First things first – Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend announcement:
This is always the best week of the year to take advantage of some heavily discounted language learning products online.
Here are just a few you should check out:
**NOTE: These offers have expired until 2019.
A more effective alternative to a phrasebook (and great gift idea): Earworms Musical Brain Trainer
I reviewed Earworms MBT here a while back if you missed it.
For people who love music and use songs to learn a foreign language I’m sure they’ll be very impressed with this.
Earworms is one of the most innovative and promising concepts I’ve come across this year and it’s based on solid research into how a certain part of the brain causes songs to get ‘stuck’ in our heads, applying the same process to foreign language memorization.
I got myself the French edition last year and found it really effective in reactivating my French.
The music’s very catchy and enjoyable to listen to as well so you don’t feel like you’re studying at all. It’s a brilliant alternative to a phrasebook for someone who’s about to travel.
It only costs a little over $15 for a hard copy or about $8 to download the MP3’s.
The following languages are currently available:
Arabic, Portuguese (European and Brazilian), Cantonese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Spanish (European and Latin American) and Turkish.
Buy the gift of online language lesson credits
Are you familiar with services that offer experience gifts?
In Australia, we have a great website called RedBalloon where people can buy experiences for people, as opposed to a normal wrapped gift.
It’s a fantastic concept in my opinion and a great last minute option for Christmas shoppers who run out of ideas or don’t have enough time to fight the chaos at the malls.
Well, italki is the ultimate language learning equivalent of this.
Think about this scenario for a second:
Your friend tells you that she’s planning a vacation or an immersion stay in Paris, so you have this great idea to head out and buy her a book for learning French.
You wrap it up all nice and hand it to her, she thinks it’s a lovely thought and gets through a chapter or two, then starts to find it boring or overwhelming and eventually loses the motivation to continue.
Within a few weeks that expensive book you bought becomes just another ornament on her bookshelf.
It may even turn your friend off the language altogether.
I’m convinced that a real life, face-to-face session is one of the best presents you can buy your friend or family member if they’re learning a foreign language. It’s so easy to organize and will ultimately give them a very tangible experience that’ll help them improve and connect with the target culture.
Of course, you could go out and pay for some lessons with a teacher who lives locally (provided there is one) but it will most likely be a heck of a lot more inconvenient and expensive.
I’ve had online lessons before which were organized through other sites, friends and so on, but I must say I’m very impressed with the convenience that a system like italki offers in connecting people, orchestrating times and facilitating payments.
It costs me about $9 a lesson on average which is pocket change (to give you an idea of the price difference, my one-on-one French teacher back home used to charge me $50/hr, plus all the fuel money I’d spend driving to see her each week).
A lot of teachers also have the option of packages, so you could buy say 10 lessons at a discounted rate and give that to someone as a present.
I encourage you to consider it as a Christmas gift alternative or even try it out yourself if you haven’t already.
Click here to register free on italki and browse the teachers/speaking partners that are available.
More inexpensive gift ideas for language learners
Is the person you’re shopping for a bit of a grammarphile?
I personally find the Schaums Outlines series to be excellent. I bought the Shaum’s Outline of Russian Grammar a while back and found it to be very comprehensive and clear (plus the pages have perforated lines so you can easily tear out different sections if you need to).
For a less comprehensive and more easy-to-follow grammar series, I also like the Collins Easy Learning books which are usually under $10. Rather than just getting someone a phrasebook, the Collins Easy Learning books are like a grammar/phrasebook/dictionary in one and nicely laid out.
Are you looking for something with more of a focus on dialogue material?
You can’t really go past the Assimil series for quality dialogue material though (see my review here). Detailed explanations are in footnotes and the books focus on getting you to repeat useable chunks of real language with good quality audio.
Just after something fun and silly?
You can usually pick them up for under $10 and they’re full of slang, swear words, pick-up lines and so on. I actually found the Dirty Korean book very useful when I was living in Korea. 🙂
Also consider a Mondly subscription as a gift for someone.
A few gift ideas for Arabic, Irish and Korean learners specifically
A huge amount of the people who visit this blog come here via search engines looking for learning material in Arabic, Irish and Korean (since I write a lot about these languages).
It would take me weeks to write recommendations for all the other languages so I’m just going to make a few suggestions for these three in particular which some of you might find useful.
What to get Arabic learners for Christmas
I always recommend the Kalimni ‘Arabi series for learning Egyptian Arabic which is the best book series currently available for this dialect. Nothing on the market beats it in my opinion.
Also check out my post on Levantine and Iraqi Arabic books.
Irish language gift ideas
First of all, I highly recommend Litriocht which is an online Gaeilge bookstore.
It’s a good place to order books in hardcover or paperback but they also have some good ebooks too which would be a perfect gift for those with a Kindle.
There’s also Siopa.ie run by Gaelchultúr which is another good source of books (they stock an Irish version of Scrabble :)).
Gaelchultúr recently sent me a few review copies of their superior Gaeilge Gan Stró books and access to their courses at ranganna.com which I think would be a great gift idea for someone you know who wants to learn Irish (I’ll put up a review of these over the coming weeks).
My friend Eoin over at Bitesize Irish Gaelic (it’s had a lot of improvements since I reviewed it a while back) has put together a great 2-hour, conversational MP3 course called Learn Irish With Eoin which is available on iTunes for about €9. That’s definitely worth checking out for anyone wanting a good place to start with Irish.
It’s good timing considering all the interest that The Hobbit 2 has sparked. 🙂
Korean language learning gift ideas
My Korean Store is a fantastic place for any Korean language-related gift.
For quick, inexpensive gifts related to Korea or the Korean language there are so many cool options on this site. I reviewed one of the TTMIK books that they have.
You can also find some bilingual readers, posters and keyboard stickers that are really inexpensive and fun gift ideas.
Dirty Korean (also available for other languages) is a fun little book I picked up too that doesn’t just teach you swear words, but lots of slang expressions that you hear a lot in everyday conversation.
Also make sure to read this post where I listed a lot of other ideas last Christmas.
Are there any gift ideas that you’d suggest for a language learner?
Share your ideas in the comment section below. 🙂