uTalk is a software program and mobile app offering learning material in over 140 languages. Its approach is based on learning keywords and phrases through gameplay. It covers a wide range of phrases, each spoken by a female and male native speaker, consequently offering listening and pronunciation practice.
uTalk is most useful for beginners who want to get started in a language by learning key phrases. It could also be useful for intermediates looking to fill gaps in their vocabulary and pronunciation, but it does not offer any in-depth language instruction or grammar explanations.
It’s also worth mentioning that for some languages, such as Basque, the occasional overly literal translation leads to small errors and unnatural phrasing creeping in. However, we haven’t seen instances in which this would result in you being misunderstood, and there’s no denying uTalk’s value for languages with fewer learning resources.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lingua is a free resource that offers reading, listening, dictation, and vocabulary activities.
Every day, the site provides six new dictations in your target language. You can listen to two separate native speakers reading a series of sentences first at a normal speed, and then a slower speed. After you have finished transcribing, the website will automatically check and correct your writing.
There are also short readings and listening comprehension exercises accompanied by a reading comprehension quiz on the side. The difficulty of content available depends on the language. Each exercise focuses on a theme relevant to everyday life, such as family, travel, and activities. Although each reading piece seems to have been written by native speakers, you may catch a few grammatical errors within the texts.
You can choose to quiz either your passive or active vocabulary with a flashcard-like activity, although you may want to make personalized flashcards on Anki or use pre-made decks on Brainscape for a more curated practice.
It’s probably possible to get through most of Lingua’s content in a month, as there are only a handful of exercises in each language. Nevertheless, it’s a solid supplementary resource for reading, listening, and dictation practice.
The Spanish Dude
Many YouTube language teachers speak conversationally with their audience, but Jordan, The Spanish Dude, seems to speak in the same style that you might observe at a slam poetry night.
One thing to note is that Jordan mostly pronounces Spanish words using English pronunciation and intonation. He has explicitly emphasized that you do not need to learn good Spanish pronunciation to be understood, but that’s a subjective opinion.
Jordan teaches Spanish from an English-speaker’s point of view, which can be helpful for new language learners. His content seems primarily for beginners — he breaks grammar down into manageable chunks so you won’t get overwhelmed with the seemingly endless types of Spanish conjugations.
Jordan has many free YouTube videos, a couple of conjugation courses, and a travel crash course — but Logical Spanish is his most comprehensive course. Here, Jordan not only gives you a comprehensive overview of Spanish grammar, but he also teaches English grammar to explain how language is structured.
You can check out his videos if you would prefer to focus on the content of your communication rather than the way you deliver it, but make sure to support your learning by listening to native speakers. Paul Noble, Pimsleur, Unlimited Spanish, Espanol Automatico, Destinos, and Spanish Obsessed are just a few of the many resources that teach native Spanish pronunciation.
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.
Learn with Oliver
Learn With Oliver is a simple website that offers SRS flashcards with audio recordings by native speakers, random videos and articles with a list of keywords, choose your own adventure stories, writing practice with corrections by native speakers, and progress tests. The flashcard words and sentences seem to have been randomly chosen rather than curated to specific learning goals, so they are probably better used as enrichment than as a primary learning tool. The site as a whole is probably best for learners who already have a good grasp of basic vocabulary in their target language.
The mixed exercises use spaced repetition to first introduce you to new words, then get you practicing through various word order, fill-in-the-blanks, listening, writing, and multiple-choice activities. Each “card” (more like “page”) allows you to see an overview of each word with example sentences.
A cute perk you will receive after completing each day’s lesson is a “reward link,” which is typically a cute or funny picture on Reddit.
If you’re looking for alternatives to some of the features on this site, LangCorrect may have a larger community of language learners to support you in improving your writing, Readlang and the Zhongwen Chrome Extension will help translate words on most websites, Yabla will teach you languages through video clips, and sites like Readle (German) and Du Chinese can help with your reading comprehension.