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Alameda County Library

Language Learning: Language Learning

This guide will connect you to online databases and books and CDs that will help you to learn a new language.

Free Courses Online of Some Less Commonly Studied Languages

These are free online sites that will help you to learn languages that are less commonly studied in the United States.



ASL - American Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) is a sign language, a language in which the hands, arms, head, facial expression and body language are used to speak without sound. ASL is not related to English, and features an entirely different grammar and vocabulary. ASL is the dominant sign language of deaf communities in the United States and English-speaking parts of Canada British Sign Language (BSL) is a completely different language from ASL, and they are not mutually intelligible. ASL is instead related to French Sign Language.

Besides North America, dialects of ASL or ASL-based creoles are used, sometimes alongside indigenous sign languages, in many countries in Asia, the Caribbean, and in Africa. The grammar and syntax of these ASL dialects are distinct from any spoken language, including English.

Here are some resources for sign language:

Lifeprint from Arizona State University.

Start ASL.

How to Learn American Sign Language Online - Free, Fast & Funny on YouTube.

Online Resources


Books and CDs

These are recommended series of books and CDs available in the Alameda County Library System, which will help you learn a particular language.

Colloquial GermanRoutledge's Colloquial series books consist of a textbook (with texts and exercises on different topics, keys to exercises, translations  of texts, and a glossary of words presented in the textbook and their translations into English) and two CDs of selected texts from the book.




Teach Yourself FrenchTeach Yourself series books consist of a book (with texts and exercises on different topics, self-assessment tests, keys to exercises, vocabularries and translations in both the target language and English) and two CDs of the dialogs in each chapter.




Pimsleur Russian IPimsleur Language Program materials are primarily CDs occasionally accompanied by a booklet covering cultural differences.  Only rarely does a course offer the script of the texts in the target language.  Many of the Pimsleur Language series, including ESL, may now be found on OneClick Audiobooks. Within OneClick , search for the Author  "Pimsleur".




Lonely Planet Greek PhrasebookLonely Planet Phrasebooks consist of everyday use phrases in a wide variety of topics with phrases shown in English, a pronuncation transcription, and in the target language.  Different topics are highlighted with a border in different colors, and cultural notes abound.  There are glossaries and translations in both the target language and English.  Often a rudimentary grammar is given just before the "Basics" section.



Living Language FrenchLiving Language Courses normally consist of a textbook, a dictionary in both the target language and English, and two CDs of highlighted dialogs shown in the textbook. Look for "Living Language" in the Title field in the catalog to get a complete list of Living Language courses.

Community Languages

Alameda County Library collects languages that support the community demographics. A Community Language Committee was formed to identify the needs of our communities, and sustain a balanced collection of international languages.

How to find materials in languages other than EnglishFrom the Search Catalog page:

  • Click on Advanced search.
  • Choose a field - author, title, subject, or note -- by clicking on the arrow.
  • Type your search terms in the box.
  • Scroll down the page and limit to Language by clicking on the down arrow; choose the desired language.
  • Click on the submit button and the results will come up.

To find materials:

  • Choose the call number search.
  • Type in the code of the language you want (see below).
  • To view Chinese DVDs, type in DVD Ch.
  • To limit to feature films, type in DVD Ch Fiction.
  • To limit to children's films, type in DVD Ch J.

To find Children's books

  • Choose the call number search.
  • Type in the code of the language you want followed by "J"
  • Example: Hin J Fiction will return Hindi juvenile books.
  • Example: Ch JPB will return Chinese juvenile picture books.
  • Example: SP JE will return Spanish Early Reader books.

The call number code always appears at the beginning of the call number.

For further information, please contact Randy McDevitt-Parks.

Hindi Language for Children

International Pen Pals

Languages of New World Civilizations

 The languages of the three major civilizations (Inca, Aztec, and Maya) are still spoken by millions of people.  Here are some online sites that will help you in the study of these languages.

Basic Quechua lessons are here.

Wikipedia article on Quechua with many links is here.   

Introductory course on Nahuatl (Aztec) for Spanish speakers can be found here. 

Online Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary is available here. 

English to Nahuatl Glossary is here. 

A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language is here. 

A Basic  Spanish - Yucatec Mayan Dictionary  is here.  


Studying Languages Abroad

Since 1990, Center For Study Abroad (CSA) has been providing low cost study abroad opportunities to students and adults worldwide.  For over 20 years, our mission has been to be non-profit oriented and offer programs at low cost, as well as provide more flexibility, independence, and additional services to best fit each participant. Admission is guaranteed and open to all. All programs are fully accredited.