Swahili is one of the primary languages in East Africa. It’s spoken by approximately 100 million people either as a primary or secondary language. If you want to travel around or work in East Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and other similar countries, then learning Swahili will come in handy.…
Freemium, Premium Subscriptions cost $6.99/mo, $60/Year
OPLingo is a community-oriented, non-profit language learning site. It essentially combines the functions of LingQ, LangCorrect, Readlang, iTalki, and HelloTalk. The free version gives you limited access to some functions, but by paying for a membership you support ethical causes — such as building a primary school in Tanzania. You can browse user-contributed texts or easily import your own YouTube videos, articles, or ebooks into the Reading Tool. OPLingo has also developed hundreds of audio conversations in several languages, including Tagalog, Cebuano, Thai, Swahili, and Russian. Within each page, you can read a transcript and get definitions and pronunciations of unknown words. By identifying which words you don’t know, the next passages you read will highlight the number of known or unknown vocabulary words. In their Write & Correct section, you can write in over 100 languages and exchange corrections with other users, although Spanish, French, and English learners have a better chance of receiving corrections than other languages at the moment. You can also practice a language by texting with fellow community members, or by hiring a teacher in your target language. OPLingo has a lot of potential and is a good alternative to LingQ, but it needs a community of learners to help it grow — so check it out!
Struggling to find beginner-level Afrikaans or Yoruba reading materials? Spanish books relevant to Equatorial Guinea instead of Spain or Colombia? Stories in Nigerian Pidgin or Cape Verdean Creole? African Storybook has thousands of free-to-read children’s stories in various African languages, from Acholi through to Zinza. Most of them were written by African authors. The website is best for beginner and lower-intermediate students. The stories are generally designed for young children, with easy-to-read sentences that introduce you to basic vocabulary and some variation in tenses. The difficulty is graded from one to five, with five being the most challenging. You can normally find the English translation of the book, too, although you would probably be better off using a dictionary. Don’t give up if at first you don’t see your language on the website. Some languages have been entered with their English name, others with their original name, and others under several different names. For example, for Swahili, you would need to look under “Kiswahili”, while French texts are under “French”. Frustratingly, not all languages on the dropdown menu currently have texts. According to African Storybook, they have a greater number of books for languages in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. However, as this initiative continues to grow, hopefully they’ll have stories for more and more languages.
From around $10 per 50-minute class
AmazingTalker is an italki and Verbling competitor that lets you book classes with language teachers and academic tutors of your choice. It has a lot of attractive features for students, but teachers complain about high commission rates and lack of support. It boasts a 3% acceptance rate for teachers and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy with your class, they’ll rebook you another one for free. There are lots of teachers to choose from, or you can also use their AI Matching Service to find a tutor. The teachers’ profiles include videos, reviews, and their résumé. However, AmazingTalker doesn’t seem a great choice for teachers. It charges English and Japanese teachers astonishingly high commission rates of up to 30%. While these rates fall as teachers earn more through the site, they have to make $1,500 a month before the commission reaches levels comparable to italki and Verbling. Making it worse, there’s an additional 8% fee for payment processing and tax that all teachers have to pay, no matter what language they teach. There have also been complaints on Reddit from teachers claiming to have been harassed by students and fellow teachers. However, we cannot corroborate these. Given all this, we’d recommend trying italki (review) or Verbling (review) first. Alternatively, check out our guide to the best platforms for online language classes.
Verbling is an online language-class marketplace where you can take lessons with teachers of your choice. It has some student-friendly extra features, including a built-in online classroom, flashcards, homework calendar, and a filing system for lesson materials. There are also useful but disorganized forums where you can discuss languages, share writing for critique, and do free language drills and exercises.
The lessons are generally high quality and well structured, plus the filters make it easy to find teachers who specialize in everything from accent reduction to interview preparation.
However, it can be slightly pricier than alternatives, so if you’re on a tight budget, you may want to look elsewhere. It also has fewer languages than some of the bigger competitors, so it might not be a good choice if you want to study Azerbaijani, Khmer, or Yoruba.
There are some less experienced teachers, but I found the lessons to be more consistently high quality than on italki.
The classroom technology, flashcards, and filing system are fantastic for learners and easy to use.
Some teachers charge more than on italki, but you get better classroom technology, more privacy, and fewer disorganized teachers.
- I quickly found great teachers.
- The platform’s extra features, such as teacher-made, personalized flashcards, help you review the material learned in each lesson.
- It seems focused on long-term progression as well as immediate student satisfaction.
- You don’t have to give out your contact details, thanks to the classroom technology.
I Don’t Like
- Some teachers don’t use the platform’s flashcards and materials system.
- There are fewer languages available than on italki.
- You can only pay in US dollars, plus there’s a hidden fee.
- The forums need more moderation.
Prices are set by the teacher and range from $5 to $75 for an hour-long lesson. You can get discounts for buying packs of 5, 10, or 20 lessons with a teacher. Every student gets one free trial lesson, after which they’re $6 each.
I’ve got a confession to make: italki is one of my least favorite online language-learning resources. However, it was my go-to option for a long time, and I understand why people love it: it’s cheap, has teachers in nearly every language imaginable, and the app has a bunch of extra community features.…
Internet Polyglot is a website for memorizing vocabulary words in dozens of languages. It has 44 “lessons” that cover topics like cars, time, religion, politics, feelings, measurements, and more. Each lesson is essentially a word list with native speaker pronunciation, an English translation, and a link to a picture to help you remember each word. There are picture games, matching games, guessing games, and typing games, plus a word search and a slide show that reviews all of the words in the lesson. Given that none of the vocabulary words in Internet Polyglot are taught using example sentences or context, learning vocabulary using this site may not be the best use of your time. You are probably better off using Anki to curate personalized vocabulary lists and downloading native speaker audio files from Forvo to accompany your flashcards. Nevertheless, you may find it useful if all you are looking for is a site that already has lists of vocabulary words with native speaker audio. If you are looking for audio files for less commonly-studied languages in context, you can check out iLoveLanguages.
2Seeds Swahili hails from an older version of the internet: one where a public charity would create a Swahili language course on a free WordPress.com blog for their Project Coordinators. Yet while dated, the content is good. Each blog post takes a separate grammatical function or topic, with the ambitious aim of taking you from phonetics and greetings to mastering the subjunctive and imperative in just 12 posts. As you might expect, these posts don’t make for quick or light reading: they are long and full of tables, embedded audio recordings, thorough grammatical explanations, worksheets, and answer sheets. We wouldn’t recommend using 2Seeds Swahili alone or instead of a more modern course. It’s highly useful but intense. Instead, we would suggest using it alongside a course like SwahiliPod101 (review) or Mango Languages (review), or to supplement vocabulary apps such as Drops (review) and YouTube channels like Swahili Dar Language School (review).
Learn Swahili by Language Corner
At first glance, this app appeared basic but promising. However, it soon proved too buggy to use. Learn Swahili Speak Swahili contains word lists and audio recordings for basic Kenyan Swahili words in 28 different categories. It uses native audio recordings that are so slow it almost seems unnatural. You’ll never struggle to work out the pronunciation with this app. The problems started, however, when the first ad popped up. After we closed it, all audio recordings stopped working. We had to uninstall and reinstall the app for it to work again. On our second try, we went to the Translate function and typed in “hello”. Having done that, the app wouldn’t let us scroll down to see the translation. Even if this app were glitch-free, it still wouldn’t be a great resource. You would need to pair it with a flashcard app to drill the new vocabulary, as there are no in-built exercises or quizzes. However, until these bugs are fixed, Language Corner’s Learn Swahili Speak Swahili app seems too frustratingly buggy to use.
Samba Kamara/Linguarena Apps
Freemium, the “full” apps cost $2.50–$23.90
The Samba Kamara/Linguarena apps include Learn Swahili, Learn Wolof, Learn Bambara, and Apprendre l’allemand. For each language, you can either download the free app or the “full,” paid-for one. There are a lot of things we like about these apps, but ultimately, we felt overwhelmed using them. We tried out the Learn Swahili app and were impressed with a lot of the features: the native audio, the language demonstrated in context, the cultural notes, and the sheer amount of content that you can learn. However, with few exercises and opportunities to drill the material, we found ourselves not remembering much and feeling demotivated by the sheer amount of vocabulary there is to memorize. These apps might make for a good supplementary or expansion option if you’re already studying a Swahili, Wolof, or Bambara course. Alternatively, if you use these apps alone, be prepared to do lots of drilling.