People who learn languages as a lifestyle are always looking for resources on one language or another. They post requests to forums and social pages, asking for links to resources, often including the words “good” and “free” in those requests. No one wants bad resources, and we all want them for free.
For some languages, the “popular” ones, it is very easy to find tons of resources. For a few less popular ones, there might be an anomaly of many resources. For most of the lesser learned, there are few resources, which can lead to frustration for those attempting to learn them. It isn’t necessarily because no one is speaking those languages; in many cases, there are hundreds of thousands of speakers. The problem is that few of those people are taking the time to make resources to help others learn the language.
This has been a major surprise and disappointment to me over the years that I have spent working with languages and language learners online. Every student has the potential to become a teacher, for once they have learned something, they have enough knowledge and understanding to pass what they have learned on to someone else.
With so many people learning and having learned, why do so few ever take that knowledge and make their own materials for others? Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert or fluent, you can create lists of basic vocabulary and simple grammar explanations. You might not consider that important for the languages which have a large number of materials already, but what about that language you struggled to find resources for? How about your own language?
As an example, I can point to Papiamento. This creole is spoken primarily only on the former Dutch colonies of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao). It is possible to find resources online for it, but they are few. Several years ago, a native speaker on a language forum decided to help people with his language, so he started writing a simple course. He gave basic vocabulary, grammar explanations, and example sentences. It wasn’t a huge project, but it got many people interested in learning it, and gave them a chance at understanding at least a little of it.
I had no knowledge of the language myself, but I worked with the author to give it a more professional format. In doing that, I went through the lessons, making sure I could understand them, and asking for clarification when I didn’t. I did my best to make sure the courses were understandable, and whenever possible, I worked with the author to expand them with better explanations and more examples and exercises. After it was done, we had created a new resource where their hadn’t been one before, allowing more people to explore that language and possibly go one to expand upon what we had started.
Now I know many of you are telling yourself “I don’t know the language well enough” or “I’m no good at making courses”, and thus you are unwilling or even fearful to make the effort. However, I am also sure that you have probably spent many hours on forums and social media explaining vocabulary and grammar to people that have wanted to learn a language you know or are learning, and you did so without hesitation or thought. It was natural, and you wanted to help. After all, isn’t one of the great joys of learning a language in getting others to learn it as well?
Even if it seems like too much of a task for yourself, consider that what you create will then be expanded on and, if necessary, corrected, so that what you start may eventually become one of the “good, free” resources that everyone is asking for? It only takes a seed.
So what is stopping you? Why is it that with the tens of thousands of language learners that we see around us and interact with over the years, so few ever take the time to make learning materials? Why do we view the language interest so much in terms of learning but not in teaching? Why are we not creating materials at a phenomenal rate? Why are we always requesting materials rather than offering?
Stop searching. Start creating.