Up until today, all of the learning materials that I have suggested were absolutely free of charge. That's how I like it — I like to spend as little as possible. The problem with all of these free materials is that they can only be used when you are at your computer, connected to the internet. If you've got an iPhone, or other fancy new smartphone, that internet connection may not be much of a problem, but searching for things on a tiny telephone isn't fun.
Basically, what I'm saying is that sometimes you want some handy reference for grammar, or spelling, or useful phrases, or just to find translations for some common words. This is why I like phrasebooks, particularly those published by Lonely Planet. In particular, I like that they not only tell you what to say, but they point out what to listen for in the response.
You can get a phrasebook for just about any language, either at your local bookstore or shopping online, usually for about $9, and this is one of the handiest learning tools you'll buy. As soon as you open it, you are faced with all the vocabulary you need to survive on your new language.
A portable language coach
Almost all phrasebooks available will have a trimmed down version of everything you need to survive in a language: alphabet, pronunciation, spelling rules, grammar, verb conjugation, vocabulary, and of course all the useful phrases!
The best part is that your phrasebook fits in your pocket, so it can go everywhere with you. Now there's no excuse why you can't learn a new phrase or two every day. Learn to say "excuse me" while you're waiting for the bus. Look up "how are you?" on your train ride to work. Find the phrase for "good morning" while you're using the restroom.
It makes a great complement to the useful phrases you are learning on YouTube. After a few days, you should already know enough to have "small talk" with a stranger in your new language:
How are you?
I'm fine, thanks. And you?
I am good.
Well, have a nice day.
For instance, that conversation in Italian would be:
Bene, grazie. E Lei?
Learn a few useful words or phrases every day from your phrasebook. This, combined with your free lessons at LiveMocha, will really get you kick-started into your new language. Already, you can see how you could learn a lot this year, and it really doesn't have to be difficult!
Leave some comments. What phrases have you learned in your language?
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.