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Spanish

Pimsleur Review — Learn While You… Do Just About Anything

Pimsleur

Rating 4.0

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 4.5

The platform is extremely well designed and easy to use. The content seems to be of high quality at all levels.

Thoroughness 4.0

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 3.5

The subscription option provides good value for some, but there may be more efficient ways to learn some languages.

I Like
  • The lessons are structured well and are an appropriate length.
  • There are both male and female native speakers.
  • Lessons build on each other nicely.
  • The platform is easy to navigate and visually appealing.
I Don’t Like
  • There’s very little visual content.
  • Lesson speed isn’t customizable.
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.

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Conjuverb Mini-Review: Good If You Want Verbs In One Place

conjuverb

Rating 2.6
Price:

$0.99

Summary

Conjuverb is a Spanish conjugation dictionary app with over 1600 fully conjugated verbs. It has a flashcard function that allows you to make custom lists or choose from pre-made decks to test your recall. Judging by their announcements, the developers seem to have a good sense of humour that may pleasantly seep into various areas of the app. Conjuverb was a big deal in the world of Spanish apps back in 2013, but it doesn’t seem to have kept up with the resources of today — mainly because it doesn’t seem to use a Spaced Repetition System for its flashcards, but also because the information in the app is now freely accessible on SpanishDict. You can also subscribe to Brainscape for access to decks that will teach you all the verb tenses and much more. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money but genuinely need an app that focuses entirely on verb conjugations, this would be a fine app to use. Otherwise, check out the previously mentioned resources.

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The Spanish Dude Mini-Review: Not For Learning Pronunciation

The Spanish Dude

Rating 3.5
Price:

Free, courses start at $27

Summary

Many YouTube language teachers speak conversationally with their audience, but Jordan, The Spanish Dude, seems to speak in the same style that you might observe at a slam poetry night. One thing to note is that Jordan mostly pronounces Spanish words using English pronunciation and intonation. He has explicitly emphasized that you do not need to learn good Spanish pronunciation to be understood, but that’s a subjective opinion. Jordan teaches Spanish from an English-speaker’s point of view, which can be helpful for new language learners. His content seems primarily for beginners — he breaks grammar down into manageable chunks so you won’t get overwhelmed with the seemingly endless types of Spanish conjugations. Jordan has many free YouTube videos, a couple of conjugation courses, and a travel crash course — but Logical Spanish is his most comprehensive course. Here, Jordan not only gives you a comprehensive overview of Spanish grammar, but he also teaches English grammar to explain how language is structured. You can check out his videos if you would prefer to focus on the content of your communication rather than the way you deliver it, but make sure to support your learning by listening to native speakers. Paul Noble, Pimsleur, Unlimited Spanish, Espanol Automatico, Destinos, and Spanish Obsessed are just a few of the many resources that teach native Spanish pronunciation.

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Destinos Mini-Review: Amazingly comprehensive for beginners

Destinos

Rating 4.3
Price:

Free

Summary

From the producers as the French video series, French in Action, Destinos is an award-winning beginner Spanish video course from the 1990s that will train your listening comprehension and speaking abilities. Each of the fifty-two 30-minute episodes follows a dramatic storyline of a lawyer investigating a family secret. Throughout the course, you will learn about Spanish-speaking cultures and accents in Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Destinos seems to follow the Capretz Theory for language learning, throwing you into full immersion from day one. You shouldn’t worry if you have difficulty following the conversations between the characters; the context and body language of each episode should be enough to help you understand what’s happening. You will gradually be able to understand more as you listen, respond to the lawyer, Raquel’s, comprehension questions at the end of each episode, and complete the accompanying exercises that are linked below each video (be careful you don’t miss them — the text is quite small). Also, the Spanish-speaking narrators speak at a slower pace, so you will gradually be able to pick up new words through them as well. Nevertheless, if you’re struggling to keep up, try watching BBC’s series, Mi Vida Loca first, then dive into Destinos. Although the videos themselves are outdated, the developers seem to have kept up with current resources. The additional vocabulary, grammar, dictation, and multiple-choice activities contain external links at the end for supplement practice. Overall, Destinos provides an excellent introduction to Spanish. Please note that the original website may not be available in all countries, but you can find the episodes on YouTube  and KET Education without the supplementary exercises.

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Mi Vida Loca Mini-Review: An Interactive Mystery For Beginners

Mi Vida Loca

Rating 4.0
Price:

Free

Summary

Mi Vida Loca is an exciting 2009 BBC video course set in Spain. It takes you through 22 interactive 10-minute episodes, with everything filmed from a first-person point of view — this makes you, the viewer, a character in the mystery. Unlike the video course Destinos, which is almost a Spanish immersion experience, Mi Vida Loca includes a human phrasebook that will interrupt to ask you questions in English and introduce keywords. Absolute beginners should feel a little more comfortable speaking Spanish if they actively participate in this series. Additionally, if you are about to go on a trip to a Spanish-Speaking country, these videos would help you to pick up basic phrases. The videos on the BBC site have been archived and are no longer updated, so if you have trouble accessing them, there are several uploads on YouTube. You can combine the syllabus and printouts from the BBC website with the videos you find elsewhere. Unfortunately, the printouts don’t include recall activities, but they provide an overview of key vocabulary and grammar points. To retain more of the information, practice the vocabulary words and grammar through activities or flashcards on SpanishDict. If you want a semi-vintage but comprehensive free Spanish course experience, try Mi Vida Loca, then dive into Destinos.

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iLoveLanguages Mini-Review: Another Phrasebook SIte

ilovelanguages.org

Rating 1.6
Price:

Free

Summary

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 Mini-Review: No Words To Describe the Nope

Master Any Language

Rating 0.2
Price:

Free

Summary

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 Mini-Review: Adequate for Less-Studied Languages

Verbix

Rating 2.3
Price:

Free

Summary

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 Mini-Review: A Community Writing Sentences in Context

Tatoeba

Rating 3.3
Price:

Free

Summary

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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edX Mini-Review: Worth It If You Audit, Maybe Not If You Pay

Edx

Rating 3.8
Price:

Freemium, prices vary

Summary

Like Coursera, many of edX’s courses were developed by accredited universities, and you can obtain certificates of completion at the end of your studies. Unlike Coursera, edX’s courses are all free to audit, non-profit, and open-source. It was originally founded by Harvard and MIT, and since then has been joined by universities around the globe. The Spanish and Italian courses in particular have many activities to reinforce your learning, including writing, reading, speaking, and listening activities. The Chinese course is less comprehensive, but could still teach you the basics if you don’t mind watching lots of videos — although, the Peking University courses on Coursera may be a better option. The Steps in Japanese series also includes lots of videos, but these videos are interactive and quiz you on the material. Overall, Coursera seems to have a better platform than edX, and their courses may be more intuitive to navigate. However, that shouldn’t stop you from trying out what edX has to offer, especially considering that you can get most of it for free. After you have learned the basics, you can enrich your knowledge through Open Learn’s free language courses.

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