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Big Brother Did My Homework: How Governments help Language Learners

London Sunset You’d normally think that your government is only there to collect your taxes and spy on you from time to time. Well, it turns out that other countries’ officials are actually useful from time to time: they have means of helping you learn the language of their country! Take a look at a handful of ways to approach this polyglot goodness.

1. Foreign Service Institute and its modern re-mixes

This institution was conceived to help American diplomats succeed abroad – providing support in moving, settling in and (crucially) language learning. The courses are now public domain, and as such, are available for free.
There’s a lot to endure if you’re willing to learn this way: the material is ancient and mainly based on a variation of a grammar-translation method, the PDF files are immensely huge and the whole affair should be supplemented with some intense speaking / writing practice if it is to be versatile at all. The main advantage, though, is the selection of courses on offer: who else will give you a free Igbo course online?
For more streamlined approaches (PDFs and audio in one file – you can’t say no to that!) – head over to Novus Language. This is a paid service, but worth the investment if you’ll be using the materials heavily. (To read and listen to them on an Android device, you’ll need a bells-and-whistles PDF reader like EZPDF).

2. State Supported Language Schools and Libraries

This is a big one for many countries. The governments are keen to promote their language abroad, and this means subsidising the language centres. For you, the math works out perfectly: cheaper language courses, more access to resources, and a packed calendar of cultural events.
A handful of examples: Instituto Cervantes for Spanish, Goethe Institut for German, British Council for English, Confucius Institute for Chinese, Alliance Francaise for French. Look up similar institutes for the languages you want to learn – and if you find them, make the most of them!

3. Anything on your mind – just ask!

Governments are big and change slowly. Many of them are only now beginning to find ways of working around this shiny new Internet thing. This means that some of the great things they do are cosily hidden from view. And nobody knows about them. Until they ask.
Write them an email. Find an embassy of the country whose language you’re keen to learn. Ask for possible resources, lessons, events. The good thing about doing it this way – rather than by phone – is that an email trail is something more likely to motivate officials to respond, and you give them time to research their answer.
It may be that you will find new ways of improving your favourite language just by asking the right people!

Any other ideas for getting foreign governments to teach you a language? Let us all know in the comments. The revolution starts here (hehe)!

(Photo credit: Pablo Fernández via Compfight)

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