Why Your Library Is Essential To Learning A Language

June 10, 2016

Why Your Library Is Essential To Learning A Language

For me, the library is one of the happiest places on earth. From the time I was about three years old, I’ve spent a large part of my life in them. I’m a huge Fantasy nerd so when I needed my fix I hit the shelves. Me and the Dewey Decimal System were practically best friends. However, it wasn’t until embarrassing recently that it occurred to me I could use my library time to fix other habits too.

Sidenote: My dad “grounded” me once when I was 13 and it was just kinda like, “Sooooo I have to come home straight away instead of staying at the library for 50 hours like I usually do? Oh, ok. Such shock. Much sad.”

It wasn’t until I had to write my senior thesis (entirely auf Deutsch mind you) that I realized libraries had a ton of language-related resources. Here I was struggling to find things via google when my library had done 90% of the work for me already! In hindsight, it seems ridiculous that it took me so long to discover all this but fear not! I am here to rescue you from my fate of fail.




Reference Books and Textbooks

The first and most obvious benefit to the library is your access to…books! If you’re anything like most language learners you love buying language books. My last few Instagram posts are proof of this. You’re also probably poor as hell because you keep buying so many of them. Enter your friendly neighborhood library. When searching for Korean reference books online there were so many that I was immediately 100% lost on what to do. Reading other people’s reviews only helps so much. Essential Korean Grammar was one I’d seen a few times, but I had no idea if it was worth the tens of dollars it was going for on Amazon. So when I ran across that exact book in my library’s foreign language section I just about died. I checked it out immediately and had a whole two weeks to give it a test run.

Spoiler, I bought it.

Ok maybe that wasn’t such a surprise but whatever. You get me.

At the libraries around my house not only are there reference books (grammar books, dictionaries, etc.) for different languages, but they also have legit textbooks available for checkout. This is a godsend for students or individual learners, really anyone who can’t (or just doesn’t want to) drop $30+ on language learning materials. Obviously, your selection will depend on the area you live in, but almost any library you go to will have at least a few resources on the more popular languages. Grab a couple to see which suits you best!

CDs and Movies

I know some people think that CDs are going the way of the dinosaur but they’re still valuable when it comes to language learning. In addition to books, libraries usually have movie and music sections as well. Listening to music in the target language is one of my favorite ways to get in some listening practice.

And movies? Don’t even get me started. While I was in Berlin for the conference I ended up buying the 8th season of Criminal Minds and the entire Harry Potter DVD collection, both dubbed into German. Your library probably won’t have CSI in Serbian but they’ll likely have some of the more well-known foreign films. Think Amélie or The Lives of Others. Great way to practice listening and reading if you put on your target language’s subtitles too.

Online Library Access To Programs

Rosetta Stone is one of the bigger names in the language learning industry. It’s not really on the affordable side though. The full 5 level package will run you a few hundred dollars. Since I’m going to assume that you all are absolute angels and wouldn’t dream of pirating programs lest the internet popo show up at your door, you might find it interesting to know that popular set programs like Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, and Assimil might be available as well! You’d find them either in the online catalog or on your library’s online resource page.

Rosetta Stone


For example, my library offers the first level of certain languages on Rosetta stone for FREE. Yep, free. You get to do an entire fifth of a Rosetta Stone course without spending so much as a penny. There’s also Mango Languages, which is only available for free through local libraries.

The next time you find yourself in the library wander around a little and see if you come across anything interesting.


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