(image from Wikimedia.org)
This list is in response to a question for free language courses on the Mixxer site Facebook page. When people ask about free courses, they're usually referring to MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses). MOOCs are pretty amazing. They are like traditional online courses in that they have quality content that is structured by a qualified instructor (often some of the best-known professors in the field). In addition to the content, there are usually quizzes each week allowing you to do some self-assessment. Finally, you are able to connect with other students interested in the same material. If you get stuck, hopefully there's a way to get help via other members of the course.
That being said, MOOCs lack some qualities of a traditional course that are important, especially in the languages. First and foremost, there is virtually no contact with the instructors. They usually post videos that you can listen to, but you are unlikely to communicate with the instructor directly at all. While there is hopefully some means of contact with other students, you will not have the frequent opportunity to practice communicating in the target that you would in a quality traditional course. Second, while taking the course is free, receiving any kind of certification is not. Even if you are willing to pay a fee, very few MOOCs lead to any kind of degree that would be recognized by an employer or an academic institution.
My suggestion is to treat MOOCs for that they, an excellent content resource for your learning. If you're an active Mixxer user, hopefully you also have a language partner as well. In addition to giving you an opportunity to practice communicating in the target language, your partner can also hopefully help with questions and other challenges you encounter in the course. In regards to assessment and accreditation, language learners are also fortunate that there are well-recognized exams that can be taken to measure proficiency. For English there is the TOEFL. In the U.S., ACTFL provides exams in a number of foreign languages. Elsewhere, there are organizations that provide an exam for a single such as the Cervantes Institue for Spanish, Goethe Institute for German, France's Ministry of Education for French, Confucius Institute for Chinese, the Japan Foundation for Japanese, etc. While these are not free, they're much cheaper than a degree and provide a way to certify your language skills that is broadly recognized.
Hopefully I haven't killed your enthusiasm. If you're still game, the major players in MOOCs that I have had some experience with include:
- Open Learning Institute from Carnegie Mellon
- EdX by a consortium of U.S. universities,
- Future Learn by the Open University in the U.K.
- Coursera (private U.S. company).
Some other famous providers that I have not tried include:
- XuetangX from China's Ministry of Education
- Udacity (private company in the US) with mostly professional development type courses
- Stanford's Lagunita which has some content in Arabic an Spanish as well.
With most of these courses, they will strongly encourage you to pay for the certification when you sign up. Sometimes it's even hard to find the free version. Choose the option to audit the course or be an auditor if you're looking for the free version.
These are the language courses I was able to find. Keep in mind as well, though, any course in the target language will be helpful to language learning if you're interested in the topic. It may seem daunting at first, but if you can read the content and follow the videos (even if slowly), you should give it a try. I also listed the course start date when there is one, but since you're mostly interested in the content, I wouldn't let it deter you if the course is old.
- OLI - Arabic for Global Exchange (beginning Arabic)
- OLI - Chinese I (beginning Chinese)
- EdX - Mandarin Chinese: First steps in Chinese
- EdX - Tsinghua University Chinese Course (beginning Chinese)
- EdX - Mandarin Chinese for Business
- EdX - Intermediate Chinese
- EdX - Basic Mandarin Chinese
- EdX - Basic Mandarin Chinese II
- EdX - Basic Mandarin Chinese III
- Coursera - Chinese HSK test prep (started Nov 27th)
- Coursera (started Nov 28th) - Mandarin Chinese / Beginning Chinese
- Coursera (started Nov 28th) - Chino Básico
- Coursera (started Nov 29th) - Chinese for Beginners
- OLI - American English Speech
- EdX (archived) - Preparing for the AP* English Language and Composition
- EdX (in progress) - English Grammar and Style
- EdX - TOEFL Test Preparation
- EdX - How to Write and Essay
- EdX - English Grammar and Style
- EdX - Conversation English (for Chinese speakers)
- EdX - English for Doing Business in Asia: Spoken
- Coursera (starts Dec 4th) - Intermediate English Grammar
- Coursera (starts Dec 4th) - Business English
- Coursera (started Nov 27th) - English Communication Skills (mostly business)
- Coursera (started Nov 20th 2017) - Business English: Basics
- Coursera (started Nov 20th 2017) - Academic Literacy
- OLI - French I
- OLI - French II
- EdX - On ramp to French AP exam (AP exam is an advanced exam for high schools in the U.S. Content is intermediate)
- Coursera - Étudier en France (intermediate)
- EdX - Italian Language and Culture: Beginner
- EdX - Italian Language and Culture: Intermediate
- EdX - Italian Language and Culture: Advanced
- EdX - AP Italian Language and Culture (AP is an advanced level exam in the U.S. for high schools. Content is intermediate to upper-intermediate)
- EdX - Japanese Pronunciation
- Coursera - Pluralidades em Português Brasileiro (intermediate to advanced Brazilian Portuguese)
- Coursera - Russian as a foreign language B1+ (intermediate)
- OLI - Spanish I
- Coursera (December 18th) - Learn Spanish, note this is actually 5 different modules. One started Nov 27th. Check the dates for each.
- EdX - Basic Spanish 1
- EdX - Basic Spanish 2
- EdX - AP Spanish Language and Culture from Boston University (AP is an advanced level exam in the U.S. for high schools. Content is intermediate to upper-intermediate)
- EdX - AP Spanish Language and Cutlure from St. Margaret's Episcopal School (AP is an advanced level exam in the U.S. for high schools. Content is intermediate to upper-intermediate)
Not quite a MOOC - content structured as a course, but is only content. There are no quizzes or tools to interact with other students