Top 10 Free Online Foreign Language Courses With Certificates

Looking to learn a foreign language without breaking a bank? This article has listed the top 10 free online foreign language courses with certificates to get you started. These courses are self-paced and offer certificates of completion.
Learning a new language is something that requires careful consideration. I bet before you opened your browser to search for free online foreign language courses with certificates, you’ve probably given it a thought or two before eventually shooting at it.
People learn a new language for many reasons. While some would be required to learn one due to the nature of their job, others would learn because they are either moving to a new country or embarking on a short-term trip.
In 2020 I received a newsletter from a Nigerian Travel Blogger where she announced that she had moved to Nairobi. This was both for work and permanent residency. In a later blog post, she shared about how she’d been learning Swahili throughout the lockdown because she needed to get familiar with the country’s native language for easy communication.
Her main learning tool was Duolingo, augmented with online courses and YouTube videos. In no time, she was able to understand the language but wasn’t so fluent. I bet she’s become a pro by now.
What you don’t want is finding yourself in a foreign country awfully unprepared. Language barriers could cause you dire consequences.
Devices have been built that are able to translate one language to another seamlessly to aid foreigners who struggle to communicate with natives, and also others who will need such devices for other purposes and scenarios.
These devices, however, do not come cheap. They are not something you can whoop up money from your bank account and pay for in emergency situations. Most times too, accuracy is very inconsistent across different languages. Don’t also forget that these are powered devices that use batteries which may eventually run out on you in the middle of a sentence.
The safest and most reliable way to avoid these communication hassles is by learning a foreign language, whether full-time or part-time and perfecting it. Being fluent in French, Spanish, or English can never hurt anyone. These are among the most popular languages in the world and no one knows where the wave of life will be taking them next.

What is a foreign language?

From the time of one’s birth, they have particular languages they use in communication. These are either a native language, second language, or both. When that individual hears any language outside his or her indigenous language, such language is referred to as a Foreign Language.
A foreign language, in other words, is any language that is not native to the speaker. Even if such a person has the ability to speak the language, provided they are not indigenous to it, it is still a foreign language to them.
For instance, Benin Republic is a French-speaking country in Africa. There are several indigenes among them who can speak English fluently and can be middlemen between a native and a foreigner. These English-speaking natives will still have English as a Foreign Language to them.

Benefits of learning a foreign language

Learning a foreign language offers a two-way benefit. As a person who has learned a foreign language, you make communication easy between you and a foreigner. Being able to understand someone who speaks a different language from you will make you feel more connected to them, promoting the easy flow of information, and breaking off barriers such as context misinterpretation.
Let’s look at some of the key benefits of learning a foreign language.
It boosts your self-confidence: I don’t suppose a non-french-speaking foreigner in France would feel the same way as a French-speaking foreigner. When you speak and understand a foreign language, you move and communicate with confidence.
You acquire new skills: In this era of skill acquisition, learning a foreign language is something you should really consider doing because it will make your resume stand out and put you on edge among your peers and colleagues.
More employment opportunities: Employers want people who will bring something to the table. What skills set you apart from other employees? What is the one thing you can do for the company that others probably can’t? Also, you have more chances to work in foreign companies that are looking to expand their market.
It sets you apart in the workplace: Who wouldn’t notice that one employee who speaks and understands a foreign language? You will be an asset to your company because you will bridge the communication gap between them and their foreign clients. The ability to speak foreign languages is not something everyone has acquired yet, learning one now will put you right in the spotlight.
You connect with people and their culture: Nobody feels welcomed more than a foreigner who understands and speaks the language of the country or state they are in. Learning a new language will help you connect more with people and understand their culture more.
You are a step closer to studying abroad: To study in some countries, you will need to take a language class for one year or more and pass a compulsory exam before their programs can begin properly. If you learn the language ahead and sit for a test, you will be right on your way to beginning your program without spending extra years learning the language.

List of Best online foreign language learning sites

  • Duolingo 
  • Memrise
  • Babbel
  • FluentU
  • Italki
Duolingo: Duolingo is a game-like language Learning site that makes the process super easy and fun. With over 30 languages in their catalog, Duolingo offers learners opportunities to learn multiple languages all for free. They learn using “trees” tailored to their target language, with specific “skills” to practice vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation using spaced repetition. Exercises can include written translation, reading and speaking comprehension, and short stories
Memrise: Memrise is a popular language learning site that uses flashcards to help users learn new words and phrases quickly. It has quite a lot of features that it uses to enhance the flashcards and improve users’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. This is a very helpful tool for language learning and practice.
Babbel: Babbel is a subscription-based language learning site that prides itself on turning to experts to create high-quality content, working with more than 150 linguists, language teachers, polyglots, editors, researchers, and instructional designers. Courses on Babbel are tailored to the native tongue and interests of the user, building on the grammar and vocabulary that they already know, with programs created by these experts and voiced by native speakers.
FluentU: FluentU is a language learning site that uses real-world videos, audio samples, and flashcards to help users improve their foreign language. What sets it apart from other sites is that users can learn a language with music videos, movie trailers, news, and inspiring talks, making the whole process less monotonous and more engaging.
Italki: Italki is a language learning platform that works a little differently from the others. It connects language students with language teachers from across the globe through video chat. The site allows students to find online teachers for one-on-one tutoring, and teachers to earn money as freelance tutors.

Requirements to learn a foreign language

There are currently no requirements to learn foreign languages online. Provided you have a learning device, a network connection, and time to commit, you can take the free online foreign language courses with certificates that are listed in this article.

Top 10 Free Online Foreign Language Courses With Certificates

Listed below are courses from several online educational providers. I have put them in categories for easy navigation and selection. These courses are available for free while others can be audited. You will be required to sign up before you can enroll in any course.

  1. First Step Korean (Coursera)
  2. Improve Your English Communication Skills Specialization (Coursera)
  3. Tsinghua Chinese: Start Talking with 1:3 Billion people (edX)
  4. Basic Spanish 1: Getting Started (edX)
  5. Introduction to Dutch (FutureLearn)
  6. Irish 101: An Introduction to Irish Language and Culture (FutureLearn)
  7. Improving Your French Language Skills – Revised (Alison)
  8. Beginners Guide to Learn Russian (Alison)
  9. Intermediate Spanish: A trip Across Latin America (OpenLearn)
  10. Beginners’ Italian: Food and Drink (OpenLearn)

1. First Step Korean

The first course on free online foreign language courses with certificates is First Step Korean, an easy-to-follow beginner-friendly course on Coursera. This basic Korean Language course consists of 5 lessons with 4 units, covering 4 language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Students will learn topics that include the basic expressions used in everyday life, such as greeting, introduction, simple talks, etc. Each lesson covers dialogues, pronunciations. vocabulary, grammar, quizzes, and role-plays.

Taught in English with subtitles in several languages, this 18-hour course will teach learners how to read and write Korean Alphabet, communicate in Korean with basic expressions, and finally learn basic knowledge of Korean culture

Enroll in this course

2. Improve Your English Communication Skills Specialization

The second course on free online foreign language courses with certification is this Specialization course on Coursera. This specialization contains four courses that aim to help learners improve their professional communication in English for successful business interactions.

Each course focuses on a particular area of communication in English: Writing emails, speaking at meetings and interviews, giving presentations, and networking online. This specialization is a great place to start for individuals who want to communicate better in the workplace and achieve their language and professional goals.

This specialization will take approximately 5 months to complete, and learners can learn at their own pace, dedicating 3 hours weekly to each course.

Enroll here

3. Tsinghua Chinese: Start Talking with 1.3 Billion people

Another course on free online foreign language courses with certificates is this introductory Chinese language course from China’s top university provided on edX.

This course is for anyone interested in learning Mandarin Chinese, especially if you plan to work or study in Mandarin-speaking countries. This course is a good start toward the HSK Chinese proficiency test.

This is a self-paced course taught in English, over a period of 6 weeks with 2-3 hours of weekly learning.

Enroll in this course

4. Basic Spanish 1: Getting Started

The next edX course on free online foreign language courses with certificates is this introductory Spanish course that aims to teach basic Spanish to English speakers who would like to learn conversational Spanish.

This course introduces everyday language and includes activities to practice all four language skills: reading comprehension, writing, listening, comprehension, and speaking. By the end of this course, students will be able to introduce themselves and conduct a brief conversation in Spanish.

This course is self-paced and beginner-friendly, and students are required to commit 4-5 hours weekly for a duration of 7 weeks.

Enroll in this course

5. Introduction to Dutch

Here comes a top-ranked online language course on FuturLearn. This course is for people who want to master the fundamentals of Dutch with little or no prior knowledge.

During this course, participants will learn Dutch phrases, greetings, vocabulary, numbers, spelling, and grammar. And by the end, they will learn how to use simple sentences to describe where they live and the people they know.

With its main focus on receptive skills like reading and listening, this 3-week course will help individuals survive in Dutch-speaking countries such as the Netherlands.

Enroll in this course

6. Irish 101: An Introduction to Irish Language and Culture

Another course on free online foreign language courses with certificates is the first course in an 8-part series on FutureLearn.

This course is aimed at individuals interested in the Irish language, history, and culture. It will teach them some of the basics of Irish including greetings, introductions, Irish names, numbers, and other essentials.

During this 4-week course, learners will explore the origins of Ogham, and how the Irish alphabet developed. And by the end of the course, they will have a deeper understanding of the origins and cultural significance o one of the oldest literary languages in Europe.

Enroll in this course

7. Improving Your French Language Skills – Revised

The first Alison course on free online foreign language courses with certificates is Improving Your French Language Skills, published by Joella Andriantsivohony.

In this free online course, you will learn how to improve your knowledge of both French grammar and French vocabulary. With four modules in pronunciation, grammar, household vocabulary, and counting, this free online course will help you take your French to the next level.

Enroll in this course

8. Beginners Guide to Learn Russian

The next course on free online foreign language courses with certificates is this Russian Language course published by Ivan Yankymenko on Alison.

This course aims to help learners master Russian semantics, Slavic Pronunciation, and Practical Vocabulary. The tutorials contain directions and practicing intervals to absorb and speak the Russian dialect fluently as students learn about speech patterns and become familiar with language structures.

This course has only two modules: Foundations of the Russian Language and Russian Practical Lexicon, and finally the course assessment. Completing at least the first module will make learners experience the richness of Russian culture.

Enroll in this course

9. Intermediate Spanish: A Trip Across Latin America

Another course on free online foreign language courses with certificates is this Spanish course offered by OpenLearn.

In this course, participants will learn about the ways the people of South and Central America have handled everyday environmental conditions in their communities. The course will use videos, audio recordings, and articles to take learners on a virtual tour to discover the amazing people who will be sharing their stories.

To help learners connect more to these stories, they will be provided with opportunities to broaden their vocabulary and practice understanding written and spoken Spanish.

Enroll in this course

10. Beginners’ Italian: Food and Drink

This is a free course that focuses on the exchange of words that takes place in an Italian café. It will teach learners how to greet and introduce themselves in Italian as well as make hassle-free orders. It does not require any previous knowledge of Italian.

By the end of this course, participants should be able to take part in simple exchanges when buying drinks and snacks in an Italian café, understand some customs relating to Italian cafés, and begin to use the indefinite article in Italian.

Enroll in this course

Conclusion

As a foreign language learner, it is important that you practice as often as you can. You can do this with learning apps like Duolingo and the likes. Also, depending on your level of learning, you should practice by reading books and written pieces in the language that you are learning. This will boost word recognition and retentivity, helping you to learn better and faster.

Free Online Foreign Language Courses With Certificates – FAQs

How long does it take to learn a foreign language?

Well, it depends. There is no fixed answer to this question since people learn differently. But on average, it usually takes between three months to a year or two.

Are online language courses effective?

Yes, online language courses are as effective as face-to-face ones. What matters most is an individual’s readiness to commit and/or seek external resources and tools to support their learning path.

Which foreign languages are more in demand?

  • Chinese
  • English
  • Arabic
  • Spanish
  • Russian
  • Portuguese
  • German
  • Japanese

What’s the hardest language to learn?

Unfortunately, the most widely spoken native language in the world is the hardest to learn – Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin is one of the dialects of the Chinese language alongside Shanghainese, Cantonese, and many more.

Which foreign language is highly paid?

With China as the world’s new dominant economy, it has become a goldmine of opportunities, with over a billion people that one can target. For this cause, Mandarin Chinese has remained the most paid foreign language in the world.

What foreign language is easiest?

For English-speakers, Frisian, Dutch, Sweden, Spanish, Italian, and Norwegian may be the easiest languages to learn. They are easier because they almost share the same alphabets as the English Language making them pretty easy for English-speakers to pick up.

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