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BonPatron Mini-Review: Explanations With Error Identification

Bon Patron – 3.5 

BonPatron is a free spelling and grammar checking site for French learners, but it is also suitable for native French speakers.

BonPatron’s developers target errors made by FSL learners — when the site detects an error, you will receive an explanation for how to improve it. You are encouraged to use the site at each stage of the writing process because when you correct one error, the program may identify new ones. The three categories of errors fall under misspelled words, structures to be verified, and structures to be corrected. The rules for error identification are created by patterns found in user submissions — so, if you are the first user to ever make a specific error, BonPatron may not be able to identify it unless it is based on a grammar rule that usually causes problems for English speakers. Feel free to make suggestions so that the developers can improve the program!

The free version allows you to check 3000 characters at a time. There is also a premium version that offers additional features, such as a verb conjugator, a summary of errors, and interactive grammar exercises for your errors.

Compared with Reverso, BonPatron does a better job of correcting general mistakes, such as capitalization or inappropriate commas. It also does a better job of catching errors related to inappropriate accordance of genders or numbers from “The House of Être” verbs. 

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Easy Languages Mini-Review: Interviews Around The Globe

Easy Languages – 4.3 

Easy Languages gets people involved from all around the globe —from Brazil to Mongolia — to film authentic interviews about everyday life with locals on the street.

A typical episode format starts with the interviewer (or interviewers) introducing the topic and location for the day. Then, they will approach various locals to ask their opinion or test their knowledge. Only a handful of languages, like Hindi, and Swahili, don’t follow this format — these are also typically the languages with fewer videos.

Easy Languages invites co-producers to join their channel, which means that anyone can apply to create videos, as long as they are filmed according to the Easy Languages guidelines. These co-producers receive multimedia training if they don’t already have experience in the field, so the videos typically have a baseline quality standard (although sometimes the filming can be a bit shaky).

Most of the interviewers have a bubbly personality, and some of them appear in multiple language interviews within Easy Languages. Overall, the interviews are enjoyable and will train your ear to understand a range of voices and accents. Also, for anyone who uses Seedlang for German, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see Cari’s friendly face in the Easy German episodes!

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Language Helpers Mini-Review: Too Automated

Language Helpers – 2 

Language Helpers provides a compilation of resources for various languages. Unfortunately, the organization of the site does not seem to have a lot of structure beyond the category headings.

If you search the free courses, you will be directed to a page with an assortment of YouTube videos in no particular order. At the top of this page, you’ll see a dropdown menu with a list of possible courses in your chosen language. However, these lists seem to have been automatically generated — you will find Spanish courses in the Italian section, and French courses in the German and Spanish sections (it’s also possible that the videos were automatically curated). There may be transcripts available for some videos, but most of them do not have one.

Besides the recommended courses section, all of the languages have an online translator, and some of them have basic word lists.

The creator of the site had good intentions to make language learning free, but the organization of the site seems more like a roulette game than structured learning courses.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Reverso Translation Mini-Review: Best for French learners

Reverso Translation – 3.8 

Reverso is a translation and spell check app. Its features primarily target French and English learners, although it also translates into a handful of other languages.

Compared with BonPatron, Reverso’s spell-check function (available only for French and English) is less attuned to general mistakes, such as capitalization or inappropriate commas. Reverso only catches some of the errors related to inappropriate accordance of genders or numbers from “The House of Être” verbs. Nevertheless, it does a decent job of catching obvious mistakes, and it will provide you with synonyms to enrich your writing. You are encouraged to use the spell check function at each stage of the writing process because when you correct one error, the program may identify new ones. The free version allows you to check 1200 characters at a time, and upgrading to a premium version will allow you to check unlimited characters.

The Reverso Contexto dictionary is an excellent resource for most of the available languages. While Linguee takes examples from relatively formal sources, Reverso Contexto provides example sentences professionally translated from movies, dialogues, official documents, websites, and newspapers. 

Other resources include Reverso’s dictionary (which is usually from Collin’s) a verb conjugator, French and English grammar articles, a thesaurus, and a document translator.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

How to Study Korean Mini-Review: Sets You Up for Success

How to study Korean – 4.5 

How to Study Korean explains concepts from the perspective of a non-Korean speaker. It is a thorough grammar and vocabulary guide for beginner to intermediate students that will set you up for success in your Korean studies. This may not be the best option if you prefer learning through interaction and bite-sized pieces of information, as each lesson can be over 12 pages long excluding the hands-on exercises — however, the lessons will give you an intimate understanding of sentence structure, allowing you to build your own sentences rather than just learning basic phrases.

There are 7 units, each with 25 lessons (plus quizzes and a test). Each lesson includes twenty to thirty new words, grammar explanations, and audio recordings of every Korean word and sentence. Furthermore, the authors have inputted all the vocabulary words into free Memrise decks for your convenience.

In the earlier lessons, there are YouTube videos with sentence practice, dictations, reading practice, and more. Every lesson has accompanying purchasable supplementary material to support your studies — you can buy workbooks and vocabulary lists to accompany the lessons, and short stories meticulously developed by Seulgi and Will.

You can read many of the beginner lessons from the perspective of multiple languages, including Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, and Chinese (then only Spanish after unit 3).

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Spanish Obsessed Mini-Review: Subscription Offers More

Spanish Obsessed – 4.5 

Language learning podcasts often have different levels, but they usually expect you to magically advance in the space between them. Lis and Rob, on the other hand, seem to seamlessly transition from level to level. They differentiate between Spanish from scratch and beginner Spanish, and the intermediate level is a realistic step up from the beginner episodes.

You can listen to their podcasts on a couple of different platforms, but listening on their website gives you the advantage of following the podcasts like a course. You can gain access to special courses with a subscription, such as those that focus on pronunciation and vocabulary. Each episode’s page has a line-by-line interactive time-stamped transcript — by clicking on the time stamp next to a line of text from the dialogue, you can jump to that sentence within the recording. You can also see a translation with notes that elaborate on the different phrases or word usage (or correct some of Rob’s speech). Unfortunately, the page does not follow along with the podcast, so you will have to manually scroll down as you listen.

The advanced episodes feel more like upper-intermediate Spanish, so advanced learners may not feel as challenged. However, for the beginner to the intermediate learner, Spanish Obsessed is full of opportunities to improve your skills.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Everyday Chinese Mini-Review: Some Good Hits for Every Miss

Everday Chinese – 3.5 

Everyday Chinese provides a free YouTube channel and purchasable courses. The teachers ensure that you learn how real-life mandarin is spoken, even in the most basic lessons — you will hear the voices of Chinese speakers ranging from 7 to 60 years old so you can train your ear to different vocal ranges and accents.

On the YouTube channel, you can explore idioms, cultural nuances, HSK content, and more. Some of the videos seem like a list of words or phrases, but most contain valuable tidbits or grammar points. For beginners, they have 39 free intro lessons that seem to lead up to the Everyday Chinese 101 course that you can buy on their site.

The videos may not always be as engaging as those in YoYo Chinese or Mandarin Corner, but they cover a lot of grammar and vocabulary words. They also mainly use Chinese in the upper-level videos to help with your listening comprehension, which is not always the case in other videos. 

On the website, there are free MP3s, quizzes, and PDFs that accompany the YouTube videos. There, you can also purchase the courses, which contain videos, quizzes, word reviews, dialogues, grammar points, language tips, and cultural notes. The HSK courses, in particular, seem to be well done, although you do end up paying about $60 for only 20 days of content.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Chinese Boost Mini-Review: Has Helpful Blog Posts About Learning

Chinese Boost – 3.5 

Chinese Boost provides grammar articles and Chinese learning blog posts. You can search the Chinese grammar articles by HSK or CEFR level, keywords, characters, parts of speech, functions, and several other tags. They also have over 40 blog posts that focus on improving the effectiveness of your Chinese study techniques.

The site only has about 50 grammar articles. The articles themselves have lots of examples, but they seem more lengthy than they need to be. In contrast, the website Chinese Grammar Wiki appears to say more with fewer explanations, relying on examples and context to clarify different grammar points. Chinese Boost could be used as a supplemental resource to Chinese Grammar Wiki if some concepts require more explanation. 

Other than the grammar explanations, Chinese Boost’s Chinese learning blog has some useful tips to add to your language-learning toolbox. They also have a Hanzi Chinese Characters to Pinyin Conversion tool, which can be very helpful when making Anki flashcards or other self-study resources.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

ShuoShuo Chinese Mini-Review: A True Gem

ShuoShuo Chinese – 4.5 

Shuo is a native Chinese speaker and teacher who lives in Thailand. Every week she uploads YouTube videos exploring Chinese vocabulary, grammar, and culture, showing you how to use simple concepts to make your Chinese sound more advanced (like in this video). She diversifies her videos by adding video clips and images, interviewing different people (like Steve Kaufmann!), dressing up as different characters, and reenacting scenes from her life. She makes the lessons fun, and if you pay close attention you’ll notice that she also has an excellent sense of humour. 

Shuo mostly uses English to explain different concepts, but she has videos dedicated to listening practice with subtitles and translations. She also identifies the level of HSK vocabulary words she uses.

Although Shuo does not have the hundreds of videos that other channels may have accumulated, the quality of her videos is reflected in the over 56k subscribers she seems to have accumulated in less than a year. Her channel has material from HSK 1-6, so learners of all levels can find some gems of knowledge. She understands Chinese learners’ potential missteps and clearly explains how to avoid them — even the beginner videos contain concepts that an upper-intermediate learner may not have considered, so check them out!

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Dig Mandarin Mini-Review: Thorough But Dry HSK Courses

Dig Mandarin – 3 

Dig Mandarin has about eight different types of courses, many of which focus on the HSK exams. You can specify which aspect of the HSK you want to work on, or you can take a full HSK course for each level that focuses on character writing, vocabulary, grammar, and HSK mock exams.

One of the teachers on the site uses animations and colourful videos for her lessons, while the rest use simple PowerPoint presentations. Watching their videos feels similar to attending a university class, which may or may not be your style. They do seem to thoroughly cover the HSK curriculum if that is your only goal — if your goal is to become functional in Chinese, however, perhaps consider investing a little more into courses from YoYo Chinese or ChineseFor.Us, especially if you’re a beginner to intermediate learner.

Besides the courses, Dig Chinese has some helpful articles, including some that differentiate between words with similar meanings (like 连忙, 急忙, and 匆忙). They also have sections on learning vocabulary, but these pages are simply lists of vocabulary words with an image and a recording — if you are determined to actually learn new words, use Pleco‘s Flashcards or Ninchanese instead.

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The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.