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Russian Resources

Olly Richards Short Stories
Price: Kindle books start at $6.55
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Olly Richards, the creator of I Will Teach You A Language, has written a series of short stories for high-beginners to improve their reading skills in several languages. He also has a 101 Conversations series, but this review focuses on his Short Stories.

Most of the languages use the most common words in your target language, with natural phrases that you would overhear locals using while conversing amongst each other. In every language, the plot follows the same characters and adventures, with some adjustments for cultural differences.

The intro to each book provides a practical overview of how to maximize your learning. At the end of each chapter, you will see a summary of the plot, a vocabulary list of new words (that are also bolded in the stories), and comprehension questions. The comprehension questions are simple, allowing you to find the responses directly in the text.

Overall, the Kindle version of Olly’s short stories seems worth the investment for upper beginners to improve their language abilities. If you’re learning Chinese, check out the Mandarin Companion series. Also, A1 – A2 Spanish learners can enjoy several short novels in the ESLC and Read It! series.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

itranslate
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iTranslate is a dictionary, thesaurus, and phrasebook. At first glance, it seems similar to Google Translate’s free app, but a couple of extra paid features make a big difference.

Like with Google Translate, you can take pictures of text in your surroundings, such as signs or newspapers, and receive instant translations into your native language. It differs in that you can also take pictures of objects in your surroundings and receive translations into your target language (although it’s not clear what the boundaries are on this function).

Two people who don’t speak the same language can use iTranslate Converse as a mediator between them, translating each sentence to create a transcript on their phone (with a slight delay). You can also use the iTranslate Keyboard in any texting app to receive instant translations.

To get the most out of your subscription, iTranslate includes five different apps that can support language learning and communication through text, voice, and games. Although iTranslate translates into over 100 languages, check the website to verify which languages are supported in the other apps.

iTranslate seems suitable for traveling and communication in different languages. If all you need is a dictionary to support your studies, try WordReference and Linguee, or Pleco for Chinese and SpanishDict for Spanish.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Duolingo
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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.”

Caption Pop
Price: Free, Premium subscriptions start at $10/mo
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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.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

cooljugator
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Cooljugator is a free online verb conjugation dictionary for over 40 languages, with special attention to languages without existing free resources. Besides conjugated forms, the website also provides examples, English translations, pronunciation hints, related verbs, and more. On each page, you can also read the translation for your chosen verb into every other language available on the site. Unfortunately, there are no audio files to help you with pronunciation, but maybe that will change in the future.

You can directly search for conjugations, or if you’re looking for inspiration, every language has a list of the most common verbs to choose from. On that same page, you can read some facts and a brief overview of what verb conjugation looks like in your chosen language.

Although Cooljugator is 100% free, you can purchase the creator’s other project, Interlinear Books, to learn languages through stories.

If you would like to practice verb conjugations for some common languages, check out Conjuguemos, another free resource with verb conjugation games. Also, SpanishDict is probably more appropriate for Spanish learners because of the extensive resources and activities that accompany their sections on verb conjugation. 

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Live Lingua
3.8 
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Live Lingua is an online language school that pairs students with certified teachers for one-on-one online classes. The platform aims to provide a more personalized service than online tutor directories by assigning a personal class coordinator and a customized curriculum for each student. Certificates are available in 11 different popular languages and for a variety of different courses.

Reverso Translation
3.8 
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Reverso is a translation and spell check app. Its features primarily target French and English learners, although it also translates into a handful of other languages.

Compared with BonPatron, Reverso’s spell-check function (available only for French and English) is less attuned to general mistakes, such as capitalization or inappropriate commas. Reverso only catches some of the errors related to inappropriate accordance of genders or numbers from “The House of Être” verbs. Nevertheless, it does a decent job of catching obvious mistakes, and it will provide you with synonyms to enrich your writing. You are encouraged to use the spell check function at each stage of the writing process because when you correct one error, the program may identify new ones. The free version allows you to check 1200 characters at a time, and upgrading to a premium version will allow you to check unlimited characters.

The Reverso Contexto dictionary is an excellent resource for most of the available languages. While Linguee takes examples from relatively formal sources, Reverso Contexto provides example sentences professionally translated from movies, dialogues, official documents, websites, and newspapers. 

Other resources include Reverso’s dictionary (which is usually from Collin’s) a verb conjugator, French and English grammar articles, a thesaurus, and a document translator.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Bite Size Languages
3.8 
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Bite size language was developed by the creator of the Actual Fluency Podcast. Each of the 5 languages consists of 100 lessons for beginners to develop their listening comprehension and pronunciation. You will learn grammar within the context of short dialogues and acquire relevant every-day vocabulary.

Each lesson seems doable within a 15-25 minute study session; they contain lesson notes, transcripts, translations, vocabulary, and a grammar section.

It seems like the dialogues speed up slightly as you advance through the lessons, but the final lessons do not reach a natural speed. This is understandable, however, as the program is aimed at beginners who have little or no exposure to the language (you can listen to some sound clips from various lessons here). You may be expected to repeat every lesson a few dozen times to get the most out of the course.

Without a foundation of the Russian alphabet, you will not be able to use the transcript or accompanying materials. Although technically the creator emphasizes that you don’t need to learn it because the core of the lessons are the dialogues, but considering all of the accompanying materials are only accessible if you know the alphabet, it would probably be a waste to do the program without already knowing the alphabet

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Preply
3.8 
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Preply is an online educational platform that matches tutors with students. There are tutors on Preply offering instruction in a wide range of languages and other subjects. As a learner, you can find a tutor that works best for you by browsing their demo videos and filtering by price and rating. Each tutor’s teaching style is their own.

Olly Richards 101 Conversations
3.7 
Price: Kindle books cost $0.99
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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.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.