'Free' is good, but a 'Good Deal' is often way better

I see a lot of people on various language forums constantly looking for free resources to the point where they ignore anything that may cost the price of a couple of Frappuchinos – and I think this is a mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to save money as much as the next guy, and of course you can easily run up a tab learning languages if you’re not careful, but at the same time, I feel like a lot of the “free” resources out there are simply not as effective as the ones you can get at a really good price if you just look around.

The first language course I got was Assimil French which I found for $30 on Amazon from a bulk re-seller, brand new with CDs. That’s anywhere from 3 to 6 months worth of professionally produced study material that’s way more effective than any of the free stuff you find. That’s $5 to $10 per month. And yes, that was probably an unusually good deal, but they’re out there.

On the forums here I see people complain as to free resources available on LingQ, and I always feel like bringing this up: we shouldn’t prioritize free resources, we should be asking “What are the best deals, the best values for our money?” because often these will be vastly better than anything you can get for free.

For example, a basic subscription here is $10/ month, that’s $2.5 a week, or one freshly brewed venti coffee at Starbucks. For that amount, you can import anything, in as many languages that are supported. And now your studyable resources have opened up to everything ever put on the internet in that language.

Or when it comes to content, people constantly point to public domain books because they’re free, and public domain narrations because they’re free. And yes some of these are AWESOME, especially if that’s the kinda stuff you’re into, but lets face it, some of these books are… (and I hope my literature professor is not reading this, but…) boring, aged, or contain language nuances that you won’t actually be able to truly appreciate until you’re way advanced.

Whereas on Amazon / Audible, you could get some great contemporary books with whisper sync pricing for $11 – both text and audio included, with a professional narrator – which will hold your interest better, teaches you contemporary usage better, etc. etc.

So now you just spent $21 to study a language for a month – you would spend more on gas per month just to get to a language class, and that’s before you even fed the parking meter.

A BIG CAVEAT HERE – Yes, I do understand that we have an international group here, and economic resources vary around the globe. I don’t mean to sound insensitive to that. For many people, free resources are the only viable option, and I’m glad to see that those resources continue to be more and more available for everyone.

I’m talking here of a trend I notice in general, not just here, but in my real life interactions, of people valuing something sub-par, simply because it’s available free of charge, versus spending just a little bit of money in order to get something that will give them vastly better results for the time spent.

So, that’s why I always say: Free is good, but a Good Deal is often way better.


I’ve noticed this too, but I tend to think that this disregard for quality is probably shown mostly by people who aren’t really all that serious about learning the language. Many free resources that I’ve found (especially for learning Belarusian) are of so low quality that it must border on criminal behaviour to write them like that (!) and for me to learn from this material would be essentially wasting my time on purpose. If others want to go through this material (and waste their time) it’s up to them and I don’t really worry about it. If someone came into the forum and asked for people’s opinions about the above-mentioned “courses” I would warn them against them, but by and large I think if you don’t bother doing a decent job finding good material then maybe you don’t really want to learn the language all that much anyway. Time to find another hobby. This philosophy may seem harsh but we can’t all do everything.

Your advice is good though and if some beginner read your post then I hope you got through to him. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I have this friend who always buys the cheapest snow tyres for his car even though he knows (and has experienced) that the consequences of driving with poor tyres like those can be damage that costs a lot more to repair than a set of good tyres. Some people just don’t pay attention to quality I guess.

Edit: There are good, free resources out there too. Just ask someone who has experience.

I know I already plugged this site on the forum but I remember being surprised that they offer belarussian: Glossika

Thanks! I will bookmark it. I started Ukrainian now though so it’ll have to wait. But one day, if circumstances allow it, I will definitely do Belarusian too. There’s something about these Slavic languages.

I completely agree with both t_harangi and ijoh. The thing is this: I personally find it absolutely ridiculous that people spend their paychecks on champagne bottles in clubs.

I guess people who absolutely do not want to pay for anything related to language learning just perceive me (or us?!) in the same manner.

Agreed. They’re the best.