Norwegian

Duolingo

Quick Review

Summary:

Duolingo is a super popular free language-learning app. It’s available for desktop as well as mobile and offers over 90 different language courses in over 20 different languages — there are currently 35 languages with English instruction. The Duolingo approach is gamified and easy to use, but the bite-sized lessons don’t offer much in the way of in-depth practice. The Duolingo tag line is “Learn a language in just five minutes a day.”

Quality

It’s easy and fun to use, but some pronunciation and grammar instruction is of low quality, especially for Asian languages.

Thoroughness

The app works well for learning the basics, but there’s little speaking practice and grammar instruction is limited.

Value

It’s a lot of content for free, but you’ll need to use supplementary resources.

Languages: Duolingo offers 35 language courses with English instruction, three of which are constructed languages. Courses are available in most popular languages, including Spanish, French, German, etc.

Price

Duolingo is totally free. Duolingo Plus offers a few additional features and is available for:

$12.99/month (paid monthly)
$6.99/month (12-month subscription)

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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.

What is Pimsleur?

Frankly, it’s an institution. The name comes from linguist Paul Pimsleur, author of many books on language acquisition and applied linguistics, and developer of what is now known as the Pimsleur Method.

Dr. Pimsleur wrote the first Pimsleur Language Program in 1963, and the courses were first available on cassette tapes and books before becoming available digitally.

Given that the lessons are largely audio-based, the Pimsleur courses are often advertised as a convenient way to study a language while completing chores, cooking, driving, or doing anything that doesn’t require all of your attention.

The courses consist of core 30-minute audio lessons as well as some extra practice activities that touch on a variety of skills, but there’s a heavy emphasis on speaking and listening skills.

 

The Pimsleur Method: An Overview

There are four main pillars in The Pimsleur Method. The first, Graduated Interval Recall, works just like a type of spaced repetition system (SRS). It’s an effective method for committing new terms to long-term memory in an efficient manner.

Where it differs from other SRS platforms like Anki or Memrise is that the intervals in which you review words are time based rather than performance based. The method seems to work well in conjunction with the active role listeners take in the audio courses.

The second is what they call the Principle of Anticipation, which means that there are frequent pauses in the audio lessons that allow you to work through scenarios on your own before hearing the correct response. This makes active participation an integral part of the Pimsleur Method.

The final two mainstays of the method are Core Vocabulary and Organic Learning. These concepts essentially mean that learners are only exposed to the most necessary vocabulary words and that learning happens in the context of relatable, usable conversations.

How We Did this Review

With the aim of achieving a more comprehensive perspective for this review, I teamed up with All Language Resource’s very own web manager, Hunter.

Hunter:

“I’ve always considered myself an aural learner so I was really looking forward to trying Pimsleur. It seemed like something I would really benefit from. I tried the beginning levels of Spanish to see what I could learn and the advanced levels of French to see how far the course could take someone.”

Brian:

“I was excited to try out the Pimsleur course to see if the audio lessons worked for me. I don’t consider myself to be much of an aural learner and typically gravitate toward resources with an interactive or visual bent. I tried the beginning levels of the German and Japanese courses as well as the advanced Spanish lessons to see what I could learn.”

Quick Opinions

I think it’s safe to say that, overall, Hunter and I are both fans of Pimsleur. We both agree that it’s something we would recommend to beginners that are interested in an aurally focused course. Generally, we found it to have high-quality audio, well-structured lessons, and a nice design.

My biggest gripe with the platform was the lack of visual content, which is hard for me to deal with. Meanwhile, Hunter found himself wishing that lessons would progress at a faster pace, especially at the lower levels.

Here are our individual overall ratings of the platform:

Hunter: 3.8/5 Stars

Brian: 4.2/5 Stars

Overall combined rating: 4/5 Stars

Try a free 7-day trial of Pimsleur

First Impressions

It’s hard to deny the slick, premium feel that permeates the Pimsleur platform. Both Hunter and I came away with similar things to say about our initial impressions of the resource.

Pimsleur Interface

We agree that the design quality inspires confidence in the efficacy of the resource and that it made us excited to use it. The audio quality is also immediately recognizable as excellent.

I found myself wishing very early on that there was a transcript to follow along with, as I’m prone to spacing out when there’s only audio to focus on. Hunter seconded this wish, even though he identifies as an aural learner.

A Pimsleur Course Overview

Core Audio Lessons

These 30-minute lessons are where most of the learning happens in a Pimsleur course, and we think they’re done really well.

Audio Lesson

This is what you’ll spend most of your time doing with Pimsleur: listening to audio lessons. The Pimsleur Method strongly suggests doing one per day, and this method works nicely if it fits into your schedule. Anyone with a commute that’s longer than 30 minutes, for example, could find that these lessons are easy to add to the routine.

Note, though, that these lessons can require quite a bit of concentration. Passive, distracted listening isn’t going to work very well.

The audio lessons are very interactive, meaning you’ll get to participate in the conversation. The narrator offers some explanations and guides the lesson, and you’ll get plenty of opportunities to practice your pronunciation with male and female native speakers.

The lessons also build on each other exceptionally well, especially at the beginner level. Each lesson provides sufficient review for the previous lesson, and you’re constantly building upon what you’ve already learned.

Explanations

Hunter mentioned that he thought the explanations in the audio lessons were exceptionally well done, and I have to agree — the location of explanations within lessons feels very intuitive. In our experience, you aren’t kept in the dark for very long at any point — an explanation seems to appear just as you start wishing for one.

It could be nice, we both agree, if there was something more in the way of grammar explanations. This isn’t to suggest lengthy explanations or taking away from the practical focus of the lessons, just that a little bit of grammar support for those that prefer to think things through would be helpful.

Practice Activities

These activities certainly aren’t the main show in a Pimsleur course. They’re simple, quick, and not required.

I found myself enjoying the opportunity to actually see the language I was learning and thought that, though basic, the exercises were engaging enough to keep me interested.

I also appreciate the fact that you can get some comprehensive review this way. You can select from as many of your completed lessons as you like when choosing what material to practice.

On this screen, learners choose which lessons they would like to review.

It’s nice to be able to review material that you might not have seen for a while instead of only one lesson at a time.

It might be nice if the platform kept track of which words you repeatedly had trouble with, but the interval recall works well at providing timely review in the audio lessons.

Hunter wasn’t a fan of these activities. As someone that prefers audio lessons, he says he found himself wanting to skip them altogether.

Maybe it’s good that activities using the written form are available for people like me who prefer visual material, but they won’t really get in the way of a learner that’s happy sticking to the audio.

Flashcards

This is the first practice activity you’ll likely engage with, and it’s also the most basic.

Flashcard

Practice is really simple with these flashcards — you can choose whether you’d like to translate from your target or source language, and then you’ll be shown the audio and written form of some material from the current lesson. Don’t expect any extra information like noun gender, verb tense, or word type!

After viewing and listening to the word or phase and then clicking to reveal the translation, you’ll either select “Skip” or “Got it.”

Selecting “Skip,” presumably because you weren’t able to come up with the correct translation, means you’ll see the flashcard repeated at the end of the set.

Quick Match

Despite what the name and description seem to insinuate, there isn’t a timed element to this activity.

Quick Match Title

Instead, it’s pretty much a straightforward multiple-choice quiz: choose the correct translation from a list of four.

Quick Match Activity

Speak Easy

This activity is actually the closest thing to a transcript of the audio lesson. You’ll get to listen to and see the phrases in a conversation, listening and repeating as you wish.

Speak Easy Activity

You can listen to each phrase individually or let the entire conversation play through.

Speed Round

Unlike Quick Match, this activity is aptly named. Words and phrases make their way down the screen in Space Invaders fashion (for the uninitiated), and you’re tasked with selecting the correct translation before they reach the bottom.

Speed Round Activity

There are some satisfying sounds that accompany correct answers, and you can watch the points bar fill up to try and set a new record, but it’s mildly fun at best in my opinion.

Reading Lessons

The reading lessons in Pimsleur start off teaching how to read phonetically. After the sound system has been covered, you begin to see reading comprehension exercises in the course.

Spanish Reading Lesson

The image above shows the first reading lesson in the Spanish Level 1 course. Your job is to read the word aloud and then listen to a native speaker to check your pronunciation.

As you progress, the utterances become longer and more complex. You can view translations at any time by selecting the icon in the upper-right corner.

Spanish Reading Lesson Level 5

This system works fine for Latin alphabets, but it requires some tweaking for Asian languages like Japanese.

For non-Latin alphabets, you’ll have to spend more time learning the individual characters that make up the writing system. In the Japanese course, you’ll cover hiragana in Level 1, katakana in Level 2, and begin with kanji in Level 3.

Japanese Reading Lesson

Japanese Kanji Chart

I think I would’ve liked to see some SRS-style practice for learning Japanese kana, though it’s easy enough to get this kind of practice for free with user-created materials on either Anki or Memrise.

It would probably be best to incorporate some kind of complementary study resource if you want to learn to read Japanese relatively quickly.

You will allegedly be able to read at the same level you can speak after 30 lessons, but the aural and reading lessons are delivered at different speeds.

I see the value in teaching pronunciation separately from reading — especially for languages without highly phonetic writing systems. However, I think I prefer a more traditional method that presents words and their written form in tandem as you’re exposed to them.

I think the big takeaway here is that Pimsleur courses, historically audio-exclusive, still aren’t designed to provide comprehensive reading and writing practice. It’s nice that they provide some practice and exposure that’s certainly helpful in some way, but Pimsleur is best at teaching listening and speaking skills.

Some courses offer Culture Notes instead of reading lessons. In each lesson if you swipe the main image you will find the cultural notes.

Pricing

Pimsleur pricing is complicated; your location and the language you’re studying will both influence how much it will cost. There is a 7-day free trial with all purchases.

It isn’t clear which countries have access to the subscription option, but if you live outside of the US, Canada, Australia or the UK, you’ll have to access it through the Pimsleur app.

Pimsleur Subscription Ad

Subscriptions are available for all languages that have at least 60 lessons, and the recurring price depends on how much content is available. Here are two examples:

Castilian Spanish (2 levels, 60 lessons): $14.95/month

Latin American Spanish (5 levels, 150 lessons): $19.95/month or $149.95/year

In the above examples, the Castilian Spanish course doesn’t offer the practice activities that come in addition to the audio and reading lessons. This appears to be true for all $14.95/month subscriptions.

There are also one-time purchase options that are available for all languages. They range from around $20 for five-lesson bundles to over $500 for all of the lessons in a popular language like French.

In addition to the above variations, what you’ll pay depends on where you live. For a Castilian Spanish subscription, for example, you’ll pay $14.95/month if you’re in the USA, $18.95/month in the UK, and $16.95/month in Australia. These prices are all in USD.

Alternatives to pimsleur

Pimsleur is one of the bigger players when it comes to language-learning resources, but it’s certainly not your only option.

olly (I will teach you a language)

Olly Richards, the creator of I Will Teach You A Language, has written a series of books for beginner and intermediate learners to improve their conversation skills in several languages. He also has a Short Stories series.

Most of the languages use the most common words in your target language, with natural phrases that you would overhear locals using while conversing amongst each other. In the short story lessons, the plot follows the same characters and adventures, with some adjustments for cultural differences.

Rocket languages

The things that Rocket Languages  do well are developing a logical and thorough curriculum and providing ample practice opportunity. Reading, writing, and listening practice with native-speaker audio will get you a bunch of exposure to the language. Their program is extremely thorough and has lots of practice to ingrain memorization of the langauge.

ITALKI

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. Check our our full review here!

Babbel

Babbel is similar to Pimsleur in that it’s a major player in the language-learning sphere and that it caters to learners looking for a comprehensive resource.

It differs by providing more of an early emphasis on learning the written language, which some learners may prefer. This makes it potentially more appealing to visual learners or those that are interested in developing their reading and writing skills in tandem with their verbal and aural skills.

Babbel provides listening and speaking practice in conversation exercises that use speech recognition technology to give feedback on pronunciation. This is our full review of Babbel.

FLUENTU

FluentU is a language-learning platform that uses real-world videos and interactive subtitles to create an immersive learning experience. The videos take on a variety of forms, including commercials, music videos, interviews, and more. Accompanying quizzes give users the chance to practice language used in videos.

FluentU offers videos in nine different languages and is available for iOS, Android, and on the web. Most of its content is beyond the beginner level, but it has videos for learners at all levels. Check our full review here!

Final Thoughts

Pimsleur has been around for decades, and that’s no fluke. It’s a quality resource, and it teaches languages well. The fact that it all started with a renowned linguist and author on language acquisition is no side-note, either.

Compliments aside, I don’t think Pimsleur is the right choice for every learner. I wouldn’t even feel comfortable saying it was the right choice for most learners.

Between Hunter and I, the platform seems better suited to his learning style. My preference for visual content means I probably wouldn’t purchase access to a Pimsleur course unless it was for a language without many alternatives.

Even though Hunter prefers audio lessons, he still probably wouldn’t become a subscriber to Pimsleur unless he was an absolute beginner of the language he was learning. He felt that the material sometimes progressed too slowly.

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ilovelanguages.org

1.6 
Price: Free

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iLoveLanguages seems similar to iLanguages and Learn101 in that every language has the same content and grammar. The eighteen 30-minute beginner ‘lessons’ in every language are essentially lists of phrases and vocabulary words, with audio recordings by native speakers.

The site seems to provide a local teacher for each language, but for some reason, the same teacher offers at least 11 of the languages (including Gaelic, Basque, Filipino, Marathi, and Cantonese). Oddly enough, this teacher also appears in stock photos around the internet. Considering that the website advertises each language class as being taught by a native speaker, perhaps be cautious if you are considering taking a class from this site — maybe try italki or SpanishVIP for private lessons instead.

iLoveLanguages may be helpful if you want to hear native speakers pronounce words in South-Eastern languages, like Marathi, Gujarati, Vietnamese, or Malay. You can compare the pronunciation with the speakers from either iLanguages or Learn 101 (but not both, as they use identical audio files). You could also check out Forvo, which is probably the most extensive pronunciation database on the internet right now. 

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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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Verbix

2.3 
Price: Free

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Verbix is a verb conjugator website and app developed by an independent non-profit organization. It conjugates over 100 languages, including Old English, Latin, and Yiddish

The amount of information on the conjugation page varies depending on how common the language is. At its best, it will display nominal forms, most common verb conjugations, verbs that have similar conjugations, translations, synonyms, antonyms, cognates, and a section on etymology. Sometimes there are sample sentences (without translations) that seem to come from articles and books. The final section on additional information seems a bit random, and its purpose is unclear.

To conjugate a verb in another language, you have to know the verb in its infinitive form. Unfortunately, although Verbix has a translation function, it doesn’t seem to cover all of the available languages, so you may not be able to find the verb you are looking for in the first place.

A fun page to explore is Verbix’s list of over 6000 languages with a map depicting where each of these languages is spoken. Otherwise, Verbix seems a bit random and incomplete. It may be a helpful resource for less commonly studied languages, but check out Reverso Translation, Cooljugator, and SpanishDict first. 

Also, if you want to practice verb conjugations in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Latin, check out Conjuguemos

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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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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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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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