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Spanish

Open Learn Mini-Review: Very Specific Course Topics

Open Learn

Rating 3.8
Price:

Free

Summary

Open Learn offers an entire section dedicated to language learning, with beginner, intermediate, and advanced content for German, Spanish, and French. You will also find some basic courses for Chinese, Welsh, English, and Italian. The courses seem to emphasize understanding the culture that the language originates from, and will teach you vocabulary through specific topics (like food and drink for beginner Italian, or ‘getting around’ for beginner Spanish). This may feel a little over the top when you end up studying holiday plans for 20 hours, but at the same time, you will probably feel quite confident in your abilities by the end of the course. Most of the beginner courses, other than Chinese, German, and Welsh, seem to be for false beginners. You will probably need to develop a basic foundation of your target language (maybe a section or two of the Duolingo tree, or the introductory courses on Coursera) before diving in, unless you want a challenge. Overall, Open Learn language courses are good for improving your language skills on specific topics, but you may not feel fulfilled in the area of practical conversation. Moreover, the user interface is not as attractive or easy to navigate as other resources, like Coursera. For some other free options that may give you more practical language skills, check out Coursera, edX, Deutsche Welle (German), TV5 Monde (French), Duolingo, HelloChinese, or Language Transfer.

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Coursera Mini Review: Great for Beginners, but Limited Options

Coursera

Rating 4.3
Price:

Free, with some courses starting at $39/month

Summary

Coursera has several paid and free online language courses developed by accredited universities. The quality of the courses varies, but the following recommendations have been well received — these courses are primarily for beginners who want an introduction to a new language. You can choose from a series of individual courses, or take a beginner specialization in RussianSpanishMandarin, and Chinese HSK 1-3 (with additional individual HSK 4-6 courses).  If you have just started, or haven’t yet started, learning Korean, Yonsei University has one course for absolute beginners, and another for those who have a basic grasp of Hangul.  Saint Petersburg State University’s beginner Japanese course is probably not as effective as other resources that we might recommend instead, such as JapanesePod101 or Pimsleur. École Polytechnique offers the only French course on Coursera; it’s technically for B1-B2 learners, although B2 learners may find it too easy.  Lastly, English learners can enjoy a specialization in intermediate grammaradvanced grammaracademic speaking and listening, or business English If you are starting a language and enjoy structured courses with a (flexible) weekly schedule, Coursera is a great option — especially since Coursera offers financial aid for those who can’t afford to pay the course fees. Pair your studies with a tutor from italki or Verbling for speaking practice and you’ll be good to go!

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Learn WIth Oliver Mini-Review: Simple With Lots of Content

Learn with Oliver

Rating 3.5
Price:

Free Trial, with premium plans starting at $96/year

Summary

Learn With Oliver is a simple website that offers SRS flashcards with audio recordings by native speakers, random videos and articles with a list of keywords, choose your own adventure stories, writing practice with corrections by native speakers, and progress tests. The flashcard words and sentences seem to have been randomly chosen rather than curated to specific learning goals, so they are probably better used as enrichment than as a primary learning tool. The site as a whole is probably best for learners who already have a good grasp of basic vocabulary in their target language. The mixed exercises use spaced repetition to first introduce you to new words, then get you practicing through various word order, fill-in-the-blanks, listening, writing, and multiple-choice activities. Each “card” (more like “page”) allows you to see an overview of each word with example sentences. A cute perk you will receive after completing each day’s lesson is a “reward link,” which is typically a cute or funny picture on Reddit. If you’re looking for alternatives to some of the features on this site, LangCorrect may have a larger community of language learners to support you in improving your writing, Readlang and the Zhongwen Chrome Extension will help translate words on most websites, Yabla will teach you languages through video clips, and sites like Readle (German) and Du Chinese can help with your reading comprehension.

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Lingua Mini-Review: Free Listening, Reading, and Writing Practice

Lingua

Rating 3.5
Price:

Free

Summary

Lingua is a free resource that offers reading, listening, dictation, and vocabulary activities. Every day, the site provides six new dictations in your target language. You can listen to two separate native speakers reading a series of sentences first at a normal speed, and then a slower speed. After you have finished transcribing, the website will automatically check and correct your writing. There are also short readings and listening comprehension exercises accompanied by a reading comprehension quiz on the side. The difficulty of content available depends on the language. Each exercise focuses on a theme relevant to everyday life, such as family, travel, and activities. Although each reading piece seems to have been written by native speakers, you may catch a few grammatical errors within the texts. You can choose to quiz either your passive or active vocabulary with a flashcard-like activity, although you may want to make personalized flashcards on Anki or use pre-made decks on Brainscape for a more curated practice.  It’s probably possible to get through most of Lingua’s content in a month, as there are only a handful of exercises in each language. Nevertheless, it’s a solid supplementary resource for reading, listening, and dictation practice. If you study French or German, TV5 Monde and Deutsche Welle are sites that have similar, more extensive free content. 

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101 Script Writing App Mini Review: Good for Indian Languages

101 Script Writing App

Rating 2.2
Price:

Freemium; one-off payment of $1.30 for full access

Summary

Kannada 101, Tamil 101, Telugu 101, Marathi 101, Bengali 101: these are just some of the apps from developer Uma Loganathan. You can also download Arabic 101, Vietnamese 101, and even English 101 and German 101. If you’re learning these languages, though, we’d take a look at Write Me instead. We feel that the Write Me app is generally a more well-designed option, especially since it also tests you on your ability to match the right character to an audio recording. However, the Write Me app barely has any Indian languages, and that’s where the 101 series shines. You’ll be able to trace the characters; switch between easy, normal, and freestyle modes; and receive a score out of 100. The stroke order and direction are clearly explained. Whenever you make a mistake, you receive instant feedback: the music stops and the “ink” stops flowing. This allows you to self-correct immediately, rather than practicing it wrong. The series has its flaws: like with most apps, you won’t learn how to join up characters. However, we think it’s a useful tool for beginners.

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Loecsen Mini-Review: Phrasebook App For Absolute Beginners

Loecsen

Rating 2.5
Price:

Free

Summary

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 Mini-Review: Almost Identical to Learn 101

ilanguages

Rating 1.3
Price:

Free

Summary

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 Mini-Review: A Re-Formatted Version of iLanguages

learn101

Rating 1.3
Price:

Free

Summary

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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DLI Courses Mini-Review: Free With a Strong Focus on Pronunciation

DLI Courses

Rating 4.3
Price:

$ 0.00

Summary

The DLI and FSI language courses are still some of the most comprehensive resources for language learning today, and probably the most comprehensive free resources you will find.  Although the DLI and FSI courses are comparable in quality, DLI courses focus more on military terminology in the later lessons, while FSI courses focus on everyday communication and communication for diplomats. Another key difference between them is that the DLI courses may go into more depth, and also seem to provide a more comprehensive guide to the study of each language; the FSI courses either have briefer explanations or dive straight into the content. Both of them have outdated content, which is understandable considering that they were developed in the mid-1900s and have scarcely been updated since then. Often the DLI courses outline clear practice strategies to reproduce your target language’s sounds. Also, depending on the language, literal translations are sometimes used so that you get accustomed to each language’s grammar structure. All the PDFs and audio files are available for download on various sites, although Live Lingua has made navigating between the material quite intuitive. If you can’t find your desired language in the DLI courses, check out the FSI courses for different options.

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PodcastsInSpanish Mini-Review: Bite-Sized Podcasts With Worksheets

Podcasts in Spanish

Rating 3.5
Price:

Free; extras cost €18/quarterly, €18/half-year

Summary

Podcasts In Spanish may have a bit of an outdated look, but they have a good amount of content to support intermediate to advanced learners. Each level has about ninety 3-minute episodes with accompanying downloadable mp3s, transcripts, worksheets and answers, and various vocabulary activities. The creators are especially good at identifying vocabulary that may confuse second-language learners without context (did you know that the tooth fairy in Spanish is called “Ratoncito Pérez”?), and they discuss a variety of topics relevant to everyday life. The narrators speak at the same natural speed from levels 1 to level 3, so it seems more suitable for intermediate and advanced learners despite the differentiation between elementary, intermediate, and advanced podcasts. If you are an upper-beginner looking to challenge yourself, you can try out the free samples to see if they are appropriate. Overall, Podcasts In Spanish has a lot to offer, especially with the additional worksheets, but other programs may offer a smoother transition between levels. Spanish Obsessed and Notes in Spanish both offer additional materials with three distinct levels of podcasts to improve your listening comprehension, while Unlimited Spanish is an excellent resource that will improve your oral communication. SpanishPod101 is also full of activities and podcasts that focus on vocabulary, grammar, and cultural information. For free supplementary grammar material, you can always check out SpanishDict.

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