Watching the television or listening to the radio is always considered one of the most effective ways of consuming your target language. It's easy and passive enough to be done along with other activities, and with tools like TuneIn Radio it has also become widely available. But it's not so well known many international channels also have fantastic language classes on their websites. These resources are definitely worth your time.
Why broadcasters offer good language tuition
Not only are these channels ambassadors of their country, but they also have a stake in their own good image in their country. They have a massive archive of great audio and video to show you how the language is used. And finally, they broadcast in that language - of course they want you to learn it because then you'll be a new customer. Oh, and the resources are free. Everybody wins.
Here are some TV and Radio station websites offering excellent language courses:
Who? TV5 Monde is the leading global network broadcasting in French, based in Paris and available on every continent.
Where do I look? The service is called TV5Apprendre, and you can start right from the beginning with "Première Classe" which shows you a little video clip and many exercises corresponding with the topic. It's a great source of multimedia, well structured and a fab way of practising your French.
TV5 also offers excellent reading exercises based on current affairs, and online games like Lettris (French language Tetris...).
Any other goodies? Try the monolingual dictionary before you use a French-English one.
2. Deutsche Welle
Who? Deutsche Welle (German Wave) or DW for short has been around since 1953, and it's Germany's best-known international broadcaster and actually offers programming in lots of different languages.
Where do I look? The DW website itself is available in 30 languages, and you can switch at the top right of the site itself. The German language offering is split into
- Deutschkurse for German courses at all CEFR levels,
- Deutsch XXL for current affairs (I love their telenovela and the Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten - news read at half the speed)
- Community D for portraits of learners and a forum, and
- Deutsch Unterrichten as a resource area for German teachers.
Language: English, or you can visit many world languages in the BBC Languages Section.
The BBC is the world's biggest broadcaster, part owned by the British government and nearly as iconic as the Queen. Their international branch is called the World Service.
Where do I look? The English Learning home page is a nice place to start with current affairs, news and quizzes. There aren't any courses taking you up to a level systematically, but just so much fun material to practice with.
Any other goodies? Don't miss the 11 "In your language" sections, where you can study English from your own native language such as Vietnamese, Pashto, French or Chinese.
4. Russia Today
Russia today is a young international broadcaster, founded in 2005 and based in Moscow. They've become a staple of hotel rooms worldwide and broadcast in 4 languages.
Where do I look? Get started by registering on the LearnRussian page.
It may not be as flashy or multimedia-rich as its heavyweight colleagues from the other countries, but RT makes sure it teaches you a healthy dose of grammar and the exercises build up in a sensible way. I think it's a fine little resource.
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If you know of other free courses from national broadcasters, please post a comment recommending them or email me about it.