Chatterbug is a language learning platform designed with the aim of bringing together the convenience of digital learning apps and the value of one-on-one speaking practice. It was founded in 2016 and currently offers courses in German, Spanish, and French. Some of its features are available on iOS and Android; the full version is available for desktop.
Speaky is a social language-learning app for people interested in language exchange. It’s available for iOS, Android, and the web. Users can chat with other language learners, share photos, leave voice messages or even have voice calls. The basic features on Speaky are free to use, but access to more than five translations per day requires a subscription.
Lingo Mastery Short Stories
Lingo Mastery provides 20 short stories in a series of advanced beginner books (about A2 on the CEFR scale) for various languages. Each book has a vocabulary list, reading comprehension questions, and a summary in both English and the target language.
If your primary goal is to acquire new vocabulary, then Lingo Mastery’s Short Story series may be helpful to increase your skills. Each chapter has a specific language focus, such as directions, verbs, nouns, or activities. These stories have a considerable number of unique words, so you may find yourself referring to the vocabulary list more frequently than in other graded readers.
Keep in mind that the stories are not as engaging as a novel you might read in your native tongue, but the repetition is helpful to familiarize you with different concepts. Other graded readers, like those by Olly Richards, ESLC, and Mandarin Companion follow a single storyline — each chapter in Lingo Mastery, however, follows a separate storyline. Therefore, although the chapters are a manageable length, finishing one may not make you eager to move onto the next.
If you do decide to invest in these readers, make sure to buy the Kindle version, which is about 20% of the paperback price.
DeerPlus, also known as LingoDeer Plus, is a cute, gamified app from the makers of Lingodeer. It sets out to teach you words, phrases, and grammar through 11 different games, but it’s best used as a supplementary tool.
You’ll drill vocabulary, build phrases, select the right particles, decide if a sentence is grammatically correct or not, do conjugation exercises, answer listening comprehension questions, and more. What you won’t do is learn the material prior to being tested like you do with LingoDeer (review), DeerPlus’ sister app.
DeerPlus is a fun supplementary tool that would work well alongside most resources, but especially LingoDeer. However, it’s a shame that there aren’t SRS features in what is essentially a review app.
A word of warning: you can study in a range of languages, but not all the games have been translated. We were shocked when we switched from studying Japanese via Spanish to Japanese via English and discovered grammar and “integrated” games in addition to the five vocabulary and phrase-based ones we had been playing.
Olly Richards 101 Conversations
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.
A.C. Quintero has written a series of Spanish graded readers for beginners. Most of the books focus on adventures beyond the everyday norm, which may appeal to mystery lovers.
Each book’s language level is not clearly identified, but there seem to be four main books for beginners that gradually increase in difficulty: Las Apariencias Engañan (300 unique words), El Escape (350 unique words), El Armario (400 unique words), and Las Sombras (500 Unique words). Two other books (Las apariencias engañan and El Último Viaje) have unidentified reading levels, but you can read a sample on Amazon to see if they are appropriate for you.
A.C. Quintero’s books seem to be effective at helping you review basic concepts, and each book adds a manageable number of new words to increase your vocabulary. They probably aren’t as engaging as the Read It! Or ESLC series, which retell famous plots in simplified Spanish, but A.C. Quintero’s storylines seem to carry more emotion and complexity than those of Paco Ardit or Lingo Mastery.
Mango Languages is a pretty good resource with numerous languages available along with their regional variations. It’ll work the best for beginners or for those interested in studying a few languages at the same time. Anybody past the intermediate level won’t find Mango Languages very useful.
Kwiziq is a language-learning platform offering courses in Spanish and French with a curriculum centered around quiz-like exercises. There are plenty of grammar lessons that accompany these quizzes as well as some writing and listening practice opportunities. It isn’t the most fun resource to use, and it makes the most sense for learners that are especially interested in grammar.
Lingo Pie is available in Spanish and Russian, with more languages to come in the future. Each language has it’s own Netflix-like platform, with shows added weekly and sourced from actual TV shows in your target language.
In each of the videos, you have the option of changing its speed, using subtitles in your target language or English (or both), clicking on the subtitles to get translations, and skipping back to the previous subtitle in case you didn’t catch it. You can create your own set of SRS flashcards by clicking on unknown words, and in the review sessions your words will come with a sentence for context.
It may be difficult for total beginners to get introduced to a new language through Lingo Pie, but intermediate to advanced learners may enjoy it. Unfortunately, there are no filters to help you sort through the available shows.
Language Learning With Netflix provides similar features if you already have a Netflix account, and Yabla may be a more suitable platform for those who want shorter videos and more interactive learning.
Podcasts in Spanish
Podcasts In Spanish may have a bit of an outdated look, but they have a good amount of content to support intermediate to advanced learners. Each level has about ninety 3-minute episodes with accompanying downloadable mp3s, transcripts, worksheets and answers, and various vocabulary activities. The creators are especially good at identifying vocabulary that may confuse second-language learners without context (did you know that the tooth fairy in Spanish is called “Ratoncito Pérez”?), and they discuss a variety of topics relevant to everyday life.
The narrators speak at the same natural speed from levels 1 to level 3, so it seems more suitable for intermediate and advanced learners despite the differentiation between elementary, intermediate, and advanced podcasts. If you are an upper-beginner looking to challenge yourself, you can try out the free samples to see if they are appropriate.
Overall, Podcasts In Spanish has a lot to offer, especially with the additional worksheets, but other programs may offer a smoother transition between levels. Spanish Obsessed and Notes in Spanish both offer additional materials with three distinct levels of podcasts to improve your listening comprehension, while Unlimited Spanish is an excellent resource that will improve your oral communication. SpanishPod101 is also full of activities and podcasts that focus on vocabulary, grammar, and cultural information. For free supplementary grammar material, you can always check out SpanishDict.