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Langu Mini Review: A Quality-Focused italki Alternative


Rating 4.2

Classes start at $10.50, some teachers offer a free trial


Langu is an italki competitor with some compelling factors in its favor. Just like with italki, you search its online database of teachers to book private lessons with them at times of your choosing. You can read other students’ reviews and take trial classes. Unlike italki, there are no booking fees and you can purchase in a range of currencies, including euros and British pounds. Langu also boasts its own intuitive, web-hosted classroom software, meaning you don’t have to download a program or give your teacher your contact details. This also means that all shared links, videos, and worksheets are stored on Langu. The biggest downside to Langu, in comparison with italki, is that you’ll have a smaller choice of teachers and there are no community features (forum, exercise tools, etc.). The classes also tend to be slightly more expensive. On the other hand, Langu claims that all its teachers are “top teachers” – they have to submit a video application and be approved before joining the website – and offers to give students personal recommendations for specific teachers via email, if needed. While we’ve taken classes with one Langu teacher and were impressed by the quality of the classes, we can’t comment on whether all Langu’s teachers meet the same standards.

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SuperMemo Mini-Review: Not to Be Confused With Super-Memo


Rating 3.0

Free trial, $9.90/mo


*The app SuperMemo is often confused with Super-Memo SuperMemo seems to advertise its courses and their efficacy by emphasizing the SuperMemo Method. The website states that it is the only scientifically-proven computer-aided learning method — however, the method is a typical Spaced Repetition System that Brainscape, Anki, Pleco, Skritter, SpanishDict, and countless other resources use. If SuperMemo made any special improvements, they do not stand out. SuperMemo’s courses can be accessed through a monthly membership or through purchasing individual courses. Each course contains a series of flashcards with some interactive activities (such as fill-in-the-blanks, multiple-choice questions, and dropdown menus). In some beginner courses, like Hungarian and Dutch, you can learn basic pronunciation with the International Phonetic Alphabet; this can support you in both understanding and producing the sounds of the language later one. They also use native speaker pronunciation to train your ear. The Fast Track courses may have potential, but there do not seem to be many grammar explanations, and it may be up to you to understand your errors. Additionally, you may find that you are suddenly reading translations from your target language in Polish, whether or not you speak Polish. Overall, Supermemo seems okay, but there are probably other resources that will help you learn a language more effectively.

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Speekoo Mini-Review: Dip Your Toes in a Language and Culture


Rating 2.5

Classes start at $15/hour


Learning with Speekoo is more of a cultural journey than an intensive language learning app. With every lesson, you will explore some tourist attractions, unusual aspects, and funny anecdotes about different cities that speak the language you are studying. With each correct answer, you “walk” a kilometre further on your journey and gradually unlock videos and articles. Unfortunately, all of these features are in English (or French if you are learning from French). Speekoo’s free lessons build on one another, and you can easily apply new words to your everyday life. Unfortunately, although you will effectively learn what the app teaches you, the extent of the material will only give you the absolute basics of each language. You will not be able to have even simple conversations once you have finished all the levels. The app also doesn’t introduce new scripts, so you won’t learn how to read Japanese or Chinese; instead, you will write the sounds using the English alphabet. Despite its simplicity, Speekoo is a fun, free option for the extremely casual learner who wants to dip their toes in a language. Hopefully, the developers will take the levels further.

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WordReference Mini-Review: Thorough and Professionally Translated


Rating 4.5



WordReference is one of the best websites for single-word translations. It uses a combination of its own dictionaries and Collins’, depending on the language, and relies on professional translations rather than machine-translations. With each word you look up, you will receive multiple examples of how to use it, nuances of each meaning, and a list of how to incorporate it into multiple phrases. Whereas sites like seem to have machine-translated examples that sound quite random at times, WordReference’s examples can be applied directly to your everyday conversation. You can also find conjugation tables and the Collins COBUILD English Usage dictionary, which shows you how to use individual English words correctly — through its explanations, English learners will be able to differentiate between words that are easily confused (such as ‘current’ and ‘currant’). If the explanations don’t make sense, you can ask questions in the WordReference Language Forum — there you will find an active community of language learners discussing language learning topics. Unfortunately, not all words have audio pronunciation, but those that do can be played back at different speeds and with different accents (depending on the language). Although WordReference is a thorough resource, SpanishDict is probably a better option for Spanish learners, and Pleco is the only dictionary you will ever need for Chinese. Linguee is also similar to WordReference but specializes in formal language, and Forvo has millions of words pronounced by native speakers in hundreds of languages.

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Linguee Mini-Review: Best Dictionary for Formal Language


Rating 4.5



Linguee was developed by over 400 lexicographers. It is unique in that it does not use machine-translation to provide examples of words in context — instead, it sources words from articles and research papers in the original language. As a result, it is an excellent dictionary app to find translations for specialized terminology. You will learn the subtleties of various translations by reading paired paragraphs of text that have each been professionally translated, not translated by a machine. In some languages, you can listen to pronunciations by native speakers and read multiple translations of your chosen word or phrase. Although translations are highlighted in each paragraph so you can compare how to use them in each language, they can be difficult to navigate quickly. If you are looking for a website with simple and professional translations, you can check out WordReference for several different languages. SpanishDict is also an excellent option for Spanish, and Pleco is the only dictionary you will ever need for Chinese.

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FSI Courses Mini-Review: Free, Comprehensive, but Also Outdated

FSI Courses

Rating 4.3



The Foreign Services Institute developed their language courses to help diplomats quickly reach professional working proficiency in a language. They would attend 5 hours of language instruction per day, plus homework, for 24-88 weeks (depending on the language). The table at the bottom of this page indicates the average time it would take for a student to reach professional working proficiency. The FSI program places a strong focus on listening comprehension, in addition to extensive exercises for grammar and vocabulary. If you follow along with the audio and respond to the prompts in each drill, you will also develop confidence in speaking the language. With hundreds of pages of text, dozens of hours of audio, and several levels in many languages, the FSI courses are still probably the most comprehensive, free courses you can follow. Just remember that they are decades old, so the audio is not very clear and the vocabulary often includes both sexist and obsolete language. Also, some of the topics will not be relevant to your everyday life. Several sites host these free, open-source courses, but the site linked below is  easy to navigate. Beware of any site selling courses “originally made for diplomats,” as these are probably free FSI courses with a price tag. You can also check out the DLI courses, which are equally as comprehensive (and free!).

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Forvo Mini-Review: Audio Pronunciation of Millions of Words


Rating 4.8



Forvo’s mission is to improve spoken communication across cultures. Anyone can explore pronunciations of millions of words in over 390 languages with maps displaying where each speaker is from. The site also organizes popular categories and essential phrases for when you don’t have a specific word in mind. As a registered user, you can contribute to the site by pronouncing words or phrases in your native language or by requesting pronunciations in a specific language. You are also encouraged to vote on audio files in your native language to help others identify the best pronunciation. For those of you who enjoy using Anki, Forvo allows you to download mp3 files to use in your learning endeavours. Forvo also has an e-learning course for French, Spanish, and English; you will find three levels and a group of topics with sets of the most common words in your target language. Using an SRS flashcard system, you will be able to learn the pronunciation of these words and view an example of how to use them in a sentence. If you are looking for a pronunciation reference guide, look no further than Forvo’s extensive database!

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Write Me Mini-Review: Learn Basic Scripts

Write Me

Rating 3.2

One language costs $9.99, Access to all languages costs $67.99


Write Me seems to be a decent app to learn different scripts, especially for lesser studied languages like Bulgarian and Khmer. Each character in a given script is accompanied by a sample word that contains those characters. You will watch an animation of the proper stroke order before having the opportunity to write by yourself. Later you will be quizzed in various formats to help you retain what you have learned. Write Me seems to support the act of writing and recognizing individual characters — however, similar to Write It! and Scripts by Drops, it doesn’t seem to give much background about each script. You won’t learn that Korean Hangul consists of morphosyllabic blocks, or that its consonants are pronounced differently at the beginning of a word than in the middle. You also won’t learn that Khmer stacks consonant clusters, or that you are writing Hebrew cursive script but receiving a print script prompt (which gets confusing without a little research). You can test out Write it! (free), Write Me (paid lifetime access), and Scripts by Drops (monthly or lifetime access) to see which app best suits the language you are learning. For more comprehensive apps, check out Eggbun for Korean or Skritter for Chinese and Japanese.

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An Honest Review of Rocket German With Image of German Castle

Rocket German Review & Why You Can’t Trust Online Reviews

Rocket German

Rating 3.3


Rocket German is a decent enough course, but it falls short of the high praise it often receives. The audio lessons aren’t bad, but they aren’t exceptional either, and the activities that are part of every lesson are too repetitive and boring. Nevertheless, it’s a fairly good course, with a nice structure, lots of clear grammar explanations, and opportunities for you to practice what you’ve learned. As such, this is a course that could potentially work for learners that are looking for a course with a very clear structure, lots of explanations, and a mix of audio and visual content. Learners that are after an engaging course, are on a budget, or want better cultural insights should probably look elsewhere.

Quality 3.5

Nicely designed interface with pretty good lessons.

Thoroughness 3.5

Lots of exercises, but they’re all very similar and repetitive.

Value 3.0

Pretty expensive for what you get.

I Like
  • Lessons use less English as you move up levels.
  • A nice balance between explaining grammar and pushing you to speak aloud.
  • Nice website and app design.
I Don’t Like
  • The exercises are too repetitive and rely on rote memorization.
  • The audio lessons don’t feel very natural and have lots of corny jokes.
  • The cultural lessons are short and uninteresting.

$99.95 for level 1 and $249.95 level 1&2 with all 3 levels being $259.95.

If you read other reviews of Rocket German, you’ll find most are obnoxiously positive and hard to trust. Some of the websites claim that it’s the best course you’ll find, that it’s fun and just generally amazing.

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Optilingo Mini-Review: Use if You Absolutely Love Slideshows


Rating 1.5

$11.99/mo, $23.97/quarter, $41.94/half-year, $71.88/year


Optilingo is essentially a phrase-bank in slideshow form. Each of the 20 languages available includes 100 lessons, none of which contain information about the topic or learning goals during the writing of this review. You can expect to listen to a series of phrases, and then review (what seems like) the last 45 phrases you have learned before moving onto the next lesson. The phrases are not in flashcard form — instead, they are in a slideshow with both the English and the target language displayed together. Optilingo advertises learning and practicing with over 29 hours worth of phrases, and while you can surely practice with their phrase-bank, actually learning to speak any of the languages offered using their platform is questionable. If you are keen on language learning, check out our bank of reviews for other resources.

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