Olly Richards 101 Conversations
Olly Richards, the creator of I Will Teach You A Language, has written a series of books for beginner and intermediate learners to improve their conversation skills in several languages. He also has a Short Stories series, but this review focuses on 101 Conversations.
His 101 Conversations series has a beginner and intermediate book for every language, though both books are appropriate for level A2 on the CEFR scale. You will learn natural phrases that you can use in everyday conversation through following the story of six people. Each chapter has a dialogue between some of these characters, which you can engage with through the practical learning methods that Olly outlines at the beginning of each book. While the first chapter in the first book may have one-sentence exchanges, the characters get chattier and the grammar becomes more complex as you continue reading.
Overall, Olly’s 101 Conversations series is fun to follow, particularly because each book sets out to solve a mystery. They are less expensive than his Short Stories series, but also contain less content (there are no comprehension questions or summaries at the end of the chapters, but there are short vocabulary lists). Nevertheless, both are probably a good investment to advance your conversational Spanish abilities.
Mango Languages is a pretty good resource with numerous languages available along with their regional variations. It’ll work the best for beginners or for those interested in studying a few languages at the same time. Anybody past the intermediate level won’t find Mango Languages very useful.
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.
Learn with Oliver
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.
Conversations - IWTYAL
Conversations by I Will Teach You a Language is a downloadable program that uses Comprehensible input (CI) as a strategy to improve your language level. Comprehensible input is when you consume second language material that is just above your current level, which in IWTYAL’s case, is about A2-B1 on the CEFR scale.
The Conversations program includes material of a manageable length with full transcripts and English translations. It is 20 chapters long and follows six characters, two of whom have just moved to the countryside from the big city. You will listen to realistic dialogues between the characters and learn everyday colloquialisms and slang. The characters have a variety of accents within each language, and they speak at a relatively natural speed. The series has the same content in each language, but there are variations based on cultural differences.
IWTYAL probably has good quality materials, but it is quite expensive compared to other CI resources. Intermediate learners can check out innerFrench, Japanese With Noriko, Russian With Max, and Dreaming Spanish for some high-quality, free alternatives. Chinese learners might want to check out Du Chinese and The Chairman’s Bao for graded readers with audio.
Although Lexilogos seems to have entirely neglected its aesthetics, it holds more than meets the eye. If you click on one of the 130+ languages listed at the bottom of the page, you will find a series of resources to support your studies. This is especially useful for less-studied languages, like Marathi, Basque, and Pashto. Although the lists don’t provide recommendations for applications, they do provide a list of dictionaries, keyboards, news sites, books, and research papers. Additionally, if you switch to the French version of the site, there are even more languages and resources available for you to explore.
Within each language’s page, there is also a dictionary search function. You will notice that more commonly studied languages will have dozens of dictionaries to choose from, while less commonly studied languages may only have one or two.
Overall, Lexilogos is a great option for finding resources for less commonly studied languages. They regularly update their site, so make sure to check back if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time around.
Lingo Mastery Conversational Dialogues
Lingo Mastery provides over 100 short dialogues in a series of advanced beginner books (about A2 on the CEFR scale) for various languages.
Lingo Mastery’s Conversational Dialogues doesn’t take the immersive approach that you will find in other graded readers. Instead, they provide a full English translation of each text. There are no vocabulary lists or comprehension questions like in their Short Stories series, but you will read conversations that take place in over a hundred different scenarios. If your goal is to accumulate vocabulary based on situations that you may encounter in your everyday life, then Lingo Mastery is probably a good investment.
If you want to follow real-life conversations that are part of a continuous story, you may want to check out Olly Richards’ 101 Conversations. Also, if you are looking for a series of books that will keep you captivated, Mandarin Companion and ESLC provide graded readers that simplify famous stories into Chinese and Spanish.
If you do decide to invest in these readers, make sure to buy the Kindle version, which is about 20% of the paperback price. There are also previews available on Amazon.
Learn German DeutschAkademie
Learn German by DeutschAkademie is a simple, free app that offers grammar exercises for levels A1 – C1 on the CEFR scale. It was designed by German Language teachers at the DeutschAkademie, a German language school in Germany. The app is not a standalone resource to learn German, but rather a supplement to your current German studies to help you practice grammar. You can choose exercises based on your level, a specific grammar topic, or one of 70 common textbooks.
Beginners may struggle to use this app, as there are no grammar exercises or English translations beyond the home page. Additionally, there are no instructions for how to respond to the questions, so you will have to use context from the multiple-choice answers to understand what the question is asking.
Overall, Learn German by DeutschAkademie is a useful tool to practice grammar, but if you are looking for a course that will teach you how to speak, read, write, and understand German, you may want to look elsewhere. Deutsche Welle is another free option with short courses and activities, while Lingoni, and Smarter German offer comprehensive courses.
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!
Busuu is a digital language-learning app with over 90 million registered users. The resource offers vocabulary and grammar practice through short, self-paced study exercises. It also has a social aspect that allows users to get writing and pronunciation feedback from native speakers. It is available on the web, iOS, and Android.