multiple languages

Irakaslea

3.4 
Price: Free

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Looking for listening comprehension activities in Spanish and Basque? Irakaslea, which means teacher in Basque, has two podcasts dedicated to this: Comprensión oral – Castellano and Ahozko ulermena – Euskera.

Each channel features short, slowly spoken narratives in the target language: stories, mock news broadcasts, and more. The tone is humorous but at times cynical. Unfortunately, there aren’t any transcripts, but the text is slow enough that it’s fairly easy to identify what is being said and look it up in a dictionary.

Many of the episodes are targeted at children in primary school aged roughly 5–11, and the audio quality can vary, so Spanish learners might find that they prefer other channels. For Basque learners, however, this podcast could be a useful addition to their study routine.

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Oxford Dictionaries

4.2 
Price: From free to €16.99, depending on the language

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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.

 

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Mondly

Quick Review

2.7 

Summary:

Mondly is a language-learning app that teaches basic vocabulary and grammar structures. It seems most appropriate for learners with little to no exposure to their target language.

The activities mostly rely on passive recognition of vocabulary and phrases, and therefore are not very challenging. However, they are varied enough that you probably wouldn’t get bored with short, daily practice sessions.

Although I wouldn’t recommend Mondly to anyone looking to seriously learn a language, it may be appropriate for individuals studying languages with less available resources, or for individuals who are preparing to travel abroad.

Quality

Both the interface and the course itself could be designed better.

Thoroughness

It’s decent for learning vocabulary, but I thought a lot of the material wasn’t explained very well.

Value

It’s fairly inexpensive.

Price

There are three plans…
$9.99 per month for one language
$47.99 per year ($4/mo) for one language
$47.99 per year ($4/mo) for all languages

Strangely, I was able to access multiple languages even though I only signed up for one month at $9.99.

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Lang Workbooks

Price: $5.99

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For learners of languages that use unfamiliar writing systems, the Lang Workbooks series can be a helpful and practical way to master the intricacies of writing in their target languages. Among numerous other writing systems, the series includes the Korean, Russian Cyrillic, and Armenian alphabets; Persian and Thai script; the Hindi Devanāgarī abugida; Chinese characters; and Japanese Hiragana and Katakana. The series also covers languages that use the Latin alphabet with diacritical (accent) marks, such as French, German, and Portuguese.

Many books in the series have been translated into other languages, such as Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. The series also covers writing systems that may have fewer available resources for learners, such as Lao script and the Cherokee syllabary.

Each book in the series presents its featured writing system with suggested pronunciations. The practice pages in each workbook have useful features for each letter, symbol, or character, such as a recommended stroke order, font variations, example words, and a “Trace and Learn” section.

Each workbook is relatively inexpensive. In addition, the publishers of the series have granted teachers and students a license to make photocopies of the workbook pages for personal use, so you can get unlimited chances to practice. Considering the depth of information in each language’s workbook, the books in this series can provide great value for learners.

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Persian Language Online

3.2 
Price: Free

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Persian Language Online is a website that makes online Persian lessons available, free of charge, to anyone who is interested in learning the language at a basic through intermediate level. The lessons teach vocabulary and grammar for the Iranian Farsi standard of the language. (You can get information about the Afghan (Dari) and Tajiki Persian standards on Persian Language Online’s blog.)

The videos that start each lesson add a little color, but include no text or explanations. More comprehensive video lessons can be found on the Persian Learning channel, Reza Nazari’s Persian Lessons channel, the Learn Persian Online channel, and PersianPod101’s channel.

Persian Language Online might work best as a supplement to other programs. While the lessons are easy to navigate, some of the design could be improved to facilitate learning. For example, more bilingual content might help beginner-level learners.

The resource’s strengths include its downloadable sound clips from real speakers, its transcripts and translations, its cultural notes, and its glossaries. The online exercises provide some vocab and grammar practice, although you will probably need other resources such as Persian textbooks to get a more well-rounded foundation in Persian grammar.

Overall, I found that Persian Language Online is a resource worth considering, even though it appears to have some shortcomings. A more gamified, interactive approach from the same developers is the Gorbeh series for iOS or Android, which was designed for children.

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LingQ

Quick Review

Summary:

LingQ is a language-learning platform that focuses on extensive reading for over 30 different languages. You can import your own content or choose from the community library of books, articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, and more.

The app highlights unknown words across every lesson and makes them reviewable via different types of SRS flashcards. The more you read, the more accurately you will be able to identify content that is suitable for your level.

Although I did not find it beneficial for languages I had never studied before, I think LingQ can be helpful for upper-beginner to advanced language learners who enjoy reading. It is especially helpful if you struggle to find graded readers in your target language.

Quality

The LingQ reading app is enjoyable in most languages, easy to use, and can expand your vocabulary. However, I found the user content frustrating to navigate.

Thoroughness

With the import function, users can choose to study almost anything they want.

Value

Now that other apps provide similar functions, the monthly subscription may be a bit overpriced. However, the yearly subscription seems fair.

Languages

Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, English, Korean, French, Russian, German, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Greek, Polish, Esperanto, Belarusian, Latin, Ukrainian. There are also 20 additional languages in Beta.

Price

Premium membership costs $12.99/mo, $71.94/half-year, $107.88/year, $191.76/2-years; single-language lifetime membership costs $199

When I first signed up for LingQ, I wasn’t very impressed. Its seemingly random lesson library, filled with custom cover photos and inconsistent title formats, made me want to click on just about anything to get away from that page.

However, after exploring every function I could find, I realized that the reading tool has several useful functions for anyone trying to learn a language through extensive reading. Most importantly, it makes reading in other languages feel manageable.

The site has three main pages: Lessons, Tutors, and Community. Within them, you can find free and purchasable lessons, coins, an avatar, writing exchanges, a community forum, audio playlists, and challenges.

I mostly used LingQ for reading in Spanish and dabbled in French, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, and Korean.

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OPLingo

3.5 
Price: Freemium, Premium Subscriptions cost $6.99/mo, $60/Year

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OPLingo is a community-oriented, non-profit language learning site. It essentially combines the functions of LingQ, LangCorrect, Readlang, iTalki, and HelloTalk.

The free version gives you limited access to some functions, but by paying for a membership you support ethical causes — such as building a primary school in Tanzania.

You can browse user-contributed texts or easily import your own YouTube videos, articles, or ebooks into the Reading Tool. OPLingo has also developed hundreds of audio conversations in several languages, including Tagalog, Cebuano, Thai, Swahili, and Russian.

Within each page, you can read a transcript and get definitions and pronunciations of unknown words. By identifying which words you don’t know, the next passages you read will highlight the number of known or unknown vocabulary words.

In their Write & Correct section, you can write in over 100 languages and exchange corrections with other users, although Spanish, French, and English learners have a better chance of receiving corrections than other languages at the moment.

You can also practice a language by texting with fellow community members, or by hiring a teacher in your target language.

OPLingo has a lot of potential and is a good alternative to LingQ, but it needs a community of learners to help it grow — so check it out!

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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.

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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.

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The Best italki Alternatives: Language Classes Compared

italki is a market leader for online language classes, and it’s easy to understand why: it has a huge range of teachers for everything from Arabic to Zulu; it’s cheap; and the app has some fantastic community features, including free feedback on your writing and audio clips.

However, italki isn’t for everyone. Perhaps you’re fed up with all the hidden fees and payment idiosyncrasies that make you feel like you’re buying tickets from a budget airline. Maybe you don’t like choosing between the buggy italki Classroom and Skype. Or it could be that you’re looking for a platform that offers more structured learning, whether it’s a syllabus, flashcards, or simply regular feedback on your level.

Fortunately, if you’re getting frustrated with italki, there are plenty of competitor platforms to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite italki alternatives and what sets them apart.

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