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Russian Resources

Bluebird Languages
2.5 
Price: Free, Premium subscriptions cost $13.99/mo, $144.99/year
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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.

Speekoo
2.5 
Price: Classes start at $15/hour
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Learning with Speekoo is more of a cultural journey than an intensive language learning app. With every lesson, you will explore some tourist attractions, unusual aspects, and funny anecdotes about different cities that speak the language you are studying. With each correct answer, you “walk” a kilometre further on your journey and gradually unlock videos and articles. Unfortunately, all of these features are in English (or French if you are learning from French).

Speekoo’s free lessons build on one another, and you can easily apply new words to your everyday life. Unfortunately, although you will effectively learn what the app teaches you, the extent of the material will only give you the absolute basics of each language. You will not be able to have even simple conversations once you have finished all the levels. The app also doesn’t introduce new scripts, so you won’t learn how to read Japanese or Chinese; instead, you will write the sounds using the English alphabet.

Despite its simplicity, Speekoo is a fun, free option for the extremely casual learner who wants to dip their toes in a language. Hopefully, the developers will take the levels further.

Loecsen
2.5 
Price: Free
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Loecsen’s strengths are its attractive interface and drawings that accompany the content. It also uses high-quality audio recordings by native speakers, even in the less-common languages.

The website offers 41 different languages, but unfortunately, there are only about 432 phrases to learn, which will not take you beyond even the absolute basics. These phrases are practical, however, so in a pinch, they may save you abroad.

Despite the attractive interface, the buttons are not very intuitive, so you may have to click around to figure out what each one does. Below the main interactive program, you can see a list of vocabulary and a progress bar for speaking and vocabulary activities — the vocabulary highlights in green as you complete the quizzes. At the very bottom of the page, you can also see an overview of basic pronunciation.

For pronunciation practice, the read-aloud tool provides you with a series of songs or text excerpts that you can record yourself reading aloud and then compare with the original song (or a robot voice).

If you’re just looking to learn basic essential phrases and pick up some vocabulary for a trip, Loecsen is an attractive program for the very casual learner. Otherwise, many other resources can take you to at least the intermediate level in most of the same languages.

AmazingTalker
2.5 
Price: From around $10 per 50-minute class
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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.

Verbix
2.3 
Price: Free
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Verbix is a verb conjugator website and app developed by an independent non-profit organization. It conjugates over 100 languages, including Old English, Latin, and Yiddish

The amount of information on the conjugation page varies depending on how common the language is. At its best, it will display nominal forms, most common verb conjugations, verbs that have similar conjugations, translations, synonyms, antonyms, cognates, and a section on etymology. Sometimes there are sample sentences (without translations) that seem to come from articles and books. The final section on additional information seems a bit random, and its purpose is unclear.

To conjugate a verb in another language, you have to know the verb in its infinitive form. Unfortunately, although Verbix has a translation function, it doesn’t seem to cover all of the available languages, so you may not be able to find the verb you are looking for in the first place.

A fun page to explore is Verbix’s list of over 6000 languages with a map depicting where each of these languages is spoken. Otherwise, Verbix seems a bit random and incomplete. It may be a helpful resource for less commonly studied languages, but check out Reverso Translation, Cooljugator, and SpanishDict first. 

Also, if you want to practice verb conjugations in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Latin, check out Conjuguemos

Lingua Boost
2.2 
Price: 1 level costs $19.90, two levels cost $33.90
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Lingua Boost’s website sells downloadable volumes of phrasebook-like lessons that teach everyday phrases in context. The lessons are about 10 minutes long; they are narrated by native speakers and focus on vocabulary within a specific topic. Although each lesson seems to contain something that resembles a dialogue, every phrase is spoken by the same person. Additionally, many of the lessons initially appear to be dialogues, but end up as a list of sentences. For example, the first line of a lesson might be, “what do you like to do?” followed by a series of statements such as “I like to read books,” or “I like to go swimming.”

Furthermore, for languages that have more difficult pronunciation, such as Russian and Hindi, the lessons do not break down pronunciation. In Pimsleur, for example, they use an excellent technique of working backwards with each syllable in a word. In Lingua Boost, it seems that you are expected to just listen and gradually catch on, even from the absolute beginner level.

Finally, each volume must be purchased separately, but you can test out the first 5 lessons for free on their website.

If you’re looking for a similar course that breaks down pronunciation, has interactive activities and helps you learn full dialogues in context, check out Pimsleur’s subscription plan.

lingohut
Price: Free
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Kendal and Philipp, the creators of the LingoHut, are passionate about teaching languages. Their website supposedly helps A1 and A2 language learners develop their confidence in listening and pronunciation. All audio clips were recorded by native speakers so that beginners can get accustomed to natural pronunciation, and each lesson has a series of matching games for listening comprehension and reading.

Unfortunately, the creators’ genuine intention to support beginners doesn’t seem to translate into their lessons. The lessons are essentially a series of phrases that are not adapted to each language’s culture; each of the 50 languages use the exact same set of sentences and lesson formats. This means that you will learn how to say ‘dumpling’ both in Chinese and Italian. There is also no section to learn the script of languages such as Korean, Hindi, or Arabic, nor are there transliterations to help beginners sound out the pronunciation. Furthermore, some sentences switch between formal and informal language without explanation, which would not be intuitive for an A1 learner.

If you want a free resource to listen to native speakers’ pronunciation of hundreds of common phrases, LingoHut is definitely a free option. However, there are other resources that can help you learn languages more effectively.

Instant Immersion
Price: 1 level costs $29.95, 3 levels cost $44.95
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Instant Immersion offers programs in over 120 languages, narrated by native speakers. It claims to help you build your vocabulary, converse with ease, and perfect your pronunciation. It has interactive activities on the computer, interactive games you can play with your family on a DVD, and MP3 files for your car.

Their topics include food, shopping, restaurants, animals, numbers, etc. In other words, Instant Immersion will probably not help you if you are looking to have immediately applicable conversations

A common trend in many reviews is the lack of structure in these courses. While other courses build on what you have previously learned and help you learn vocabulary relevant to your everyday life, Instant Immersion seems to provide a large amount of information without transitions or a clear learning path. There is a lot of content, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you will learn a lot. Instant Immersion may have been a good investment several years ago, but now there are many other options for affordable, quality language learning.

Polly Lingual
Price: Freemium, yearly subscriptions start at $2.99/mo
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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
1.8 
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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.