mini-review

African Storybook

4.5 
Price: Free

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Struggling to find beginner-level Afrikaans or Yoruba reading materials? Spanish books relevant to Equatorial Guinea instead of Spain or Colombia? Stories in Nigerian Pidgin or Cape Verdean Creole?

African Storybook has thousands of free-to-read children’s stories in various African languages, from Acholi through to Zinza. Most of them were written by African authors.

The website is best for beginner and lower-intermediate students. The stories are generally designed for young children, with easy-to-read sentences that introduce you to basic vocabulary and some variation in tenses. The difficulty is graded from one to five, with five being the most challenging. You can normally find the English translation of the book, too, although you would probably be better off using a dictionary.

Don’t give up if at first you don’t see your language on the website. Some languages have been entered with their English name, others with their original name, and others under several different names. For example, for Swahili, you would need to look under “Kiswahili”, while French texts are under “French”.

Frustratingly, not all languages on the dropdown menu currently have texts. According to African Storybook, they have a greater number of books for languages in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. However, as this initiative continues to grow, hopefully they’ll have stories for more and more languages.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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AmazingTalker

2.5 
Price: From around $10 per 50-minute class

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AmazingTalker is an italki and Verbling competitor that lets you book classes with language teachers and academic tutors of your choice. It has a lot of attractive features for students, but teachers complain about high commission rates and lack of support.

It boasts a 3% acceptance rate for teachers and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy with your class, they’ll rebook you another one for free. There are lots of teachers to choose from, or you can also use their AI Matching Service to find a tutor. The teachers’ profiles include videos, reviews, and their résumé.

However, AmazingTalker doesn’t seem a great choice for teachers. It charges English and Japanese teachers astonishingly high commission rates of up to 30%. While these rates fall as teachers earn more through the site, they have to make $1,500 a month before the commission reaches levels comparable to italki and Verbling. Making it worse, there’s an additional 8% fee for payment processing and tax that all teachers have to pay, no matter what language they teach. 

There have also been complaints on Reddit from teachers claiming to have been harassed by students and fellow teachers. However, we cannot corroborate these.

Given all this, we’d recommend trying italki (review) or Verbling (review) first. Alternatively, check out our guide to the best platforms for online language classes.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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TeacherOn

1.6 
Price: Classes from 50¢ to $80 per hour

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TeacherOn is an italki competitor that allows you to book online or in-person classes with language and/or academic tutors of your choice. It can attract scammers and the tutor quality seems hit or miss, but for some languages, it’s probably the only platform with available teachers.

The website started life as TutorIndia, and it still leans heavily towards Indian teachers. For example, it has around 4,500 Hindi teachers compared to italki’s 89. There are also over 300 Kannada teachers, 38 Assamese ones, and 42 Odia ones; in contrast, italk only has 4 teachers for Kannada and 0 for Assamese or Odia.

You can contact the first three teachers for free. After that, you can either post your requirements so that teachers can contact you or pay extra to contact more teachers.

However, you should be cautious when using the platform, especially if you’re paying off site or meeting your tutor in person. We were shown fake profiles, while TeacherOn publishes a list of people banned for being scammers. There are no student reviews, either. TeacherOn encourages students and teachers alike to do due diligence on people before contacting them, and we echo this sentiment.

TeacherOn has plenty of issues. However, for certain languages, it’s invaluable. It may be the only way to study some of them from abroad.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Olly Richards 101 Conversations

3.7 
Price: Kindle books cost $0.99

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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.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Juan Fernández Graded Readers

4.3 
Price: Kindle books range from $3.06 - $3.94

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Juan Fernández used to teach Spanish at University College London and has written a series of graded Spanish readers for A1 – B2 learners. He is also the author of the podcast, Español con Juan.

Unlike other graded readers, the A1 book doesn’t throw you directly into a story. Instead, it starts out with a list of basic sentences that gradually repeat with increased complexity until they turn into a story in the later chapters. Although this may seem repetitive at first, it seems like an effective way to incrementally expand and reinforce your vocabulary. This technique sets you up for success in future reading endeavours by helping you master the basics through repetition. The A2 – B2 books maintain the same level of repetition to reinforce new, level-appropriate words. You can find extra material for these books on his website here.

Overall, Juan Fernández’s books are one of the few series that has a book for true A1 learners. If you have little background in Spanish, you can still follow along and gradually move onto the more advanced books in the series. Nevertheless, the graded reader series by ESLC or Read It! may be a better option for upper beginners who want something that resembles a book that you might read in your native language.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Elon.io

3.5 
Price: Free

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Elon.Io is a website that teaches basic Japanese, Turkish, and Spanish writing, vocabulary, and grammar. As you complete each lesson, a checkmark will appear beside it in the table of contents. You can also sign up for a free account to keep track of your progress. 

At the top of the table of contents, you will see a notification to review concepts that you previously entered incorrectly in the SRS quizzes. Unfortunately, the review lessons carry into every language. Consequently, if you have reviews leftover from Japanese, you will review them during your Turkish and Spanish studies.

In Japanese and Spanish, the lessons seem to build on one another. For example, you may learn some basic kanji and then use them in the next lesson with a new grammar concept. In Turkish, however, you will have to look at the “exercises” section of the lesson to succeed in the quizzes.

If you click on a word in the vocabulary section, you can listen to a text-to-voice pronunciation, see the word broken down into different components, and sometimes see the word used in context.

Although there seem to be some quality issues, Elon.io seems to provide a decent, free introduction to a new language. 

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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The Japanese Page

4.3 
Price: Free; free trial; premium subscriptions cost between $3/mo - $10/mo

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The Japanese Page is a website with a variety of resources for beginner to intermediate Japanese learners. Each lesson’s explanations will make you feel like you’re quickly moving through the material, and they are often accompanied by exercises, examples, audio files, and comics to diversify your experience.

Beginners can check out the Beginning Japanese Phrases podcast with an accompanying transcript. These two-minute episodes introduce you to a new word in context while encouraging speaking practice. The Nihongo No Tane podcast is for upper beginner and intermediate learners. Becoming a Makoto member gives you access to a transcript of these episodes, plus other benefits, like the monthly e-zine and shadowing exercises to learn everyday Japanese. The interactive e-zine has articles on grammar, kanji, culture, and art — not to mention short stories with audio recorded by native speakers.

Beginners can enjoy an excellent introduction to hiragana, katakana, kanji, and basic grammar. Upper-beginner and intermediate learners can check out stories, dialogues, blog posts, and songs. Although the content does not go as in-depth as other sites, like Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese or Imabi, they provide a helpful and manageable introduction to complex concepts.

Overall, The Japanese Page’s content seems well-thought-out and would be an excellent place for beginners to gain a better understanding of how Japanese is spoken beyond the parameters of your average textbook.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Online Italian Club

4.3 
Price: Free, online classes cost £20/half-hour

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Online Italian Club is a free website with grammar, listening, conversation, vocabulary, and reading resources for A1 – C2 Italian learners. It is well organized and even has a checklist to keep track of your progress.

The site’s major advantage is its abundance of exercises for various grammar topics. There are over 200 listening comprehension exercises with multiple-choice questions and full transcripts, not to mention another 30 articles about the history of Rome with accompanying audio, and 60 conversations that gradually increase in difficulty. Some of the dialogues have accompanying conversation prompts so you can have a similar conversation yourself with a language exchange partner or a tutor.

Online Italian club also offers private Italian lessons, but these are about three times more expensive than your average iTalki teacher.

Each CEFR level has a series of lessons with grammar explanations, listening comprehension exercises with multiple-choice questions, and quizzes. All of these activities can be accessed individually as well.

Some of the A1 exercises will be difficult for total beginners, as they are entirely in Italian. Nevertheless, with the Readlang Chrome Extension and the transcript, the immersive environment may be an enjoyable challenge.

Overall, the Online Italian Club is an engaging and high-quality supplement to your Italian studies. You can also check out One World Italiano for more free resources, also that site is a bit unorganized.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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Instituto Camões Portuguese

3.7 
Price: Courses cost between €180 - €320

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The Instituto Camões Portuguese is a website developed by the Portuguese government that offers self-study Portuguese courses for A1 – C1 learners. Each twelve-week course requires about five hours per week of self-study. The self-study modules incorporate reading, listening comprehension, and grammar, while the basic and premium plans add speaking and writing practice (with the support of a weekly or bi-weekly tutor).

The courses appear to follow a natural progression through the levels, although you will probably find it difficult to go from A1 – C1 without a regular tutor. They also offer a beginner course tailored to Spanish speakers, which may accelerate your learning if you already have a strong grasp of Spanish.

Although the courses are significantly more expensive than those in Practice Portuguese, the self-study program is comparable to a monthly membership with Portuguese Lab. The premium option may be helpful for the intensive learner who wants to thoroughly cover the CEFR levels. Alternatively, you could use an italki tutor with the self-study plan. 

We have not tested the course ourselves, but this Reddit post includes the experience of another user.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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marugoto

4.5 
Price: Free

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Marugoto Japanese Online Course is a free interactive online course that teaches A1 to A2 Japanese learners. The explanations are available in multiple languages, including English, Indonesian, Spanish, Chinese, and French. If you’re unsure of your level, you can take a placement test on the website.

There are two types of self-study courses: one for casual learners (Katsudoo) and one for more intensive learners (Katsudoo and Rikai). Both courses contain dialogues, videos, and speaking and writing activities. Katsudoo and Rikai adds a level of intensity by getting you to read and write short compositions and dive deeper into grammar topics. There is also an option to pay for group classes with a Japanese tutor while following the Marugoto curriculum.

Overall the courses are of considerably high-quality, with lots of opportunities for listening and speaking practice. One of the most impressive features is the way the course quizzes you on vocabulary in context through a variety of dialogues recorded by native speakers. You will not find yourself repeating the same basic sentence structures; instead, you will learn the multiple ways that Japanese is spoken in everyday life. Additionally, some activities allow you to take on the role of one of the characters and speak as if you are part of a dialogue.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

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