Free and public domain language courses

April 12, 2008, [MD]

One incredibly progressive feature of the American constitution, is that it provides that everything produced by the government immediately enters public domain. I think this makes complete sense, and there is a slow movement among other countries to follow up, but it is something that should have happened a long time ago. Due to this rule, an immense amount of positive material that has been produced by all manners of government departments have been released. However of course, having something in the public domain does not mean that you have to make it available for free, and so many government agencies have been reluctant with putting material online. Carl Malamud from has done great work buying or negotiating access to government works and putting them online.

Today I came across another great site, that has been acquiring and digitizing Foreign Service language courses. They have a number of PDFs of scanned books, and many mp3’s (the digitized cassets) for everything from Arabic and Hindi to Amharic and Hausa. also has a number of Public Domain, Creative Commons and otherwise freely available language material. Right now I am download a 1.4GB complete course in Russian. With all these resources, and the freemium programs, like the very high quality ChinesePod and SpanishPod that offer mp3’s for free, but charge for premium services… and all the added possibilities to find original content - through Youtube, online streaming radio and television, p2p sharing of videos, books being digitized… and all the new ways of interacting online - Skype, chat, email, webcam… There has never been a better time to learn a language, and learning a new language has never given you access to so many new resources and people, no matter where you live in the world.

Go learn a language!


Stian Håklev April 12, 2008 Toronto, Canada
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