Strokes International sells courses for 24 different languages. They’re more focused on European languages, from the popular German, Spanish, and French through to Slovakian, Czech, and Danish. They do have a couple of non-European ones, though, such as Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese.
Using a Strokes International course feels a bit like going back in time. You have to download the program onto your computer (and we had to install additional software to run it). In the days of language apps and on-the-go learning, this seems a little inconvenient.
Despite that, the course seems to be fairly effective. You listen to and repeat a natural conversation, before being slowly taught the words and phrases. You practice speaking them aloud, typing them, and playing Match Pairs card games.
Although grammar takes a back seat, there are explanatory notes throughout and you can access a detailed grammar guide. There’s also a Pronunciation Trainer and Vocabulary Trainer.
The Danish beginner course, which we briefly trialed, has 100 lessons.
It is clear that 50Languages aims to make language learning accessible to anyone with an internet connection There is no signup required to use the site, so its resources are both free, and anonymous. You can find 100 free downloadable audio files of native speakers and ‘lessons’ in over 50 languages, in addition to vocabulary, alphabets, quizzes, and games.
Unfortunately, none of these resources follow a cohesive learning path, nor does the platform help you memorize any of the information provided. Only one section, the Translation Trainer, aims to help you retain phrases. However, if you have saved phrases in multiple languages, all of them will be bunched together into one review without an indication of which language you should be translating into.
The audio files and phrasebook lessons contain a series of phrases that do not seem to build on what you have previously learned; learning from this website is essentially like referencing a phrasebook you might buy for a trip to another country.
50Languages has a lot of information available, but it doesn’t seem like it can be used as a standalone language resource. Perhaps you can take phrases and vocabulary that interest you and compiled them into an Anki deck to help with retention.
Rosetta Stone is one of the most well-known resources for learning languages. It takes an immersive approach to teaching and is widely used by corporations and individuals alike. High levels of repetition and an absence of translations or explanations are hallmarks of the course.
A Rosetta Stone course could be most suitable for learners that don’t mind repetitive exercises and prefer to learn from pictures and context rather than translations and explanations. It’s probably not a good option for anyone wanting to significantly improve their speaking or writing skills, or those looking for an engaging course.
Mondly is a language-learning app that teaches basic vocabulary and grammar structures. It seems most appropriate for learners with little to no exposure to their target language.
The activities mostly rely on passive recognition of vocabulary and phrases, and therefore are not very challenging. However, they are varied enough that you probably wouldn’t get bored with short, daily practice sessions.
Although I wouldn’t recommend Mondly to anyone looking to seriously learn a language, it may be appropriate for individuals studying languages with less available resources, or for individuals who are preparing to travel abroad.
Living Language Online Course
Living Language provides numerous learning materials for multiple languages, including complete and essential courses that come with textbooks and CDs. They also have specialty courses covering business, travel, and several jobs. However, their standard online version isn’t very practical, and it’s difficult to tell if you’re actually learning or simply going through the motions. While the resource might be useful for those who want access to a large vocab list with grammar reading materials, there are better, cheaper options.
Flowlingo allows you to browse websites and news articles in your target language while providing instant audio and visual translations when you tap on unknown words. They use an SRS based flashcard system to help you remember words you don’t know, and will automatically save flashcards from words that you translate. This does mean, however, that you have less control over what is recorded in the flashcard deck, especially with the possibility of accidentally tapping on words you already know.
The free content on Flowlingo’s app allows you to search the web and have access to instant translations. With a premium subscription, you can watch popular TV shows and movies, and upload your own books.
The app seems to still be under development, and it is unclear whether the flashcard system only records unknown words with a premium subscription, or if the app currently has a bug. Either way, this is probably a good app to look into at a future time, but there are currently more refined apps that provide similar content. Check out Yabla to learn languages through videos or Readlang for flashcards and translations from webpages and other texts.
Not only does FunEasyLearn have a slick app interface, high-quality recordings of native speakers, and a variety of activities to reinforce your learning, but it also allows you to learn from 61 mother tongues.
The lessons were developed by a team of certified linguists and acting teachers; they cover reading, listening, speaking and writing. You have the choice of learning individual vocabulary or common phrases, both of which navigate between various common categories such as “Describing people”, “General Conversation”, “ and “Transport”.
Unfortunately, FunEasyLearn does not seem to provide a foundation for learning more challenging scripts, such as Chinese or Thai; luckily they have a special feature where you can choose to omit the writing aspect and see transliterations; this will allow you to focus on speaking and listening.
Ultimately, FunEasyLearn is a fun and easy way to develop some basic vocabulary, but it is probably not the most effective resource for hard-core language learners; you will need to use another resource if you want to learn more than basic vocabulary words.
Earworms is a unique language resource that relies on audio lessons mixed into music. The theory is that you will find the music catchy and thus remember your lessons easily. The whole idea behind Earworms is the psychological theory of memory association. You would associate some information with the music and thus remember it easily. However, the music used in these lessons will not appeal to everyone, at least it didn’t for me. Moreover, the lack of visual aid and no exercises to assess your skills make it harder. I would only recommend this for people who have failed to learn through other online resources or perhaps someone looking to learn a few phrases before a trip.
Bluebird Languages has several types of lessons you can choose from, including a daily lesson, core vocabulary, essential verbs, creating sentences, powerful phrases, and conversation. Each topic seems to have a beginner, intermediate, and advanced lesson, although it’s not clear how advanced “advanced” is.
In each lesson, an English-speaking narrator will ask you to listen to and repeat translations of various phrases. The recordings in each language seem to use native speakers’ voices, which is quite the feat considering they have lessons in over 160 languages.
Bluebird Languages’ phrases don’t construct a replicable dialogue, so the phrases don’t seem to have a lot of context other than the topic at hand. Furthermore, the topics seem to be identical in all languages, so most of the phrases will not be culture-specific. They also don’t break down complicated pronunciation, but you can try to break it down yourself by slowing down the recording to 0.5x speed.
Bluebird Languages seems similar to Pimsleur but appears less organized and will probably not improve your communication abilities as quickly. Nevertheless, it may be a good free alternative for beginners, and the program will probably help you develop some confidence in speaking languages that have less challenging pronunciation. The conversation and personalized lessons require a monthly membership, but there is enough free content that these add-ons may not be necessary.