This is a list of language-learning tools and softwares that are either known or useful, almost all of which I’ve personally used. Most of those softwares have one main “method” of teaching, so it’s important that you know what you’re getting into.
In one line: While language-learning is a lot about repetition, Rosetta Stone really has a way of jamming it down your throat.
- “Repetition” Learning style
- Trivia-based questions (vocabulary, grammar, listening and speaking)
- Strong audio elements (with speech-recognition)
- Style and interface are a bit dated
- Speech recognition doesn’t always work right
- Very expensive
Overview: Rosetta Stone is probably the most traditionally “famous” software for learning languages. Even the US army, US department of State and James Madison University use or have used it in their programs. It won many awards and has plenty of name recognition. It also includes engendered languages to its widespread credit.
Conclusion: Good if you have patience to study through a lot of repetition.
In one line: Cute, useful for readers of general articles.
- Reading with instant click-translations
- Progress-tracking of your vocabulary
- There is a free software that does the same thing (Learning with Text)
- How interesting is the content is very subjective
Overview: The owner of LingQ, Steve Kaufmann, is a relatively well known polyglot and and an overall nice guy, having achieved some fame due to his youtube clips offering encouraging language thoughts and his general philosophies and stories related to language-learning. LingQ’s whole shtick is reading articles in your target language and clicking the words you don’t know to get automatic translations. In addition, it keeps track of your progress with a list of “words you know” or “words you need to review later”. While it can be addictive at first to “collect words”, it’s easy to lose interest due to uninteresting articles and the fact that you somehow always forget the words you’re supposed to know.
But what I mean by “it should be free”, is me actually saying that if you like LingQ you might want to consider a software called “Learning with Text”.
Conclusion: It’s nice, but “Learning with Text” is a free alternative.
In one line: If you like writing, this website is for you.
- You write a text in your target language, someone will write back corrections.
- Nice text-correction interface, well-designed website that achieves its purpose
- You need to be driven and creative enough to come up with your own subjects. It’s easy to hit a writer’s block if you don’t wanna talk about how you “got up, brushed your teeth, went to work then to sleep”.
Overview: Quite possibly one of my favorite websites, Lang-8 is essentially a “fix my grammar” website. You can write any text you want and after a while you will most likely get “corrections”; and it’s all free. Now, how many people will submit their version of the corrections your grammar, if any at all, will depend on a few factors.
For example, since a lot of Russians are learning English, but a few English-speakers learn Russian, I was receiving many corrections while studying Russian. When I switched to studying Spanish, I only received very few corrections if at all. So, it appears there is a reverse correlation. the more popular the language is, the less people will reply with their corrections. But the statistics of how many corrections you will get is a complex project.
Conclusion: Perfect for writers and people who like to practice their target language.
In one line: You should try it, it’s easy and it’s free.
- Fast trivia style
- Addictive experience points advancement system
- Speech recognition
- Ridiculously repetitive. It even forces you to repeat some lessons you have already done so you won’t forget
- I finished it faster than I thought
- Speech recognition doesn’t seem to always work correctly
Overview: Doulingo is trivia-style learning app. It’s a nice wonderful free tool, but it tends to get a little bit redundant, repetitive and boring after the while. However, since it keeps track of your progress and rewards you with “experience points”, it’s easy to get addicted to it. A social experiment on youtube “60 Days Trying To Learn French” had several people trying to learn French was scratch. The results proved less than impressive. So, like many softwares, Doulingo is a decent, cute, easy to use free tool; only good as a boost, not to be relied on for all your language-learning needs.
This app’s history and development is rather interesting, and too complex for me to explain in brief text, so instead I’m linking this video by the founder of Doulingo, Luis von Ahn, that can describe it better than I can.
In one line: Good if you want to learn in your car
- Audio only
- Lots of lessons
- 1-5 levels
- Can listen to it in your car or while doing any sort of workout or manual labor that doesn’t require all your attention
- Stories and conversations are doll and not interesting. Standard “How is the weather?” stuff.
Primsleur is a method based on audio repetition. You will hear lots of phrases as a part of a conversation and be asked to repeat that, or you will simply be asked how to translate something. For instance, the narrator will tell you “try to say: I’m going to a restaurant.” Then, it’d be your turn to say it in your target language. Eventually, the narrator will tell you the answer. That’s the whole shtick, audio repetition.
History of product:
Classic old teaching style developed back in the 70’s when there were no computers
Conclusion: You should try it.
In one line: Online private language teaching
- Choose your own teacher from a database
- Can end up being quite expensive.
Oveview. of all the online private language teaching websites (verbling and verbalplanet are the other names), Italki gets the best reviews. You will be able to pick your teacher literally like on a dating website, except this time you’d know ahead how much that relationship would cost you. 🙂
Conclusion: Good if you feel you lack a teacher’s presence, have the money, and need the boost.
Michel Thomas Method
In one line: Do you enjoy audio lectures?
- Audio files of a teacher; doesn’t require visuals
- Doesn’t really have advanced levels
- The teacher, an elderly gentleman, speaks a lot of English with a Polish accent
You’ll be listening to an audio file of a teacher, Michel Thomas, a WW2 polyglot and a language-theorist, who developed his own “stress-free” teaching method where the onus of teaching is on the teacher. The audio files are recordings of himself teaching languages to a “class” of two students.
Conclusion: Some people like him, some people don’t. You can listen to him on youtube and decide for yourself.
Learn in Your Car
In one line: Learning in your car.
- Dual language. You hear how a word is pronounced and asked to repeat it
- Ordered by subject (transportation, relationship, etc)
- No cons. A pretty straightforward product.
Useful for learning in your cars.
Conclusion: If you’re driving a lot, this could prove very useful