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Hmong

My Language Exchange Mini-Review: Millions of Active Users

My Language Exchange

Rating 4.2
Price:

Freemium, Gold Memberships start at $6/mo

Summary

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 Although the website seems out of date, it still has an active community of millions of language-learners who speak almost 200 native languages (including less commonly studied languages).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

Forvo Mini-Review: Audio Pronunciation of Millions of Words

Forvo

Rating 4.8
Price:

Free

Summary

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!

Anki Mini-Review: The Go-To SRS Flashcard App

Anki

Rating 4.1
Price:

Free

Summary

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.

An Honest Review of iTalki With Image of Man Working on Computer

italki Review – The Good, The Bad, & The Just Alright

italki

Rating 4.5

Summary

italki is the most flexible and affordable place to find a tutor for the language you’re learning. They have a huge number of teachers offering classes to students of over 100 different languages. As a learner, you’ll be able to find a tutor that best fits your learning style, schedule, and personality. Teachers are able to set their own prices and make their own schedule.


Quality 4.5

You’ll find everyone from long-time professionals to brand new teachers.

Thoroughness 4.0

The overall platform has tons of useful features but also some room for improvement.

Value 5.0

Huge number of teachers, low prices, and flexible scheduling.

I Like
  • There are large numbers of teachers available even for less common languages.
  • You can find skilled teachers even at low prices.
  • The flexibility to schedule lessons whenever convenient. The huge number of teachers guarantees you’ll find someone to fit your schedule.
  • The extra features in the italki Community make it easy to ask questions, get your writing checked, and find a free language exchange partner.
I Don’t Like
  • Community features are only available through the app.
  • You may need to try several tutors before finding one that fits your learning and personality style.
  • It’s easy to not take classes as often as you should.
Price

The prices vary by teacher and language with some being as low as $5 and others as high as $60 per hour. Most will fall somewhere near the $10 per hour range. Right now italki is offering a $10 credit with your first purchase.

It’s very rare for me to recommend a particular resource for everyone, regardless of the language that they’re studying. Usually each language will have their own unique resources that are great specifically for students of that language.

Bluebird Languages Mini-Review: Over 160 Languages Available

Bluebird Languages

Rating 2.5
Price:

Free, Premium subscriptions cost $13.99/mo, $144.99/year

Summary

Bluebird Languages has several types of lessons you can choose from, including a daily lesson, core vocabulary, essential verbs, creating sentences, powerful phrases, and conversation. Each topic seems to have a beginner, intermediate, and advanced lesson, although it’s not clear how advanced “advanced” is. In each lesson, an English-speaking narrator will ask you to listen to and repeat translations of various phrases. The recordings in each language seem to use native speakers’ voices, which is quite the feat considering they have lessons in over 160 languages. Bluebird Languages’ phrases don’t construct a replicable dialogue, so the phrases don’t seem to have a lot of context other than the topic at hand. Furthermore, the topics seem to be identical in all languages, so most of the phrases will not be culture-specific. They also don’t break down complicated pronunciation, but you can try to break it down yourself by slowing down the recording to 0.5x speed. Bluebird Languages seems similar to Pimsleur but appears less organized and will probably not improve your communication abilities as quickly. Nevertheless, it may be a good free alternative for beginners, and the program will probably help you develop some confidence in speaking languages that have less challenging pronunciation. The conversation and personalized lessons require a monthly membership, but there is enough free content that these add-ons may not be necessary.

Brainscape Mini-Review: Adaptive Flashcards

Brainscape

Rating 4.0
Price:

Freemium, Premium subscriptions start at $9.99/mo

Summary

Brainscape is a flashcard app that uses a Spaced Repetition System, also often referred to as ‘adaptive flashcards’, to help you memorize new vocabulary and facts. It has a team of scientists, engineers, and education experts working to optimize their program for effective learning. Brainscape is quite similar to Anki, but has a more modern and colourful interface. They also have Certified Classes, which are decks that seem to have been developed by experts in the chosen topic. The app adds what they call Intelligent Cumulative Exposure (ICE) to some of their Certified Classes; it seems to combine a Spaced Repetition System with gradually introducing new concepts, increasing the difficulty of the concepts, and providing context so you can build your own sentences. It has several Certified Classes for various languages (and other topics), and many more decks created by users. Unlike Anki, edits that creators make to user decks seem to sync up even after you have downloaded the deck. With the free version, you have limited access to premium decks but unlimited access to user-made decks.

An Honest Review of Speaky With Image of Girl Using Phone

Speaky Review: Better Than Other Language Exchange Apps?

Speaky

Rating 3.7

Summary

Speaky is a social language-learning app for people interested in language exchange. It’s available for iOS, Android, and the web. Users can chat with other language learners, share photos, leave voice messages or even have voice calls. The basic features on Speaky are free to use, but access to more than five translations per day requires a subscription.


Quality 3.0

There are some dedicated language learners on Speaky but not as many as similar apps.

Thoroughness 3.5

The platform is easy to use but lacks advanced features.

Value 4.5

Speaky is mostly free to use, extra features are available for a subscription.

I Like
  • It’s mostly free.
  • It’s easy to use.
  • There are a lot of users.
  • There are tons of languages
I Don’t Like
  • Many community members don’t actually seem interested in language exchange.
  • The web version doesn’t work well.
  • There are no extra social features.
Price

The basic features on Speaky are free to use. A premium membership is available for a subscription.

Speaky is a language exchange app. It facilitates exchange by allowing users to chat with others in the language they’re learning. Its function is pretty simple and straightforward — search for a partner with a reciprocal language combination and say hello.

An Honest Review of Tandem With Image of Girl Wearing Headphones and Writing

Tandem Review: A Tinder-esque Language Exchange App?

Tandem

Rating 4.7

Summary

Tandem is a popular language exchange app with over one million active users. It’s available for iOS and Android and aims to bring language learners from all over the world together. It’s largely centered around its chat capabilities and language tools that facilitate communication, but there is also a tutoring service offered in the app.


Quality 5.0

There are lots of active language learners, especially those looking to pair with native English speakers.

Thoroughness 4.5

The interface is intuitive and the language tools are simple and effective, though you’ll quickly run out of free translations.

Value 4.5

The free version is all most people will need. Tandem Pro doesn’t add a ton of extra value.

I Like
  • There are plenty of language partners
  • The interface is easy to use and attractive
  • The free version offers a lot of value
I Don’t Like
  • You’ll need to use other learning resources as well
Price

There is a limited free version of Tandem and a pro version available at $6.99 for one month, $10.67/month for three months, and $6.67/month for a year’s subscription.

When learning a new language by myself, I often wonder if I’m studying the right things. There’s so much that a book can’t teach you about a language. It’s easy enough to look up a translation of a phrase like “How are you?” for example, but knowing whether people actually speak like that is equally important.

Transparent Language Review – Not Exciting, But Language Offering Is So Vast That You May Need It

Transparent Language

Rating 2.3

Summary

Transparent Language markets itself as “the most complete language-learning system for independent learners.” While there are lots of different exercises for you to work through in their Essentials Course, I thought that the material wasn’t all that helpful and that it got very repetitive. Although the courses might not be all that useful or in-depth, with over a hundred languages on offer it might be worth checking out if you want to learn the very basics of a more obscure language such as Buriat, Kazakh or Turkmen.


Quality 2.5

While the exercises are for the most part well-designed, diverse and easy to use, it is the core material itself that I found lacking.

Thoroughness 2.0

I hardly came across any explanations at all; practice was almost exclusively memorizing words and phrases.

Value 2.5

I would only consider using if I was studying a very rare language.

I Like
  • I really like the fact that they offer up courses in languages that are usually overlooked.
  • It’s pretty well-designed, easy to use and has lots of different activities to work through.
I Don’t Like
  • The core material is severely lacking in my opinion; it’s hard for me to imagine you’ll learn much grammar or how to form even a basic sentence yourself.
  • It gets very repetitive and so I didn’t find it that fun to work through.
  • You learn virtually nothing about the different cultural contexts of the languages you’re learning.
  • Their teaching methodology was the biggest issue for me, leaving you memorizing lots of words and phrases in isolation.
Price

There is a free two-week trial period for you to try it out. Otherwise, it is $24.95 per month or $149.95 for a whole year if you just select one language. If you want access to all of the languages it is then $49.95 per month and $249.95 a year.