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Spanish

Butterfly Spanish Mini-Review: Dynamic and Educational

Butterfly Spanish

Rating 4.0
Price:

$ 0.00

Summary

Butterfly Spanish is free, but it relies on donations to keep the channel running. Ana, the founder, has a dynamic personality that inspires enthusiasm to learn. She covers topics for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students (although the videos seem most suitable for beginners), supporting you to build vocabulary, understand grammar, and improve pronunciation. Ana’s goal is to teach you the Spanish that native speakers use every day, not the textbook-style conversations you find in class. Unfortunately, Ana does use a lot of English in her lessons, but this shouldn’t dissuade the immersive learner from checking out her channel. Ana will ensure that you fully understand the topic she presents — she provides lots of examples to reinforce what she teaches and uses a giant whiteboard to keep all the information in one place. If you have a topic in mind (such as how to use the verb ‘dejar’ or ‘me gusta’), check out her channel to see if she can help — there are over 100 videos available, with more on the way.

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Langu Mini Review: A Quality-Focused italki Alternative

Langu

Rating 4.2
Price:

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

Summary

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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Notes in Spanish Mini-Review: Engaging Listening Practice

Notes in Spanish

Rating 4.2
Price:

Freemium, Courses start at $85

Summary

The beginner episodes of Notes in Spanish may be a bit tricky for the absolute beginner, but the narrators, Ben and Maria, say that it’s normal to be a bit lost at first. They add their personality to the conversations, so even when they teach basic introductions, it is far from the dialogue you would read in a Spanish 101 textbook — you will sound natural in no time if you practice listening comprehension with this duo. There is no end to the topics that Ben and Maria can talk about in the intermediate and advanced episodes — one day you may be touring their home, the next you’ll be listening to them discuss Harry Potter. Each episode comes in bite-sized 10ish minute chunks so you can acquire some new vocabulary on the go. It’s probably not possible for beginners to use this podcast as their sole learning resource, as after 30 beginner episodes the intermediate episodes use almost no English. You may need some extra support to keep up. Ben and Maria offer the Real Spanish Control course to help you transition from beginner to intermediate, but you can also check out the podcast Unlimited Spanish to practice speaking, Duolingo to learn the basics, and SpanishVIP or iTalki for private tutoring.

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

Supermemo

Rating 3.0
Price:

Free trial, $9.90/mo

Summary

*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

Speekoo

Rating 2.5
Price:

Classes start at $15/hour

Summary

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

Wordreference

Rating 4.5
Price:

Free

Summary

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 Bab.la 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

Linguee

Rating 4.5
Price:

Free

Summary

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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Bab.la Mini-Review: Use WordReference or Linguee Instead

bab.la

Rating 3.0
Price:

Free

Summary

Bab.la is a bilingual dictionary for 28 different languages. Their site includes quizzes, games, grammar lessons, phrasebooks, and a forum for users to discuss language learning. You can also look up various verbs in the conjugation tables or find synonyms and examples of how to use words in context. Their quizzes should be taken with a grain of salt — If your purpose is to familiarize yourself with vocabulary and grammar structures, then these are probably a fun way to explore your target language. However, if your purpose is to understand the target language’s culture, beware of any quiz that touches on romance, as the advice is similar to that of the magazines found in grocery store checkout lines. Bab.la may be okay for general definitions, but other sites will probably help you dive further into different languages. Linguee provides examples of words in context sourced from articles and research papers in the target language, and Forvo has millions of words pronounced by native speakers in hundreds of languages. Also, check out WordReference (for a more relevant database of example sentences), Pleco (for Chinese learners), or SpanishDict (For Spanish learners or Spanish-speaking English learners).

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

FSI Courses

Rating 4.3
Price:

Free

Summary

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

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!

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