Summary: FluentU is a popular platform for language learning that uses real world videos. They take videos from Youtube and add interactive captions. I really like the idea and design of the platform, but there’s a major lack of interesting content. Most videos last under one-minute long with a huge number being commercials. For me, FluentU falls far short of its potential.
The lesson library and video player have a great design. Unfortunately, example sentences use text-to-speech instead of native recordings.
Most videos are too short, disconnected to others, and not very interesting.
FluentU is fairly expensive and not worth the cost.
It’s great to be able to more easily use real-world videos to study a language.
A subscription gives you access to all of the languages.
The picture dictionary is pretty cool and something I haven’t seen elsewhere.
I Don’t Like…
The vast majority of the content is very short and is often commercials. It isnt really possible to watch longer series or shows.
There’s no benefit to watching beginner level content on FluentU compared to watching on Youtube because the creator will have already explained the topic clearly.
The audio lessons are the same as the video lessons, but without video. Few people will get any benefit from these.
Price: The Basic plan costs $15/month or $10/month if you pay for a year up-front. The Plus plan costs $30/month or $20/month if billed annually.
Summary: Created by Idahosa, the Mimic Method’s ‘Elemental Sounds Masters Classes’ are not your traditional type of language learning course as you won’t learn any grammar or vocabulary. The focus is instead on learning the elemental sounds of the language. This is because once you can conceptualise them, then you can train your ear to hear and understand them and afterwards train your mouth to produce and pronounce these sounds. Useful for both beginners and advanced learners, you would obviously need to use it in conjunction with a couple of other resources to progress in your target language.
Easy to use and navigate, the production quality is fine without being amazing.
Quite technical throughout most of the course, Idahosa thoroughly explains the method and sounds in each language.
Very expensive for what it is, I think it is as interesting take at learning pronunciation but you won’t get anything else from it.
Some of the homework exercises are really interesting and quite unlike anything you’ll find on other language courses.
Idahosa goes into quite a lot of depth on how to pronounce the different elemental sounds of each language. At the end of the course you will know all the different sounds from the language that you are learning.
It was a fresh way of learning a language that I had never contemplated before
I Don’t Like…
I found the course to be very technical and while other people will surely find it interesting, it didn’t resonate so much with me unfortunately as it just wasn’t that fun to follow.
You would certainly have to use the course alongside other learning resources which actually teach you the grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, speaking and cultural context of your target language.
You do not get much material for the high price that it costs.
Price: For lifetime access to a course, the Mimic Method website has slashed its cost from $394 to $197 although I am uncertain if it always stays that price.
Summary: Busuu is one of the most popular language learning courses around but it’s not worth paying for. The course content isn’t designed very well and there are better free alternatives. I do really like Busuu’s social features that make it easy to have your speech and writing corrected by a native speaker, but that part is free.
Busuu’s platform is well designed but their lessons aren’t.
The content of their courses leaves a lot to be desired.
Other free apps teach languages better.
The language exchange part of the app is awesome and free to use. It’s really easy to get your speech or writing corrected.
They use video and picture prompts to help you think of a topic to write or talk about.
I Don’t Like…
The lesson structure has you learn some obscure vocabulary before learning the essentials.
You can find better courses for free.
A lot of important things like pronunciation and grammar are left out or barely explained.
Price: A subscription to Busuu costs $9.99/month or $69.99/year.
Languages: Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, and English
Summary: Babbel is an affordable language learning tool that offers a lot of information and can be of great help to beginners and lower intermediate students. They structured the lessons very well, providing explanations and a lot of vocabulary for their students. The materials are easy to go through and fairly engaging. It’s not my favorite resource around but it’s not bad either.
Through its repetitive lesson structure, Babbel offers a solid starting point.
Babbel offers comprehensive and extensive lessons; they’ll work well for any beginner student.
The price is very reasonable.
I Like… Repetitive nature of the lessons
The lessons are connected and they build up your knowledge in a progressive way
Engaging content and comprehensive lessons
Flexible learning plan and self-directed – you have can choose what to learn and when to do it
I Don’t Like… No downloadable materials
Not a very unique learning structure, similar to Duolingo (matching words to images)
Won’t sufficiently develop your conversational skills
Price: The price for a personal plan varies depending on the length of the subscription. One month costs $12.95 and the price falls to $6.95/month if you purchase a full year. There are also 3 and 6-month plans as well.
Languages: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian, Russian, Danish, Norwegian, and English
Duolingo and LingoDeer are two free alternatives to Babbel that are fairly similar but don’t cover the content with as much depth.
It’s hard to give the best alternative for Babbel because it depends so much on the language you’re studying, along with your own preferences. We’ve really liked Italy Made Easy for Italian, Baselang for Spanish, ChineseFor.Us for Mandarin, Rocket French for French, and Semantica for Portuguese.
Summary: Yabla is a platform that makes it easier for language learners to incorporate tv and other videos into their study routine. They support six languages, all of which have over 1000 short videos included. You’ll find captions in two languages and can click on unknown words to see their definitions. It’s pretty useful but I’m not so certain that it’s worth paying for.
It works fine but won’t be winning any design awards
Lots of variety in video content
The price is reasonable for a supplementary study tool.
Lots of multi-part video series.
Entertaining content covering a wide variety of topics.
Some useful activities to review the content from the videos.
I Don’t Like…
Although each language has over 1000 videos, most videos are only 1-2 minutes long.
The design could be improved, especially on mobile.
I had a hard time using it enough to justify continuing to pay for a subscription.
Price: A subscription to Yabla costs $9.95/month, $54.95/six-months, or $99.95/year.