Cantonese

The Best Language Courses for Learning Cantonese in 2021

Learning Cantonese can feel intimidating—but it doesn’t have to be. With the right course, you can learn everything from basic vocabulary and pronunciation to how to conduct business in Cantonese.

Here, we’re sharing which resources are excellent for learning Cantonese. Of course, we’ll also cover the courses that are decent enough—but not stellar—and the options you should probably avoid.

We’ll explain our reasoning with the pros and cons of each language course option. Ready?

Let’s get started with our top-tier choices for learning to speak Cantonese. (more…)

The 8 Best Podcasts to Learn Cantonese in 2021

Learning Cantonese, whether in a classroom setting or via an online course, can be challenging. Thankfully, there are a lot of different online resources that can help make your learning experience go just a little more smoothly.

One of these resources is podcasts.

Listening to language-learning podcasts is a great way to complement your efforts. They’re available for all kinds of skill levels and teach you all kinds of different things, depending on the podcast you choose.

Interested in learning more about Cantonese podcasts and how they might be able to help you learn Cantonese? Check out these eight best podcast options.

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LingQ

Quick Review

Summary:

LingQ is a language learning platform that makes it easy to read and listen to interesting content at varying difficulty levels. As you read, words will be marked as known and LingQ tracks the total number of words you “know”. The content comes from lots of different places with very little of it being original. They also make it very easy to upload your own content.

Quality

The LingQ reading app is enjoyable in most languages, easy to use, and can expand your vocabulary. However, I found the user content frustrating to navigate.

Thoroughness

With the import function, users can choose to study almost anything they want.

Value

Now that other apps provide similar functions, the monthly subscription may be a bit overpriced. However, the yearly subscription seems fair.

Languages

Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, English, Korean, French, Russian, German, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Greek, Polish, Esperanto, Belarusian, Latin, Ukrainian. There are also 20 additional languages in Beta.

Price

Premium membership costs $12.99/mo, $71.94/half-year, $107.88/year, $191.76/2-years; single-language lifetime membership costs $199

When I first signed up for LingQ, I wasn’t very impressed. Its seemingly random lesson library, filled with custom cover photos and inconsistent title formats, made me want to click on just about anything to get away from that page.

However, after exploring every function I could find, I realized that the reading tool has several useful functions for anyone trying to learn a language through extensive reading. Most importantly, it makes reading in other languages feel manageable.

The site has three main pages: Lessons, Tutors, and Community. Within them, you can find free and purchasable lessons, coins, an avatar, writing exchanges, a community forum, audio playlists, and challenges.

I mostly used LingQ for reading in Spanish and dabbled in French, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, and Korean.

Choosing a Lesson

Three of the first articles that appear on the application's homepage with the percentage of unknown words highlighted in red.

Judging by how LingQ advertises learning a “language from content you love”, I assumed that the lesson library was where the gold is. However, I felt like I was looking at a pool of random content rather than curated texts and struggled to identify lessons that sparked my curiosity.

Although LingQ lets you browse the lessons by topic, the lessons didn’t always match the topic I had chosen. I eventually chose a guided course, which consisted of a more organized series of lessons within a specific theme.

Each title in the library displays the percentage of new words within the text plus the number of words from which you have created LingQs (we will get more into that in a moment).

As you read and differentiate between known and unknown words, you will be able to assess which content is most suitable to your level.

You can also see how many people liked the lesson and the level category (although these are determined by whoever uploaded the text, so they are not always accurate).

It seems that users contribute most of LingQ’s content and source it from podcasts, books, magazines, news sites, textbooks, and more. Sometimes I found high-quality lessons uploaded by paid resources themselves to advertise their products.

Although LingQ does its best to delete copyrighted content, they do not seem to be actively filtering through the lessons and courses. Therefore, you may occasionally find plagiarized books or other media on the site.

LingQ has a series of guided beginner courses whose lessons build on one another, introducing a limited number of new words each lesson and continually reinforcing them in each section. Unfortunately, after you go through the basic lessons, you will mostly be on your own to find content appropriate for your level.

Several words in Swedish from a beginner lesson with words highlighted in blue and yellow.

Finally, the “Lesson Store” tab includes paid material. At the time of this writing, they were only available in Spanish and included material by popular products such as Linguaphone and Spanish Stories by Olly Richards.

Importing Your Own Material

Page for importing lessons manually

The best part about LingQ is that they make it easy to import almost any ebook, blog post, news article, YouTube video, and even Netflix subtitles into the app.

Space to import ebooks into the application

With the LingQ browser extension, it gets even easier — I could import blog posts and news articles in seconds and open the lesson directly from that page.

And that’s not all.

Quick-Import screen from the LingQ Chrome Extension

The LingQ browser extension can also import any YouTube, Animelon, or Viki video with subtitles. Then, it will create a downloadable audio file from the video that you can sync with the subtitles. Sometimes it takes a bit of tinkering to get the audio and text to sync, but the platform makes it relatively straightforward to do.

YouTube video from EnchufeTV with highlighted subtitles

I enjoy watching YouTube videos in Spanish, but I’m often not sure how much I actually understand. My favorite way to use LingQ was to import a video, then read and listen to the subtitles one by one. After several repetitions, I was able to listen to the audio without the text and identify words that I had originally only understood through context. A similar tool is available on Yabla, but it doesn’t let you import your own content, nor does it highlight your unknown words

Lessons: LingQs and Definitions

The first page of El Principito in the LingQ reading tool with all the words highlighted in blue.

The first lesson that you open, whether it be from LingQ, another user, or personal imports, will have a mass of blue words. Your goal is to turn all of those words either yellow or colourless to complete the lesson.

By clicking on blue words or phrases, you automatically turn them yellow and create a LingQ. These LingQs earn you coins and also appear in SRS flashcards for later review. You can then choose a common definition from the community or write your own from a dictionary of your choice.

The Spanish word, náufrago, highlighted in dark yellow The Spanish word, náufrago, highlighted in yellow The Spanish word, náufrago, highlighted in light yellow and underlined The Spanish word, náufrago, underlined

Although there is also the option to identify how well you know the word on a scale of 1-4, this is only relevant if you consistently use the SRS flashcards or if you want to see your words appear in different shades of yellow.

A page of definitions and choices for different dictionaries within the LingQ reading tool

Once you have chosen a definition, you can see a list of common questions about the word or ask a community tutor in the forum.

A series of community questions and a text box to ask your own question

Flipping to the next page will mark all blue words as known, while the arrow in the bottom right-hand corner allows you to review all of the LingQs from the current page through SRS flashcards.

Page with user's chosen definition of a given word

A neat feature in English, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Russian, is that verbs will automatically generate a series of tags to identify who is speaking, the infinitive form, and the verb tense. Keep in mind that identifying one verb tense as known does not identify any other conjugation of that verb as known.

Many lessons also include an audio file with adjustable speeds, which will be added to a playlist after you have completed the entire lesson. I found it helpful to listen to the audio after reading the text to test my listening comprehension.

Page from the book,

Of all the functions LingQ’s reading tool provides, I was primarily motivated by watching blue words decrease in frequency as my LingQs and known words increased.

Flashcards

Adjustable settings for flashcard review

There are several types of SRS flashcards that you can use for reviewing LingQs, either with specific words at the end of each page of a lesson or in the vocabulary section at any time. These include regular flashcards, reverse flashcards, cloze deletions, multiple-choice questions, or dictations. They are based on the definitions and contexts from which you chose each word.

A flashcard with the Spanish word, A flashcard with an English definition A flashcard with a word in Spanish and multiple choice options A flashcard with an audio file and a text box to type a response

If you are a beginner or intermediate learner, you may be intimidated by the numerous LingQs that appear for review by the end of a lesson.

Button showing 171 words for review

But, fear not — LingQ explicitly states that the purpose of the platform is to learn words in context, and it is not necessary to go back and review hundreds of LingQs at a time.

Personally, if there were 6 – 7 LingQs on a page I was reading, I reviewed them for extra practice, but any more than that and I moved on.

Lessons in Chinese and Japanese

LingQ’s structure is not necessarily a best-fit for all languages. I found LingQ enjoyable, motivating, and effective for my Spanish studies, but far less so for Chinese.

Unless you want to read as much of your own content as possible, I think that Chinese and Japanese learners will find more specialized support from graded readers. Typically, these provide context-specific definitions and explanations.

For example, The Chairman’s Bao identifies grammar, keywords, and proper nouns, in addition to providing writing practice, stroke order diagrams, and flashcards. Satori Reader for Japanese also identifies key grammar points and vocabulary explanations for how words are used in specific contexts.

Given that LingQ serves so many different languages, it’s understandable that most of these very helpful features are not available on the platform. However, LingQ’s lack of specialization does make it difficult to recommend for these languages.

Other Features

Combined with the SRS flashcards, the reading tool was the only part of the site that I enjoyed using. The rest of the platform seems to mush features from several other resources together, most of which detracted from my overall experience.

Community Features

In theory, it can be motivating to have a community of fellow language learners who interact with the same resource. However, I found LingQ’s approach to integrating these features less effective than with other apps.

There’s a community forum for language learning discussions, a series of language learning challenges, and an area for writing exchange.

I found the writing exchange feature to be less interactive and customizable than those in LangCorrect or Busuu. This could be because users can’t filter the language they want to provide corrections for. Therefore, whether or not you receive a correction may be dependent on if a native speaker is looking to correct someone’s work at the exact moment that your sample appears near the top of the writing feed.

Tutors

Anyone can become a community tutor and set a rate for both speaking and writing corrections. Like Verbling and italki, LingQ takes 15% of the charged fee. Unlike Verbling and italki, there don’t seem to be any student testimonials, and I couldn’t see how many students contributed to the tutor’s star rating. Ultimately, I prefer to use iTalki or Verbling, where the application process for tutors and teachers requires more verification.

Avatar

The purpose of the reading tool is to create LingQs, which in turn earns you coins. However, the only way to spend these coins is on your avatar’s clothing and background. Therefore, one might assume that the avatar would be an important feature on LingQ.

Not so much.

Judging by the outdated Comic Sans font in the avatar store, and everything else about it, I don’t think it has been updated in several years.

The way users can interact with the avatar items is limited. Each clothing item is attached to an outfit, so as much as I tried, I could not make my flamenco dancer wear soccer shoes.

Additionally, several background items require the purchase of a previous background item, but these items cannot be used simultaneously.

A small blue creature with feet but no arms A blue creature with arms and legs, flamenco dancer hair, and high heels

I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t use my LingQ coins for anything useful, or at least enjoyable. Hopefully, LingQ will change this in the future.

LingQ Does Not Provide the Same Support as Graded Readers

LingQ’s approach to providing level-appropriate content is based on the user’s experience using the app and not on pedagogically curated material. Therefore, I would only use it at times when my goal is to read as much content as possible. Otherwise, I would still prefer graded readers or graded reading apps.

Du Chinese, the Chairman’s Bao, and Pleco’s graded readers are still my first recommendation for Chinese.

Beginner and intermediate German learners with Android devices may prefer Readle, which has reading comprehension questions at the end of each level-appropriate lesson.

Although I have not tried Satori Reader, our team’s review paints it as an ideal app for advanced Japanese learners who are nearly, but not yet ready for native speaker content.

Only the Premium Version is Worth It

Given that the best part about LingQ is being able to identify known and unknown words at the glance of a page, the free version is pretty much useless.

It only allows 5 imported lessons and 20 LingQs total — whether or not you delete them from your vocabulary list. Exceeding this limit prevents you from looking up definitions, marking words as known, or identifying unknown words. To me, this completely defeated the purpose of the app.

Text describing how much 1 on 1 conversations, group discussions, and writing corrections cost.

On the other hand, the Premium Plus version at $39.99/mo adds 3000 points each month, which allows you to purchase live classes, writing corrections, group discussions, and lessons from the lesson store. All of these features can be easily replaced by higher quality services, such as italki and LangCorrect.

So, I would only recommend the premium version, which costs $12.99/mo or $107.88/year.

Downgrading to the Free Version is a Pain

One frustrating part about LingQ is that the developers make it very difficult to downgrade to the free membership.

First, LingQ will try to entice you with several different offers to make you stay. One of them gives you 50% off three months. Another offers you the “Vacation Plan,” which costs $2/month to store all of your data. Lastly, it will offer you a lifetime plan for one language.

Once you get to the last offer and click “delete my data,” you will probably encounter a popup that informs you to delete all but 5 of your lessons.

It is impossible to downgrade unless you go back and manually delete your lessons, which is disappointing if you were planning on using them for the remainder of your payment period.

Similar Resources

OPLingo has many similar features to LingQ, including allowing you to import your own text, embed YouTube videos with subtitles, and identify unknown and known words. The free version allows you to look up unlimited words, but like LingQ, it also limits users to adding 20 unknown words.

I am a huge fan of OPLingo because of how they use their subscription fees for international outreach projects, but LingQ currently has a more intuitive and developed user interface.

Readlang also has a similar, limited free function, which allows you to identify words you are learning across texts. It also rates the difficulty of each text in the library based on the CEFR scale (although the accuracy of this is questionable). Unfortunately, it only supports .txt and .epub imports, and it takes far more effort to sync YouTube subtitles compared to LingQ.

Final Thoughts

I found LingQ most effective and enjoyable for Spanish, which I can read at an intermediate level. It was least useful for languages in which I have no background or am mostly fluent.

Although I did not enjoy the lesson library, I’m sure that others would see it as a goldmine for interesting content. I was more than happy to use the import functions for my own material without sifting through community content.

I would not use LingQ for any feature except for the reading tool, but this feature is so useful that it would be worth the subscription price.

The SRS flashcard system is great for reviewing vocabulary on specific lesson pages, but I would never try to learn all of my accumulated LingQs through regular review. I prefer to learn new words through paying special attention to those I had previously highlighted and incorporating some words into writing for correction by my Spanish tutor or the LangCorrect community.

Overall, I have a lot of criticisms about the platform as a whole, but I think the reading tool is great. If you don’t need to look at a fancy user interface or import PDF files, Readlang and OPLingo are fine alternatives.

Our top picks for language resources vary by language — you can find our favourite reviews for the language you’re learning at the bottom of this page.

MOST RECOMMEND RESOURCES BY LANGUAGE

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AmazingTalker

2.5 
Price: From around $10 per 50-minute class

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AmazingTalker is an italki and Verbling competitor that lets you book classes with language teachers and academic tutors of your choice. It has a lot of attractive features for students, but teachers complain about high commission rates and lack of support.

It boasts a 3% acceptance rate for teachers and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy with your class, they’ll rebook you another one for free. There are lots of teachers to choose from, or you can also use their AI Matching Service to find a tutor. The teachers’ profiles include videos, reviews, and their résumé.

However, AmazingTalker doesn’t seem a great choice for teachers. It charges English and Japanese teachers astonishingly high commission rates of up to 30%. While these rates fall as teachers earn more through the site, they have to make $1,500 a month before the commission reaches levels comparable to italki and Verbling. Making it worse, there’s an additional 8% fee for payment processing and tax that all teachers have to pay, no matter what language they teach. 

There have also been complaints on Reddit from teachers claiming to have been harassed by students and fellow teachers. However, we cannot corroborate these.

Given all this, we’d recommend trying italki (review) or Verbling (review) first. Alternatively, check out our guide to the best platforms for online language classes.

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.

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Verbling

Quick Review

4.6 

Summary:

Verbling is an online language-class marketplace where you can take lessons with teachers of your choice. It has some student-friendly extra features, including a built-in online classroom, flashcards, homework calendar, and a filing system for lesson materials. There are also useful but disorganized forums where you can discuss languages, share writing for critique, and do free language drills and exercises.

The lessons are generally high quality and well structured, plus the filters make it easy to find teachers who specialize in everything from accent reduction to interview preparation. 

However, it can be slightly pricier than alternatives, so if you’re on a tight budget, you may want to look elsewhere. It also has fewer languages than some of the bigger competitors, so it might not be a good choice if you want to study Azerbaijani, Khmer, or Yoruba.

Teacher Quality 

There are some less experienced teachers, but I found the lessons to be more consistently high quality than on italki.

Platform 

The classroom technology, flashcards, and filing system are fantastic for learners and easy to use.

Value

Some teachers charge more than on italki, but you get better classroom technology, more privacy, and fewer disorganized teachers.

Languages

Verbling lists 65 different languages on their platform, from Spanish and Mandarin Chinese through to Twi and Berber. Not all of them have available teachers, however.

Price

Prices are set by the teacher and range from $5 to $75 for an hour-long lesson. You can get discounts for buying packs of 5, 10, or 20 lessons with a teacher. Every student gets one free trial lesson, after which they’re $6 each.

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Complete Language Lessons

0.2 
Price: $8.99 for the CD/$1.29 per track on Amazon, free on Spotify

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Complete Language Lessons has audio courses for numerous languages on Amazon, Spotify, and Deezer. We tried out the Swahili audio course, Learn Swahili Easily, Effectively, and Fluently – and were extremely disappointed.

The audio tracks we sampled consist of Swahili phrases repeated over and over again, with no translations, explanations, or anything in English. The audio quality isn’t great, either, and the occasional muted club music adds to the bizarreness. 

It feels to us like the audio tracks are supposed to accompany a textbook, but we couldn’t find one. If one existed at some point, we suspect it’s no longer available.

If you already speak the language and are looking for native audio recordings to help you improve your listening and pronunciation, you might get some value out of Complete Language Lessons. However, if your aim is learn the language, we would skip these CDs.

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.

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lexilogos

3.5 
Price: Free

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Although Lexilogos seems to have entirely neglected its aesthetics, it holds more than meets the eye. If you click on one of the 130+ languages listed at the bottom of the page, you will find a series of resources to support your studies. This is especially useful for less-studied languages, like Marathi, Basque, and Pashto. Although the lists don’t provide recommendations for applications, they do provide a list of dictionaries, keyboards, news sites, books, and research papers. Additionally, if you switch to the French version of the site, there are even more languages and resources available for you to explore.

Within each language’s page, there is also a dictionary search function. You will notice that more commonly studied languages will have dozens of dictionaries to choose from, while less commonly studied languages may only have one or two.

Overall, Lexilogos is a great option for finding resources for less commonly studied languages. They regularly update their site, so make sure to check back if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time around.

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.

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Pimsleur

Price: Subscriptions start at $14.95/mo

Quick Review

Summary:

Pimsleur is one of the most popular and longest-standing resources out there for learning a foreign language. Its courses place a strong emphasis on aural and verbal communication skills, paying less attention to grammar explanations and reading or writing skills. There are over 50 language courses available with Pimsleur, and the bulk of the material is taught with audio lessons.

Quality

The platform is extremely well designed and easy to use. The content seems to be of high quality at all levels.

Thoroughnes

Timely repetition and active practice work well, and lessons build on each other nicely, but the “intermediate fluency in 30 days” claim may be a stretch.

Value

The subscription option provides good value for some, but there may be more efficient ways to learn some languages.

Languages

There are courses in over 50 languages; you’ll find popular ones like German, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese alongside less common languages like Albanian, Finnish, and Haitian Creole.

Price

Subscriptions of either $14.95/month or $19.95/month are available for courses with at least 60 lessons. Prices otherwise range from around $20 to over $500. All purchases come with a 7-day free trial.

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ilovelanguages.org

1.6 
Price: Free

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iLoveLanguages seems similar to iLanguages and Learn101 in that every language has the same content and grammar. The eighteen 30-minute beginner ‘lessons’ in every language are essentially lists of phrases and vocabulary words, with audio recordings by native speakers.

The site seems to provide a local teacher for each language, but for some reason, the same teacher offers at least 11 of the languages (including Gaelic, Basque, Filipino, Marathi, and Cantonese). Oddly enough, this teacher also appears in stock photos around the internet. Considering that the website advertises each language class as being taught by a native speaker, perhaps be cautious if you are considering taking a class from this site — maybe try italki or SpanishVIP for private lessons instead.

iLoveLanguages may be helpful if you want to hear native speakers pronounce words in South-Eastern languages, like Marathi, Gujarati, Vietnamese, or Malay. You can compare the pronunciation with the speakers from either iLanguages or Learn 101 (but not both, as they use identical audio files). You could also check out Forvo, which is probably the most extensive pronunciation database on the internet right now. 

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.

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Master Any Language

0.2 
Price: Free

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Master Any Language has a counterintuitive interface with activities that are frustrating to navigate. Its only perk is that it supports less-studied languages, but even if you do find yourself lacking resources in your target language, this website will probably detract from your learning. You will jump through hoops trying to find the audio recordings by native speakers, so you may want to try ilovelanguages or Learn101 instead; they have low ratings, but they won’t make you lose your motivation to learn altogether.

Most of the activities on Master Any Language are matching games that require you to click on two identical characters, words, or letters: the purpose of this is unclear because it tests neither recall nor recognition. Another activity asks you to form or match nonsensical sequences of words (Ex. Find the sentence identical to “el el el el tchèque tchèque tchèque el el tchèque tchèque”….).

Ultimately, you would probably be better off trying to decipher a page of text with absolutely no guidance than to even attempt to wrap your head around MAL’s activities.

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.

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