to explore the world of podcasts, and after coming across a link to learn 48 languages online for free at, I have found some excellent free resources, which I would like to share with you.

I have also found many useful books online as PDFs, which are useful for more structured learning and which are indispensable when travelling stops you from carrying all of your books with you.

As someone who prefers to listen rather than watch a screen while travelling, I rely on BBC radio to keep me entertained on the road. While using BBC iPlayer sometimes means that you can only keep certain content for a limited period, accessing BBC podcasts through iTunes is a good way to download content for free -- and permanently, too. I am personally a fan of the Radio 4 science show The Infinite Monkey Cage, and now have 55 episodes to listen to at any time, which took only minutes to download. Similarly with BBC World Service radio documentaries and the highly informative TEDtalks, I find it amazing just how much you can download totally legally!

If you are not a regular user of iTunes, note that it is readily downloadable for free from the Apple website and to download shows, click on the 'iTunes store' button. Podcasts are usually free and you can search manually if there is something specific that you want, e.g. "BBC" or "news". You should also look at 'iTunes U' while in the store, which has many university lectures available.

As for books, many can be downloaded for free for Kindle via the Amazon website, and if you have a non-Kindle device, an app can be used to open these books hassle-free. If there is a book I need to reference but that is not available on Amazon, I sometimes find it as a PDF version by searching "[book title] pdf" on Google, and many times, the full version is readily available this way. Similarly, searching "[book title] audiobook" can give you the book in audio format if required.

Note: there is a large amount of online literature available through methods such as torrenting, however this is only suitable for people who really understand computers well, and it must be kept in mind that downloading some work like this is legally questionable and hence I personally wouldn't recommend downloading anything unless you're sure it's permitted to do so.

Other languages
Using the above link from, you can find beginner's lessons in many different languages, both available online and as downloadable audio.

The Radio Lingua Network (searchable on iTunes) does basic lessons in several languages, including Luxembourgish, Ukrainian and Zulu, which you might struggle to find elsewhere!

For those who are more competent, there are podcasts available on iTunes at conversational level. Something that I personally love is "News in Slow French", which presents advanced French speech but at a moderate speed. There are currently almost 200 episodes to download, and in my opinion they are suitable for A level students, as the speed is similar to that in the listening exam.

If you prefer to watch videos, there are a lot of language lessons on YouTube, and although the teachers may not all be professionals, there is such a wide range of material available, that you are bound to find someone who presents information in a style you appreciate.

As above, language-learning PDFs are available online through Google. For example, there are many books that I own personally (don't forget that even physical books can be bought for as little as 1 penny through Amazon) but that I cannot take with me when travelling, so finding the relevant book as a PDF can be a life-saver for your studies. I personally have been using the book Colloquial Polish recently, and as you can see, a version is freely available as a PDF online (click here), so that I can continue reading even when I'm away.

Essentially the message of this post is this: even as a mere student, or someone unwilling to invest money to learn a language, resources like these mean that anyone with a computer can get where they want to be. The only thing missing is the motivation to get started! :-)

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