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Tatoeba

3.3 
Price: Free

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Tatoeba is a sentence-focused reference dictionary, not word focused. Therefore, by searching for a word in any language, you are searching for examples of that word in context. The site is community-driven, but you don’t have to be multilingual to contribute to the site — it needs native-speaking writers to expand the example database and proofread user sentences.

All of the translations are interconnected: even if there is technically no direct translation from Zulu to Chinese, an English translation for the same sentences in both languages will provide direct translations between them.

Although Tatoeba supports about 388 languages, about 200 of these languages have less than 100 sentences, and about 58 have less than 10. Nevertheless, the database is continuously growing, and with more community members, the less common languages may have a chance to develop further.

It is prohibited to use a translation tool or copyrighted sentences to contribute to the translation database. Unfortunately, some contributors write in a language in which they are not proficiently fluent. As a result, the site has grammatical mistakes and sentences that don’t sound natural. You may have to do some digging to figure out if the contributor is a native speaker or not.

Because of the potential user errors on the site, you may want to check out WordReference, Pleco, SpanishDict, Kanji Study , and Linguee to find words in context for more commonly studied languages.

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Loecsen

2.5 
Price: Free

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Loecsen’s strengths are its attractive interface and drawings that accompany the content. It also uses high-quality audio recordings by native speakers, even in the less-common languages.

The website offers 41 different languages, but unfortunately, there are only about 432 phrases to learn, which will not take you beyond even the absolute basics. These phrases are practical, however, so in a pinch, they may save you abroad.

Despite the attractive interface, the buttons are not very intuitive, so you may have to click around to figure out what each one does. Below the main interactive program, you can see a list of vocabulary and a progress bar for speaking and vocabulary activities — the vocabulary highlights in green as you complete the quizzes. At the very bottom of the page, you can also see an overview of basic pronunciation.

For pronunciation practice, the read-aloud tool provides you with a series of songs or text excerpts that you can record yourself reading aloud and then compare with the original song (or a robot voice).

If you’re just looking to learn basic essential phrases and pick up some vocabulary for a trip, Loecsen is an attractive program for the very casual learner. Otherwise, many other resources can take you to at least the intermediate level in most of the same languages.

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ilanguages

1.3 
Price: Free

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Learn 101 is almost identical to iLanguages; they have the same native speaker audio files, languages, and mostly identical ‘lesson’ layouts. The main differences are that Learn 101 seems to have added some grammar explanations and reformatted a bit, while iLanguages seems to have added some extra phrases.

Since every one of the languages’ “lessons” has the exact same format, including the grammar section, you will learn how to say ‘and’, ‘but’, and ‘or’, in 107 languages, but you will not learn where these types of words fit within a specific language’s sentence structure. Every page is just a list of words with a translation (and sometimes an IPA symbol transliteration).

This site could be used if you want to hear native speakers pronounce basic words in very rare languages, or if you want to look up the IPA symbols of a rare language’s alphabet — otherwise, you’re probably better off making flashcards yourself on Anki or trying one of the hundreds of other resources we recommend on this site.

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itranslate

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iTranslate is a dictionary, thesaurus, and phrasebook. At first glance, it seems similar to Google Translate’s free app, but a couple of extra paid features make a big difference.

Like with Google Translate, you can take pictures of text in your surroundings, such as signs or newspapers, and receive instant translations into your native language. It differs in that you can also take pictures of objects in your surroundings and receive translations into your target language (although it’s not clear what the boundaries are on this function).

Two people who don’t speak the same language can use iTranslate Converse as a mediator between them, translating each sentence to create a transcript on their phone (with a slight delay). You can also use the iTranslate Keyboard in any texting app to receive instant translations.

To get the most out of your subscription, iTranslate includes five different apps that can support language learning and communication through text, voice, and games. Although iTranslate translates into over 100 languages, check the website to verify which languages are supported in the other apps.

iTranslate seems suitable for traveling and communication in different languages. If all you need is a dictionary to support your studies, try WordReference and Linguee, or Pleco for Chinese and SpanishDict for Spanish.

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Strokes International

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Strokes International sells courses for 24 different languages. They’re more focused on European languages, from the popular German, Spanish, and French through to Slovakian, Czech, and Danish. They do have a couple of non-European ones, though, such as Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese.

Using a Strokes International course feels a bit like going back in time. You have to download the program onto your computer (and we had to install additional software to run it). In the days of language apps and on-the-go learning, this seems a little inconvenient.

Despite that, the course seems to be fairly effective. You listen to and repeat a natural conversation, before being slowly taught the words and phrases. You practice speaking them aloud, typing them, and playing Match Pairs card games.

Although grammar takes a back seat, there are explanatory notes throughout and you can access a detailed grammar guide. There’s also a Pronunciation Trainer and Vocabulary Trainer.

The Danish beginner course, which we briefly trialed, has 100 lessons.

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Vocly

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Vocly is a vocabulary learning app that uses a couple of different techniques to reinforce new words (although it’s unclear whether or not the app uses an SRS system). Each word comes with audio pronunciation by native speakers and a toggle to either reveal or hide the romanization of the word. As with most of Simya Solution’s apps, Vocly is best for languages with fewer available resources.

Instead of using English translations in the flashcard activities, the app will prompt you to associate the new word with a small picture. On one hand, this will help you make fewer translations into your native language. On the other hand, the pictures can be ambiguous and you may forget what they symbolize.

The flashcard activities include matching activities, identifying new words that fit under a specific category, matching the sound of a word to an image, and asking you to spell the word in the language’s script.

Unfortunately, the free version only allows 7 minutes of learning per day, which can feel rushed. Ling is a more comprehensive option for learning multiple facets of a language, but if your goal is to expand your vocabulary, Vocly has over 1600 words. The paid version is quite expensive for what it offers compared to other resources, but for less common languages it is a fun and interactive option.

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Simply Learn

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In Simply Learn, by Simya Solutions, you can search for and review over 1000 phrases in over 30 categories. It takes the typical phrasebook app one step further by allowing you to add your favorite phrases to SRS flashcards. Given that its developers also developed Ling, an additional, more comprehensive resource that supports language learning, it seems that Simply Learn is a supplementary app for individuals who need to learn basic phrases for traveling abroad. 

The creators don’t seem to have intended for people to use this app to learn a language in its entirety, but rather to support them in memorizing basic phrases for travel. As with Simya Solutions’ other apps, Simply Learn is most helpful for less commonly learned languages, such as Hokkien and Khmer.

Beginners can access the basic cards for free, but the advanced traveler will have to make a one-time purchase to access all the content. If what you truly want is to have a set of phrases under your belt, Simply Learn’s SRS flashcards and native-speaker audio can support you. However, if you are studying a less commonly learned language and want to understand the basic sentence patterns and writing system, check out Ling.

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Easy Languages

4.3 

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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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Anki

4.1 
Price: Free

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It is the go-to app for free (except on iOS) Spaced Repetition System (SRS) flashcards. It has a simple user interface with various features that more hard-core users can dive into if they choose.

Your flashcards will appear according to your natural forgetting curve; the app will test you in increasingly spaced out intervals, with more difficult cards appearing more than once in a session, while easier cards spacing out over weeks — or even months and years. An SRS system is the most effective way to drive information into your long-term memory.

The cards can sync between the web, desktop app, and mobile versions to keep your flashcards updated and with you at all times. You can add images and audio clips to your cards and change the text formatting (if you use it on your computer). One feature unique to Anki, as opposed to other SRS flashcard apps, is the “Cloze deletion” function, which allows you to block out parts of your card and create a “fill-in-the-blanks” type card format.

If you want a resource for how to make effective flashcards, check out the book, FluentForever. The author leaves a whole section dedicated to understanding how to use your Anki deck to advance your skills quickly.

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Encore!!! Language Learning

1.5 
Price: Free

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Encore!!! Language Learning allows you to listen to playlists of common phrases, vocabulary, conjugations, and dialogues. It varies in terms of whether it uses native speakers or automated text-to-voice.

The app is basically a phrasebook that allows you to practice translating sentences to and from your native language, or simply repeat after an audio in your target language. You can listen to a pre-made playlist, mute or unmute certain phrases within a playlist, adjust the number of repetitions of each phrase, or create your own playlist. You can also test your memory with the Test tool by reading prompts in your native language and translating into your target language.

The app seems to focus more on understanding grammar structures than other phrasebook sites like Optilingo or Lingohut. Technically you could learn something by repeating the phrases aloud, but there are many other free apps that provide a clearer learning path and have a more intuitive interface than Encore!!! Language Learning.

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