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World Language Learning: Online Resources

A guide to resources at the Boston Public Library and online that can help you learn another language.

Featured eBooks, Audiobooks & Media @BPL

Pronunciation Tools

Translation & Conjugation Tools

The Basics & Beyond

Access online books, audiobooks, films, and music through Boston Public Library's Overdrive, Hoopla, Contemporary World Music, and Popular Music Library databases.

Whether your preference is to study online, download an app and learn on the go, or listen to podcasts, there are many free language learning lessons available on the Internet.  Check out our featured resources, and take a look at the additional links to find the service that works best for you.

Duolingo is a popular, and free, language learning platform. You can use Duolingo on your computer, or download the iPhone or Android app to learn on the go. Duolingo's bite-sized lessons are designed like games, and include a "variety of listening, speaking, translation and multiple-choice challenges." Watch Paul Jorgensen's review video of Duolingo on his Langfocus YouTube channel below.

BBC Languages
The BBC Language site's main concentration is on resources for Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, with basic information on 33 additional languages provided.

Foreign Service Institute Courses
Created by the U.S. Department of State for use by their diplomats, the Foreign Services Institute language courses provide language-learning materials for over 40 languages. The PDF files and audios are all in the public domain and free to download. They are available on the Live Lingua and websites. The Peace Corps Language Archive and the Defense Language Institutes's language courses are also located on both sites.

iTunes Language-Learning Podcasts
Podcasts are digital media files that are produced as a series and are subscribed to by RSS feed. They can be downloaded to your computer or mobile device. Podcasts are a flexible language-learning tool ideal for using on your commute. Browse the iTunes collection of free language-learning podcasts in your target language. When you've chosen your podcast, open iTunes to download and subscribe.

Memrise uses scientifically-based, memory-enhancing techniques to help build vocabulary in over 100 different languages. The basic service is free but, for a fee, you can access their premium service which provides additional features. Apps are available for iOS and Android devices.

Open Culture
This comprehensive gateway site to free cultural and educational media on the Web includes links to what they consider to be the best language-learning resources for 48 languages. Resources include Foreign Service Institute classes, university courses, iTunes podcasts, and more.

Additional Sites: - Free Online Language Courses
A list of free online language courses by

Digital Dialects
Free, vocabulary-buidling games for over 80 languages.

LangMedia Resources for World Languages
Language-learning material for over 30 languages developed by The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages.

Learn a Language
Free lessons and activities for learning Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German, Chinese, Russian, and English with basic information on others.

Pimsleur Language Learning Resources
The Boston Public Library carries the Pimsleur Language Programs. Pimsleur offers additional resources for free online for students who want to supplement their language studies. Resources include vocabulary lists, articles, links to online resources, and more. The languages covered are Arabic, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Radio Lingua
Radio Lingua offers the Coffee Break language learning series for French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Their audio lessons are free, and can be accessed on their website and also through iTunes.  Their fee-based premium service provides additional support materials.

When learning a language, it is important to start using it as soon as possible. For most people, it is not realistic to spend extended periods of time in a country where the language is spoken, so the next best thing is to connect with native speakers in your area, or online.  The resources below will help you do that.

Some universities have made selected courses available for free online. They are designed to appeal to high school and college students, teachers, and adults who wish to continue their education informally. Check out some of the language courses available at the links below.

Building Fluency: Practice Resources, Tools & Tips

Stay up-to-date with current events, and improve your reading skills, by connecting with newspapers, magazines, and news services in your target language.

Boston Public Library Databases

Internet Resources

Improve your listening comprehension and speaking skills by connecting with radio and TV programs in your target language.

Consider visiting a country where your target language is spoken.  This will not only improve your language skills, but also give you the opportunity to experience the customs and culture of the people.


You can use YouTube to learn, or enhance your knowledge of a language. Search for language-learning videos by keying in "learn [name of language]," or search by topic and [name of language] to retrieve videos in that language about a subject your are interested in.


YouTube also has many foreign-language music videos which you can use to increase your vocabulary, improve your pronunciation, and learn the rhythm of the language.  Search YouTube by artist, song title, or subject. Search Google for the lyrics in both the original language and in translation.