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Russian Resources

magic lingua
3.1 
Price: Courses cost between $31.99 and $499.99
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Magic Lingua provides a series of individual courses for language learning. They advertise that you will gain enough confidence in speaking that you will be able to not only start a conversation with anyone, but do so without thinking about grammar and vocabulary. The full courses are offered for beginner, intermediate, and advanced speakers depending on the language (advanced is considered the B1 level).

The voice-recognition software seems to do an adequate job of recognizing which words you are pronouncing correctly, and it does appear to help improve speaking abilities by actively reenacting dialogues with you. Therefore, the app alone may help develop your confidence to start conversations in your target language.

Although not subscription based, each full course must be purchased individually. The 2-3 week crash courses seem more reasonable for the price, but the full 10 week courses are a hefty $200+. They consist of 10 modules plus hundreds of video lessons and speaking exercises. There is the option to complete the modules with live tutor sessions, or alone.

Magic Lingua is probably worth your time if you don’t mind spending a lot on one app, but with the current price it might be better to look for alternatives. There are some free lessons available on their website for you to test out, but check back for more languages and levels in the future.

WordBit
Price: Free
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WordBit is a free app that minimizes the effort and thought that goes into deliberate practice by presenting you with the opportunity to practice each time you open your lock screen.

Each time you open your phone, the app will overlay the lock screen and present you with either multiple choice translations for a given word, or a flashcard. You can choose to close the app to access the lock screen, or respond to the prompt. Although this app interferes with tasks on your phone that require immediate attention, it is no doubt effective at consistently exposing you to new vocabulary.

It is available in multiple languages, for both target and source languages, and there is a large vocabulary category bank to choose from, including vocabulary from each of the levels A1-C2.

There are some bugs in its programming, such as restarting your progress through each deck if you add or remove a category, and the ads at the bottom of the screen are easily tapped by accident.

HeyLingo
Price: $5.99/mo, $24.99/year, and $39.99/lifetime access
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Hey! Lingo, with its flashy, modern, desktop interface, offers a series of phrasebook-like flashcard courses in 26 languages. Each language is divided into 50 lessons, the first 20 of which don’t require a subscription. A premium subscription will allow you to filter flashcard formats, focus on which cards have been difficult for you, and specify which cards you would like to learn in one lesson.

The lessons focus on specific skills and each have 10 flashcards. They use both the official alphabet of the target language and a transliteration of the alphabet. The audio pronunciation for each card seems to use a lower quality text-to-speech program than we’ve seen in other apps, which can detract from the learning experience.

Although Hey! Lingo is a phrasebook app, it does not focus on typical travel phrases, like how to order food at a restaurant. Instead, it teaches you practical phrases that get to the heart of expressing oneself. Here are some example sentences in the Korean 1 course: “I feel lonely,” “I envy him” and “Stop following me”.

The lessons don’t seem to provide a solid foundation for beginners, and they probably won’t help you have conversations in your target language. However, if you enjoy learning useful phrases and already have a basic foundation of the language, Hey! Lingo could be a good option for you.

L-Lingo
Price: $14.95/mo, $75/half-year, $120/year
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Each language on L-Lingo contains 105 lessons and 5000 words. The lessons seem to be the same in every language, and will teach you typical textbook lessons, such as booking a hotel reservation, naming different colours, or navigating to an airport. If you are looking for something that will help you communicate naturally with native speakers, this probably isn’t the resource for you.

Similar to Rosetta Stone, L-Lingo plays an audio recording of a sentence or word, and then asks you to find the image that corresponds to what you just heard. Unlike Rosetta Stone, L-Lingo provides seemingly clear and concise grammar explanations of the concept you are about to learn. They provide three types of quizzes with every lesson, and also use Spaced Repetition Software to help you remember new vocabulary.

There are currently some technical difficulties signing up on the website, but you can access their content on your mobile device. The program has mixed reviews on various platforms, but you can check out the first five lessons for free to see if it suits what you’re looking for.

Scripts by Drops
Price: Freemium, $9.99/mo, $69.99/year, $159.99/lifetime-access
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Although it has a flashier interface, Scripts by Drops offers similar content to Write it! and Write Me. However, unlike these other apps, which sound out the name of each character, Scripts by Drops seems to focus on how the letter would sound if it were in a sentence. For example, instead of pronouncing the Hebrew character ב (vet or bet) you will hear /v/ or /b/.

You can practice writing different characters with your fingers, and there are a variety of fast-paced activities to help you remember the different alphabets. Under the same membership as Scripts by Drops, you can also use the Drops app to learn and practice words that use your chosen alphabet.

Similar to Write Me and Write It!, Scripts by Drops doesn’t seem to give much background about script. Also, some people may find the animation is too flashy and time-consuming; you can test Write it! (free), Write Me (paid lifetime access), and Scripts by Drops (monthly or lifetime access) to see which app best suits the language you are learning. For more comprehensive apps, check out Eggbun for Korean or Skritter for Chinese and Japanese.

bab.la
Price: Free
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Bab.la is a bilingual dictionary for 28 different languages. Their site includes quizzes, games, grammar lessons, phrasebooks, and a forum for users to discuss language learning. You can also look up various verbs in the conjugation tables or find synonyms and examples of how to use words in context.

Their quizzes should be taken with a grain of salt — If your purpose is to familiarize yourself with vocabulary and grammar structures, then these are probably a fun way to explore your target language. However, if your purpose is to understand the target language’s culture, beware of any quiz that touches on romance, as the advice is similar to that of the magazines found in grocery store checkout lines.

Bab.la may be okay for general definitions, but other sites will probably help you dive further into different languages. Linguee provides examples of words in context sourced from articles and research papers in the target language, and Forvo has millions of words pronounced by native speakers in hundreds of languages. Also, check out WordReference (for a more relevant database of example sentences), Pleco (for Chinese learners), or SpanishDict (For Spanish learners or Spanish-speaking English learners).

Supermemo
Price: Free trial, $9.90/mo
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*The app SuperMemo is often confused with Super-Memo

SuperMemo seems to advertise its courses and their efficacy by emphasizing the SuperMemo Method. The website states that it is the only scientifically-proven computer-aided learning method — however, the method is a typical Spaced Repetition System that Brainscape, Anki, Pleco, Skritter, SpanishDict, and countless other resources use. If SuperMemo made any special improvements, they do not stand out.

SuperMemo’s courses can be accessed through a monthly membership or through purchasing individual courses. Each course contains a series of flashcards with some interactive activities (such as fill-in-the-blanks, multiple-choice questions, and dropdown menus). In some beginner courses, like Hungarian and Dutch, you can learn basic pronunciation with the International Phonetic Alphabet; this can support you in both understanding and producing the sounds of the language later one. They also use native speaker pronunciation to train your ear.

The Fast Track courses may have potential, but there do not seem to be many grammar explanations, and it may be up to you to understand your errors. Additionally, you may find that you are suddenly reading translations from your target language in Polish, whether or not you speak Polish.

Overall, Supermemo seems okay, but there are probably other resources that will help you learn a language more effectively.

Simply Learn
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In Simply Learn, by Simya Solutions, you can search for and review over 1000 phrases in over 30 categories. It takes the typical phrasebook app one step further by allowing you to add your favorite phrases to SRS flashcards. Given that its developers also developed Ling, an additional, more comprehensive resource that supports language learning, it seems that Simply Learn is a supplementary app for individuals who need to learn basic phrases for traveling abroad. 

The creators don’t seem to have intended for people to use this app to learn a language in its entirety, but rather to support them in memorizing basic phrases for travel. As with Simya Solutions’ other apps, Simply Learn is most helpful for less commonly learned languages, such as Hokkien and Khmer.

Beginners can access the basic cards for free, but the advanced traveler will have to make a one-time purchase to access all the content. If what you truly want is to have a set of phrases under your belt, Simply Learn’s SRS flashcards and native-speaker audio can support you. However, if you are studying a less commonly learned language and want to understand the basic sentence patterns and writing system, check out Ling.

Vocly
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Vocly is a vocabulary learning app that uses a couple of different techniques to reinforce new words (although it’s unclear whether or not the app uses an SRS system). Each word comes with audio pronunciation by native speakers and a toggle to either reveal or hide the romanization of the word. As with most of Simya Solution’s apps, Vocly is best for languages with fewer available resources.

Instead of using English translations in the flashcard activities, the app will prompt you to associate the new word with a small picture. On one hand, this will help you make fewer translations into your native language. On the other hand, the pictures can be ambiguous and you may forget what they symbolize.

The flashcard activities include matching activities, identifying new words that fit under a specific category, matching the sound of a word to an image, and asking you to spell the word in the language’s script.

Unfortunately, the free version only allows 7 minutes of learning per day, which can feel rushed. Ling is a more comprehensive option for learning multiple facets of a language, but if your goal is to expand your vocabulary, Vocly has over 1600 words. The paid version is quite expensive for what it offers compared to other resources, but for less common languages it is a fun and interactive option.

Strokes International
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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.