Haitian Creole

African Storybook

4.5 
Price: Free

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Struggling to find beginner-level Afrikaans or Yoruba reading materials? Spanish books relevant to Equatorial Guinea instead of Spain or Colombia? Stories in Nigerian Pidgin or Cape Verdean Creole?

African Storybook has thousands of free-to-read children’s stories in various African languages, from Acholi through to Zinza. Most of them were written by African authors.

The website is best for beginner and lower-intermediate students. The stories are generally designed for young children, with easy-to-read sentences that introduce you to basic vocabulary and some variation in tenses. The difficulty is graded from one to five, with five being the most challenging. You can normally find the English translation of the book, too, although you would probably be better off using a dictionary.

Don’t give up if at first you don’t see your language on the website. Some languages have been entered with their English name, others with their original name, and others under several different names. For example, for Swahili, you would need to look under “Kiswahili”, while French texts are under “French”.

Frustratingly, not all languages on the dropdown menu currently have texts. According to African Storybook, they have a greater number of books for languages in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. However, as this initiative continues to grow, hopefully they’ll have stories for more and more languages.

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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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My Language Exchange

4.2 
Price: Freemium, Gold Memberships start at $6/mo

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My Language Exchange has been growing since 2000. Although the website seems out of date, it still has an active community of millions of language-learners who speak almost 200 native languages (including less commonly studied languages).

You can choose a pen pal by reading their bios, or there is a chat room available for you to instantly connect with a language exchange partner — note that if you create a Gold account, you can initiate chats with other users, but as a regular user, you will have to wait to be contacted.

Using the Cormier Method, the website provides tools to help intermediate speakers effectively practice with other learners. It advertises a Chat Companion with lesson plans to accompany your exchange, or lesson plans developed by teachers (although the quality of these resources varies drastically). 

You can also find language teachers on the site, but given that the transactions take place directly between you and the teacher, you may feel safer using a 3rd party platform like italki or Verbling

Although there are outlines on how to participate in language exchanges, how these outlines are followed depends entirely on you and your partner(s). My Language Exchange will help you build connections with other learners, but it’s up to you to plan how to practice. The concepts can also be used with any language exchange platform, such as Lingbe, italki, Tandem, and Amikumu.

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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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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.

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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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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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learn101

1.3 
Price: Free

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Learn 101 is almost identical to iLanguages, but neither of them seem to be very helpful; 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 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. Although there are examples of various grammatical structures, the explanations for these structures are also identical for every language, which, practically speaking, doesn’t seem plausible.

This site could be useful if you want to hear native speakers pronounce basic words in less-common languages, or if you want to look up the IPA symbols of a less-common 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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DLI Courses

4.3 

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The DLI and FSI language courses are still some of the most comprehensive resources for language learning today, and probably the most comprehensive free resources you will find. 

Although the DLI and FSI courses are comparable in quality, DLI courses focus more on military terminology in the later lessons, while FSI courses focus on everyday communication and communication for diplomats. Another key difference between them is that the DLI courses may go into more depth, and also seem to provide a more comprehensive guide to the study of each language; the FSI courses either have briefer explanations or dive straight into the content. Both of them have outdated content, which is understandable considering that they were developed in the mid-1900s and have scarcely been updated since then.

Often the DLI courses outline clear practice strategies to reproduce your target language’s sounds. Also, depending on the language, literal translations are sometimes used so that you get accustomed to each language’s grammar structure.

All the PDFs and audio files are available for download on various sites, although Live Lingua has made navigating between the material quite intuitive. If you can’t find your desired language in the DLI courses, check out the FSI courses for different options.

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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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