Babbel is an online language-learning platform with over 1 million active users. It’s available on the web, for iOS, and for Android. The app aims to get learners to a conversational level as quickly as possible through the use of a variety of exercises and spaced repetition for review. The courses are well put together and relatively inexpensive; there are 14 different languages available.
Gritty Spanish is a resource for learning real-world Spanish with audio lessons. The lessons employ voice actors from various Spanish-speaking countries and the dialogues are very informal and realistic. Transcripts in both English and Spanish, along with notes on certain language items, are provided to help with your study. It’s available on the web, for iOS, and for Android.
My Language Exchange
My Language Exchange has been growing since 2000. Although the website seems out of date, it still has an active community of millions of language-learners who speak almost 200 native languages (including less commonly studied languages).
You can choose a pen pal by reading their bios, or there is a chat room available for you to instantly connect with a language exchange partner — note that if you create a Gold account, you can initiate chats with other users, but as a regular user, you will have to wait to be contacted.
Using the Cormier Method, the website provides tools to help intermediate speakers effectively practice with other learners. It advertises a Chat Companion with lesson plans to accompany your exchange, or lesson plans developed by teachers (although the quality of these resources varies drastically).
You can also find language teachers on the site, but given that the transactions take place directly between you and the teacher, you may feel safer using a 3rd party platform like italki or Verbling.
Although there are outlines on how to participate in language exchanges, how these outlines are followed depends entirely on you and your partner(s). My Language Exchange will help you build connections with other learners, but it’s up to you to plan how to practice. The concepts can also be used with any language exchange platform, such as Lingbe, italki, Tandem, and Amikumu.
On his website, Oscar, the founder of Unlimited Spanish, provides hundreds of downloadable podcasts with free, well organized transcripts. The podcasts provide an introduction to his teaching method and are separate from his four purchasable courses.
Oscar avoids the traditional textbook methods of learning Spanish and helps his students learn to think in the language. His episodes include short stories with accompanying exercises for you to respond to while you listen. Although he speaks slightly slower than a natural speed, he still introduces vocabulary that would be new even to the upper-intermediate learner.
If you have no background in Spanish, his 30 day course will help you learn the foundation of spoken Spanish from scratch and teach you grammar intuitively rather than through drilling exercises. He also has courses for intermediate learners to improve fluency, and a new course for those struggling with verb tenses. Many of the courses include Point of View Lessons that help make grammar more intuitive; these lessons tell the same story in different tenses or from different perspectives
Judging by the quality of his podcasts, it seems like the courses would be a solid investment to improve your Spanish. Listen to a couple (or couple hundred) free episodes to see if it suits your learning style!
Oxford Dictionary has published numerous bilingual dictionaries over the years, many of which are not designed to be comprehensive. While some are “complete” dictionaries, others are called “mini”, “concise”, “essential” or even “shorter”.
Even the smaller ones are pretty thorough, however. The Oxford Mini Greek dictionary contains 40,000 words and phrases, many of which also contain multiple translations. It’s a lot shorter than the Oxford Hindi dictionary, at 100,000 entries, or the New Oxford American English Dictionary at 350,000 – but it’s still got a wider vocabulary than the average English speaker.
You can purchase the books themselves, but most learners will prefer the convenience of the apps with their regular updates and learner-friendly features. Search Autocomplete, Fuzzy Filter, Wild Card and Voice Search help you find words you don’t know how to spell. Favourites help you save useful words and phrases, while Word of the Day will introduce you to new words. Some dictionaries also contain audio recordings and thesauruses. And the freemium Oxford Dictionary with Translator will translate words and paragraphs to and from 14 languages.
For some languages, learners already have plenty of free, thorough dictionaries available to them. Spanish learners, for example, will probably prefer to combine the free apps SpanishDict and Diccionario RAE (Google Play, App Store). Mandarin Chinese learners will likely find Pleco more useful. But for some languages, these dictionaries may well be the most thorough and reliable ones available.
The rating is our best guess, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully test and review this resource.
Grammar Hero is a product from Olly Richards, the creator of I Will Teach You A Language. It follows the story-based method of teaching languages, but this time with a focus on the most difficult grammar points. You start out by reading a story and the grammar point is underlined, later you learn the rules, then you re-read the story with explanations, and finally you’ll practice using the grammar point to express your thoughts and opinions. It’s a comprehensive method that’s meant to help you internalize the grammar.
Paul Noble’s audiobook series is for beginners or upper-beginners who want to gain confidence in their target language. There are also crash courses for those who will soon be heading off on a business trip or holiday. The series focuses on cognates (words that are similar in both English and your target language) in order to build your vocabulary more efficiently. It also seems to have been inspired by Michel Thomas’ courses (with a few improvements).
Paul introduces vocabulary and gets you to make new sentences through problem solving. For example, he may introduce a sentence, then ask you to make a new sentence using your current knowledge and the new words you have just learned. Although the narrators move a bit slowly, the consistent interaction between you and the material ensures that you won’t get bored. Because Paul breaks down the rules of each language in such a simple and concise way, you can feel confident in building new sentences by yourself.
Lirica is a paid app that focuses on listening comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar through songs in Spanish, German, and English. It also elaborates on important common phrases, explains colloquialisms, and provides interesting facts about the target language. Each song is assigned either Beginner 1, Beginner 2, or Intermediate, in addition to a specific learning goal, such as “Making affirmative sentences negative” or “expressing misunderstanding”. It’s surprisingly effective at supporting comprehension and memorization of various songs.
Lirica continually expands its song library, with new songs added weekly, so a yearly subscription may be worth your time. Also, by purchasing the app you continue to support the artists, as Lirica has entered licensing agreements with each label. Check out their 7 day free trial!
If you are looking for a free version that does not provide any vocabulary or grammar explanations, check out Lyrics Training.
Langu is an italki competitor with some compelling factors in its favor. Just like with italki, you search its online database of teachers to book private lessons with them at times of your choosing. You can read other students’ reviews and take trial classes.
Unlike italki, there are no booking fees and you can purchase in a range of currencies, including euros and British pounds. Langu also boasts its own intuitive, web-hosted classroom software, meaning you don’t have to download a program or give your teacher your contact details. This also means that all shared links, videos, and worksheets are stored on Langu.
The biggest downside to Langu, in comparison with italki, is that you’ll have a smaller choice of teachers and there are no community features (forum, exercise tools, etc.). The classes also tend to be slightly more expensive.
On the other hand, Langu claims that all its teachers are “top teachers” – they have to submit a video application and be approved before joining the website – and offers to give students personal recommendations for specific teachers via email, if needed. While we’ve taken classes with one Langu teacher and were impressed by the quality of the classes, we can’t comment on whether all Langu’s teachers meet the same standards.
Ouino is a software program and mobile app with more than 500 lessons and 1,000 exercises in Spanish, French, Italian, and German. It’s curriculum-based with an academic approach (as opposed to relying on gameplay like some other language apps). It covers the basics such as vocab and pronunciation, but can also help you improve your conversation skills and master verb tenses.
Ouino would be great for you if you want to pick a language back up after not using it for a while, if you love structure, or if you want lots of practice. It could also be a good resource for language students who want to keep their skills sharp in between semesters.