01 January 2008

Free File Frenzy, part 2

Here's a noteworthy effort operated entirely by volunteers. fsi-language-courses.com gives you some of the Foreign Service Institute's language courses free of charge. In some cases the audio is available but not the textbook or vice versa. More material is gradually added from time to time. The site also has a forum in which people occasionally mention other sources of language courses.

Google Books provides downloadable PDF files of books whose copyrights have expired. These include dictionaries and grammars of many languages ranging from Ainu to Zulu. These older books have some shortcomings: some of them use outdated spelling systems and were written by people who are not very skilled at transcribing exotic tongues. Still, they can be interesting. Google Books has some classic auxlang volumes including Histoire de la Langue Universelle and several Volapük, Ro and Esperanto titles. If you access Google Books from outside the United States you might not be permitted to download all of the files.

If you have a library card from your local public library, it's worth periodically checking their website for online offerings. Some libraries provide their patrons with free web access to Pimsleur language courses and/or the Rosetta Stone software.

Finally, anyone who lives on a ship in international waters (or any other place where there are no copyright laws) might want to check and see what's available via bittorrents. With the help of a torrent search engine you might dig up a course like Teach Yourself (Whatever), or a TV show or movie in the language you want to study (with or without English subtitles). Those who know the arcane craft of accessing the binaries newsgroups on usenet could consider monitoring alt.binaries.world-languages, especially during the group's annual "Festival of Seldom Posted Languages" which occurs during the last weekend in August.

Have I overlooked any major treasure-troves of downloadable language courses? If so, let us know.

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