Spanish Uncovered (and the similar German, French, Italian and Japanese courses) come from Olly Richards, the creator of the super popular blog I Will Teach You A Language. It’s quite a bit different than most courses as it revolves around a story. It can be a bit more challenging than other courses, as you begin reading somewhat long texts right off the bat. Overall, I found it to be a more fun way to approach language learning that will be great for some but not ideal for others.
Fluenz is a language learning software that is available on most devices and offers offline functionality. Its primary objective is to simulate the one-on-one tutor experience with the use of video tutorials that break down the language you’re learning. There are ample explanations of language concepts in English, and the instruction is very thorough. It’s designed for the user with a bigger budget that’s looking for an in-depth and serious learning experience.
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.”
The Coffee Break Languages series teach languages through podcast-style lessons. The lessons have a casual feel and offer lots of explanations, building on each other nicely. Courses are available for a one-time purchase, but much of the material is also available for free as podcasts or Youtube videos.
Interlinear Books is a project for intermediate language learners from the creators of Cooljugator. They sell individual e-books in their original language, but with English translations between each line of text. Instead of translating full sentences that capture the spirit of the language, professional translators use literal (but understandable) translations to support you in understanding the original language’s sentence structure.
Another technique that the authors use to support your learning is to highlight cognates between languages. You may find translations for words whose English counterpart looks almost identical to that of the target language, even when those English translations are not the most commonly used. The authors suggest that you don’t read the translations as full sentences, but rather that you refer to them only when you encounter words or expressions that you don’t understand. Each purchase also comes with a unilingual version for you to try out for extra practice (and sometimes they even come with an audiobook!).
For intermediate learners who are tired of looking back and forth between a dictionary and their book, Interlinear may be a good intermediary to support you in the transition to unilingual books. Chinese is not supported yet, but check out Du Chinese or the Chairman’s Bao for graded reading material.
Conjugemos is a website that drills verb conjugations, vocabulary, and grammar. You can choose to either drill different skills through typing the answers in a flashcard-like system, or through various games such as crosswords, memory, word search, and multiplayer games.
While it is free for anyone to use, additional resources are available to teachers through a paid plan.
It should be noted that although the site technically supports Korean learners, the Korean section only has one activity in the present tense.
Assimil is a French company that has been selling language-learning resources since 1929. Assimil materials are available as books, CDs, and downloadable e-courses; there are a variety of available course types, and instruction is based on interacting with phrases in the target language. The popular Sans Peine or, With Ease, courses are for absolute or false beginners that would like to reach the B2 level, but we think you’ll need to incorporate some other study materials to make this happen.
Lingolia is a reference site that supports you in understanding grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and punctuation for school or work; it can be used as a tool to support your language studies when you require clearer explanations of these concepts. English and German are currently the only languages that contain additional sections on vocabulary with listening and reading exercises, although it’s possible that the Spanish and French sections will develop these in the future.
Each page provides a simple explanation of your chosen topic, and then an exercise (or more if you get the premium plan) to practice your comprehension. The best part about the exercises is that they give you immediate feedback about whether or not your response was correct, providing you with the opportunity to reflect on your mistake and correct it. If you don’t want to invest in a premium plan, you can use Lingolia’s free exercises and then check out other resources that provide similar exercises for free, such as SpanishDict or Conjuguemos.
Unfortunately, there is no audio on the site to train pronunciation, but Lingolia does seem to fulfill its mission of providing simple explanations to support your learning.
Storyling solves the problem of looking for reading content appropriate to your language level. Each story has been written, translated, and narrated by native speakers, and are divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. They cover a variety of topics, including stories, history, news, and trivia.
You can click on each word in the story for a translation, or you can reveal a full translation of each paragraph as needed. You can also save unknown words to review in a flashcard section, although it is unclear whether the flashcards use SRS or are sorted randomly.
The Spanish section already contains over 150 stories, while the other languages are still developing in the Beta phase. Compared to other products, it is a bit pricey for what is offered, but they do have a very simple, intuitive, and attractive user interface with quality content.
For more reading or listening that is concentrated on current events, check out News in Slow; for more dialogue-based listening and reading, check out LanguagePod101.
Language learning with Netflix
If you want to make language learning more accessible while watching Netflix, this chrome extension is for you.
The free version allows you to skip subtitles forward and backward in case you didn’t catch what was said, and you can also choose to automatically pause the movie or show after each subtitle. The full transcript is also displayed on the side. By hovering over a word you can see a short translation and hear an audio pronunciation, or you can click on the word for more context and further links to various dictionary sites.
With a Pro membership you can save words or phrases, receive translations that are closer to the meaning in the original language, and create subtitles for dubbed movies.
LLN’s catalogue can help you find Netflix movies or shows with high-quality subtitles to improve your experience,