learn a foreign language

Budget Breakdown: How Much Does it Really Cost to Learn a Foreign Language?


learn a foreign language

If you’ve decided to learn a foreign language, there are a number of helpful resources available. Many people want to know the best way to learn a new language, but this can be subjective based on a number of criteria. While learning any new skill requires a time commitment, learning a new language is an investment.

Along with learning styles and geographic limitations, cost is an important factor in selecting a language program. Here is a look at the benefits and the costs of some of the most popular language-learning methods so you can make the best decision based on your budget.

learn a foreign language

There are many schools and academic programs that allow you to learn a foreign language online. There are some free classes available online, as well as language courses for college credit.

Some courses use microphones, audio, and webcams with an instructor to help you practice comprehension and conversation skills. If getting to class is an issue, online classes may be a better option.

Similar to live language lessons, online courses move at a certain pace. If you’re confused by grammar or vocabulary elements, you may struggle as the class continues to advance. Depending on the class format, you may be able to schedule extra sessions with the instructor, or start one-on-one tutoring outside of class at an additional cost.

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Online or in-person language lessons with a private tutor offer the advantage of face-to-face instruction.  Depending on your goals and learning style, your teacher may also be able to modify the curriculum or offer a custom lesson plan.

Prices vary based on the lesson duration and the teacher’s rate; there may also be bulk lesson packages available.

While language lessons do require a certain level of commitment, you can find an instructor that fits your price range and your schedule. A language tutor can offer real-time feedback, and (in most cases) adjust the pace of the lessons to accommodate the student.

While there may not be many language teachers in your area, you can take online lessons and connect with a teacher using platforms like Skype.

learn a foreign language

Many language centers, community/cultural centers, and university extension programs offer group lessons. The price varies depending on the reputation of the school, as well as the size of the classes themselves. A community class might have cheaper options, while a well-known university extension program will be a bit pricier. Besides the difference in price, take your learning style into account. If you learn better in a smaller environment, it might be worth the extra cost. You may also be able to get a better feel for the program by speaking with a representative or reading a course syllabus prior to signing up for classes.

Group lessons offer the benefit of face-to-face accessibility with an instructor. If you have questions or are confused about a topic, you can ask your teacher for help. Keep in mind, however, that teaching styles vary, and some students respond better than others to certain teaching methods.

When it comes to group classes, remember that individuals learn at different speeds. If you fall behind, you’ll still be expected to continue on at a certain pace. On the other hand, if you learn quickly or have prior experience with a language, you may be bored with repetitive lessons.

learn a foreign language

There are several computer programs and software packages that can help you learn a foreign language. These programs include casual game-like apps for smartphones and tablets, free online courses, and fully-loaded computer programs that include dictionaries, flash cards and other traditional materials. While most programs charge a fee, many offer a free trial so you can get a feel for what to expect before you purchase the entire program.

Language-learning programs are effective if you want to learn from home at your own pace. Here’s a look at some of the most popular programs.

Rosetta Stone

  • Price: $229
  • 30+ languages offered
  • CD-Rom and downloadable versions teach you to speak, read, write, and think in your new language on the go via mobile devices or at home on your PC
  • Access to a language-learning community with live tutoring sessions where you can practice speaking with a live coach.
  • Try before you buy: Rosetta Stone offers a free demo so you can try out the entire first level of the program before purchasing.

Rosetta Stone is one of the most well-known, widely used language-learning programs. “We pioneered language learning through technology and have helped people learn to speak new languages for over 20 years,” Rosetta Stone creators say. “Unlike the rest of the market, translation is only part of our teaching method. We use a variety of approaches, including immersion, in our instruction, which helps different learners achieve their language learning goals in a personal, natural way.”

Transparent Language Online

  • Price: $199.99
  • Now available in over 100 languages including ESL for speakers of 27 different languages
  • Transparent Langauge Online lets learners dictate their own experience by learning: what they want, how they want, and when they want.
  • Variety of resources including flash cards and alphabet primers

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning a language,” says Senior Vice President Chuck McGonagle. “We continually update and evolve Transparent Language Online to provide new content and features, while also incorporating feedback we’ve received from learners.”


Unlike traditional language courses, traveling to another country to learn a foreign language involves several price variables. First, consider basic travel expenses, and transportation for the duration of your stay. The price of housing will also vary depending on if you’re traveling as an individual or with a group.

Of course, there’s the additional cost of classes, whether in a group setting or one-on-one tutoring. These fees do not cover food, travel insurance, shopping/spending money, and other incidentals.

Since intensive language lessons generally run for a few weeks to several months, these programs also require a time commitment. Despite the time and money, however, immersion forces you to practice your language skills daily in real-life situations, which makes it one of the best ways to learn a foreign language as you will be forced to use the language daily in real-life situations.

“Naturally, the cost of traveling to another country to study a language varies widely,” says Jessica Korteman from Notes of Nomads. “If I was to give an estimate of a month-long stay in Tokyo, I’d give the ballpark figure of 300,000 yen, or very roughly, $3,000 plus airfare to/from your home country. This figure includes enrollment at a reputable institution (around 100,000 yen or $1000), accommodations (around 50,000 yen or $500 for a room in a share house), visa/insurance (15,000 yen or $150), food/living expenses (around 70,000 yen or $700), sightseeing/leisure (around 50,000 yen or $500) and miscellaneous costs, such as SIM/data (around 15,000 yen or $150).”

Traveling to another country is an unforgettable opportunity, and immersion is one of the most powerful ways to learn proficiency and in-depth of vocabulary. If you have the time and money to invest in a study abroad or immersion program, definitely do your research and determine if it’s a feasible option.

See Also: Why Study Abroad is More than a Vacation

If you want to learn a foreign language, there are a number of methods to choose from and several things to consider. In some cases, a combination of learning tools, like lessons and a software program for example, may be the best approach.

There are several benefits to learning a new language, so no matter which method you choose, feel good about your decision to enhance and improve your life.

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1 reply
  1. Audrey Kinley
    Audrey Kinley says:

    That’s awesome that there are several different programs to use. I wonder which one has the highest rates. My little cousin just moved from Hong Kong, so she’s been learning how to speak English. I’ve been trying to learn Chinese as well so that I could understand her.


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