Memrise is a super popular language-learning app available online and on mobile. It functions much like a gamified flashcard app, and it offers a lot of content for free. A lot of the content is user-created, and there is a premium subscription that provides access to additional features. Memrise can be a great tool in your arsenal, but you’ll need more to learn a language seriously.
Lingvist is a language learning resource that uses spaced repetition and flashcards to help you build your vocabulary in a new language. There are five language courses made for English speakers, and some of these have an extra challenges section with additional reading, speaking, grammar, and listening practice. Lingvist is straightforward, easy to use, and most effective for beginners or intermediate learners.
Pimsleur is one of the most popular and longest-standing resources out there for learning a foreign language. Its courses place a strong emphasis on aural and verbal communication skills, paying less attention to grammar explanations and reading or writing skills. There are over 50 language courses available with Pimsleur, and the bulk of the material is taught with audio lessons.
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.”
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.
Wlingua relies on two methodologies for learner success: staggered repetition and progressive exposure. Staggered repetition seems identical to typical spaced repetition methods, while progressive exposure ensures that all new words and concepts are based on what you have previously learned. This ensures that there are no gaps in knowledge when it comes to tackling more advanced lessons. Additionally, each lesson focuses on one concept at a time in order to avoid overwhelming the learner, and there is a clear path for what you will be learning from beginner to the end.
Each new word is “linked to its precise meaning or use” so that you can use them in context. The program consists of new vocabulary, grammar, exercises, reading practice, and audio by native speakers with different accents. The downside is that there seems to be more focus on reading and comprehension than on listening and speaking.
Only Spanish and Russian are currently available from Beginner to Upper-Intermediate. Other languages are available at the beginner and elementary levels.
You can use the app without registering for an unspecified number of days. There is limited basic content available for free, while the premium plan offers unlimited access, practice reviews tailored to your learning, and downloadable PDF lessons.
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,
Brainscape is a flashcard app that uses a Spaced Repetition System, also often referred to as ‘adaptive flashcards’, to help you memorize new vocabulary and facts. It has a team of scientists, engineers, and education experts working to optimize their program for effective learning.
Brainscape is quite similar to Anki, but has a more modern and colourful interface. They also have Certified Classes, which are decks that seem to have been developed by experts in the chosen topic. The app adds what they call Intelligent Cumulative Exposure (ICE) to some of their Certified Classes; it seems to combine a Spaced Repetition System with gradually introducing new concepts, increasing the difficulty of the concepts, and providing context so you can build your own sentences.
It has several Certified Classes for various languages (and other topics), and many more decks created by users. Unlike Anki, edits that creators make to user decks seem to sync up even after you have downloaded the deck.
With the free version, you have limited access to premium decks but unlimited access to user-made decks.
With CaptionPop you can use YouTube videos to pursue your language learning endeavours using subtitles in both your target language and native language. Tap a single key to repeat the last caption, slow down the playback speed, and bookmark subtitles to study with SRS interactive flashcards. The flashcards will not just have you memorize words, but practice dictations with immediate feedback on your accuracy. Unfortunately there are currently some bugs in the programming, and you may only hear part of the caption you are being asked to transcribe.
You can search for Youtube videos in your target language within the CaptionPop platform, but only those videos with subtitles in both your target language and your native language are available. This means that you will rely on captions translated and transcribed by the video’s creators, which improves your language learning experience but restricts the amount of available Youtube content. Nevertheless, there is a good amount of content from popular channels in more common languages.
The free version of the platform combined with self-made Anki cards may be a better option than subscribing to the premium version, as the bugs in CaptionPop’s programming may not be worth the monthly payment.
Comprehensible Russian is a Youtube Channel and website that supports learners through videos and online lessons. Inna, the founder, emphasizes learning through comprehensible input — lessons and videos are entirely in Russian, and there is little focus on grammar. She will speak at a pace suitable to the target audience’s level and use various techniques to help you understand the content, such as gestures, illustrations, and maps.
Inna’s 5-10 minute videos are for absolute beginners who want to pick up basic vocabulary. If you like her teaching style, you can support her through Patreon or make a one-time purchase to access longer, 15-60 minute videos. The Youtube videos come with free PDF transcripts to follow along.
When you feel confident in your understanding of the beginner videos, you can take private lessons with her online or in person. There is also the option to support her through Patreon and attend live lectures. Inna does most of the speaking during these lectures, but you can feel free to ask questions in English or Russian.