Mandarin Chinese Resources
Polly Lingual is a phrasebook app and website with a series of basic word lists, flashcards, and memory games. Some of the phrases are pronounced by native speakers, while others use text-to-voice.
Unlike other phrasebook apps that focus on phrases alone, Polly Lingual introduces the basic alphabet in languages with non-romanized scripts. You can quiz yourself on the basic vowels and consonants in Russian, Hebrew, Korean, Japanese, and Arabic. Polly Lingual may be helpful for a quick review of what you’ve already learned, but if you’re keen on learning to write a new script, you may want to check out Write It! or Write Me.
There are also Polly Ambassadors — tutors who will provide short videos of language learning tips throughout the site. You can send them a personal message or hire them as a private tutor.
Overall, Polly Lingual only teaches basic phrases and will probably not help you learn how to construct your own sentences. If you’re just beginning to learn another language, check out French in Action, Red Kalinka (Russian), Chinesefor.us, 90 Day Korean, Portuguese lab, or Pimsleur to get more out of your time. Also, Italki will give you more options for private tutors, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Transparent Language markets itself as “the most complete language-learning system for independent learners.” While there are lots of different exercises for you to work through in their Essentials Course, I thought that the material wasn’t all that helpful and that it got very repetitive. Although the courses might not be all that useful or in-depth, with over a hundred languages on offer it might be worth checking out if you want to learn the very basics of a more obscure language such as Buriat, Kazakh or Turkmen. But, even then, I’d try to find other resources first.
Rype is a resource that provides language learners with access to one-on-one lessons with teachers. According to its advertising, you’ll be able to “Learn anytime, anywhere, on-the-go.” Users purchase a subscription package that contains a certain number of lessons per month. The lessons are 30-minutes long and are easy to schedule.
Michel Thomas Method
One of the most famous language teaching courses out there, Michel Thomas is a household name. The platform advertises itself as “The method that works with your brain” and boasts a teaching method “with no books, exercises, memorizing or homework” in several of its course descriptions. It’s available in 18 languages with courses that have material suitable for absolute beginners. I tried out the French foundation course and found it to be severely lacking and as such cannot recommend it at all. You may, however, have more luck with the other language courses that they offer.
iLoveLanguages seems similar to iLanguages and Learn101 in that every language has the same content and grammar. The eighteen 30-minute beginner ‘lessons’ in every language are essentially lists of phrases and vocabulary words, with audio recordings by native speakers.
The site seems to provide a local teacher for each language, but for some reason, the same teacher offers at least 11 of the languages (including Gaelic, Basque, Filipino, Marathi, and Cantonese). Oddly enough, this teacher also appears in stock photos around the internet. Considering that the website advertises each language class as being taught by a native speaker, perhaps be cautious if you are considering taking a class from this site — maybe try italki or SpanishVIP for private lessons instead.
iLoveLanguages may be helpful if you want to hear native speakers pronounce words in South-Eastern languages, like Marathi, Gujarati, Vietnamese, or Malay. You can compare the pronunciation with the speakers from either iLanguages or Learn 101 (but not both, as they use identical audio files). You could also check out Forvo, which is probably the most extensive pronunciation database on the internet right now.
17 Minute Languages
17 Minute Languages is a language-learning program that uses spaced repetition and native-speaker audio to teach a wide variety of languages. In our opinion, the courses aren’t very engaging; the courses we tried included significant errors and didn’t offer any language-specific explanations. There are leaderboards for comparing your progress with other users and a language forum that’s available after four days of use.
Encore!!! Language Learning
Encore!!! Language Learning allows you to listen to playlists of common phrases, vocabulary, conjugations, and dialogues. It varies in terms of whether it uses native speakers or automated text-to-voice.
The app is basically a phrasebook that allows you to practice translating sentences to and from your native language, or simply repeat after an audio in your target language. You can listen to a pre-made playlist, mute or unmute certain phrases within a playlist, adjust the number of repetitions of each phrase, or create your own playlist. You can also test your memory with the Test tool by reading prompts in your native language and translating into your target language.
The app seems to focus more on understanding grammar structures than other phrasebook sites like Optilingo or Lingohut. Technically you could learn something by repeating the phrases aloud, but there are many other free apps that provide a clearer learning path and have a more intuitive interface than Encore!!! Language Learning.
Optilingo is essentially a phrase-bank in slideshow form. Each of the 20 languages available includes 100 lessons, none of which contain information about the topic or learning goals during the writing of this review. You can expect to listen to a series of phrases, and then review (what seems like) the last 45 phrases you have learned before moving onto the next lesson.
The phrases are not in flashcard form — instead, they are in a slideshow with both the English and the target language displayed together. Optilingo advertises learning and practicing with over 29 hours worth of phrases, and while you can surely practice with their phrase-bank, actually learning to speak any of the languages offered using their platform is questionable.
If you are keen on language learning, check out our bank of reviews for other resources.
Write Alphabet seems to be a less developed version of Write It! Its purpose is to help users learn to write in different languages, guiding you through the alphabet of several scripts and allowing you to practice by drawing the characters with your finger.
Like Write It!, Write Alphabet is free, but it has a lot of advertisements without an option to buy them off. Additionally, the app does not recognize your attempt to replicate each language’s script unless you start and finish within the lines of the template.
Instead of this app, you can test Write it! (free), Write Me (paid lifetime access), and Scripts by Drops (monthly or lifetime access) to see which one best suits the language you are learning. For more comprehensive apps, check out Eggbun for Korean or Skritter for Chinese and Japanese.
Sublearning is a very simple website that supposedly helps you learn languages through movie subtitles. You will be presented with 1 to 6 lines of subtitles from your chosen movie, and then you can reveal the translation after thinking about the response.
There are 62 source and target languages, which does make one wonder where the translations are coming from; be wary of Sublearning’s translation quality.
Just to clarify, the subtitles do not seem to be sourced from the most iconic phrases from your favourite movies; rather, they seem to be random lines from the movie, sometimes as simple as “I don’t think so”. If you’re just looking to reminisce about anything that was said in movies you have seen, you can go to Sublearning to pass some time. However if you’re interested in language learning, I recommend checking out some of the many resource reviews we have on this site.