Speechling is a website and app that makes it easy to improve your speaking skills in several languages. The free version is an incredbily valuable resource that makes it easy to practice mimicking native speakers. The Unlimited Plan provides unlimited corrections of your recordings by a teacher.
Beelinguapp makes it easier to read and listen to interesting content in a number of languages. You’ll find short stories, news, fairy tales, music, and more. Their side-by-side reading functionality highlights the sentence in the language you’re learning, as well as in a language you’re familiar with. The karaoke feature makes it easy to follow the audio with the written text. Some of the content and features are available for free, but there are also premium plans to unlock more.
Fluencia is one of the better online Spanish courses I’ve come across. The course content is very well designed including tons of detailed explanations and exercises to practice what you’ve learned. While some similar courses are more gamified and less challenging, Fluencia is more challenging and less game-like. While I like Fluencia quite a bit, you’ll probably want to get more speaking practice elsewhere.
From the producers as the French video series, French in Action, Destinos is an award-winning beginner Spanish video course from the 1990s that will train your listening comprehension and speaking abilities. Each of the fifty-two 30-minute episodes follows a dramatic storyline of a lawyer investigating a family secret. Throughout the course, you will learn about Spanish-speaking cultures and accents in Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
Destinos seems to follow the Capretz Theory for language learning, throwing you into full immersion from day one. You shouldn’t worry if you have difficulty following the conversations between the characters; the context and body language of each episode should be enough to help you understand what’s happening. You will gradually be able to understand more as you listen, respond to the lawyer, Raquel’s, comprehension questions at the end of each episode, and complete the accompanying exercises that are linked below each video (be careful you don’t miss them — the text is quite small). Also, the Spanish-speaking narrators speak at a slower pace, so you will gradually be able to pick up new words through them as well. Nevertheless, if you’re struggling to keep up, try watching BBC’s series, Mi Vida Loca first, then dive into Destinos.
Although the videos themselves are outdated, the developers seem to have kept up with current resources. The additional vocabulary, grammar, dictation, and multiple-choice activities contain external links at the end for supplement practice.
Overall, Destinos provides an excellent introduction to Spanish. Please note that the original website may not be available in all countries, but you can find the episodes on YouTube and KET Education without the supplementary exercises.
The DLI and FSI language courses are still some of the most comprehensive resources for language learning today, and probably the most comprehensive free resources you will find.
Although the DLI and FSI courses are comparable in quality, DLI courses focus more on military terminology in the later lessons, while FSI courses focus on everyday communication and communication for diplomats. Another key difference between them is that the DLI courses may go into more depth, and also seem to provide a more comprehensive guide to the study of each language; the FSI courses either have briefer explanations or dive straight into the content. Both of them have outdated content, which is understandable considering that they were developed in the mid-1900s and have scarcely been updated since then.
Often the DLI courses outline clear practice strategies to reproduce your target language’s sounds. Also, depending on the language, literal translations are sometimes used so that you get accustomed to each language’s grammar structure.
All the PDFs and audio files are available for download on various sites, although Live Lingua has made navigating between the material quite intuitive. If you can’t find your desired language in the DLI courses, check out the FSI courses for different options.
The Foreign Services Institute developed their language courses to help diplomats quickly reach professional working proficiency in a language. They would attend 5 hours of language instruction per day, plus homework, for 24-88 weeks (depending on the language). The table at the bottom of this page indicates the average time it would take for a student to reach professional working proficiency.
The FSI program places a strong focus on listening comprehension, in addition to extensive exercises for grammar and vocabulary. If you follow along with the audio and respond to the prompts in each drill, you will also develop confidence in speaking the language.
With hundreds of pages of text, dozens of hours of audio, and several levels in many languages, the FSI courses are still probably the most comprehensive, free courses you can follow. Just remember that they are decades old, so the audio is not very clear and the vocabulary often includes both sexist and obsolete language. Also, some of the topics will not be relevant to your everyday life.
Several sites host these free, open-source courses, but the site linked below is easy to navigate. Beware of any site selling courses “originally made for diplomats,” as these are probably free FSI courses with a price tag. You can also check out the DLI courses, which are equally as comprehensive (and free!).
Extr@ is a beginner French, Spanish, German, and English series that portrays the life of Sam (or Hector, in the English version) arriving in a new country to learn the local language. Programs like Destinos and French in Action will probably help you develop a stronger foundation in your target language than Extr@, but if you are nearing the intermediate level, Extr@ can be an enjoyable watch.
The exaggerated gestures will give context when you don’t understand the dialogue, and the drama will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next. Unfortunately, the characters follow clearly defined gender roles, and some of the script is a bit sexist — make sure you take the cultural information with a grain of salt, as some (or much) of it may be outdated.
Every language’s episodes were filmed in the same apartment with more or less the same script, although the English storyline goes 17 episodes further than the rest. You can find the show with extra comprehension activities with a Yabla subscription. Otherwise, this Youtube channel and this Youtube channel combined have all of the French episodes, this one has most of the English Episodes, and this one has most of the Spanish and German episodes.
Coursera has several paid and free online language courses developed by accredited universities. The quality of the courses varies, but the following recommendations have been well received — these courses are primarily for beginners who want an introduction to a new language.
École Polytechnique offers the only French course on Coursera; it’s technically for B1-B2 learners, although B2 learners may find it too easy.
If you are starting a language and enjoy structured courses with a (flexible) weekly schedule, Coursera is a great option — especially since Coursera offers financial aid for those who can’t afford to pay the course fees. Pair your studies with a tutor from italki or Verbling for speaking practice and you’ll be good to go!
Lingodeer may not be as well known as other language learning apps, but it’s actually better and cheaper than most of them. You’ll practice the language by completing lots of different types of exercises. They also include plenty of grammar explanations and opportunities to review what you’ve studied. All in all, it’s one of the better options for getting started learning a language.
Yabla is a language-learning platform that uses videos with interactive subtitles and language games to help users learn a language. It’s currently available on the web and for iOS, with an Android app in development. Its videos are of varying difficulty levels and types, and are either sourced from the internet or originally produced, but all videos use native speakers.