Languages

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE LANGUAGE COURSES?

More and more frequently in the United States,Languages we see both English and Spanish directions in places we encounter every day.  We see both languages (and sometimes more) on ATM machines, airport signs, store packaging, restroom signs, menus, and in product instruction manuals.

An Important Cultural Shift

This is but one sign of an important culture shift.  According to the Pew Research Center,

Spanish is, by far, the most spoken non-English language in the U.S. The next most spoken non-English languages are Chinese (with 2.8 million speakers), Hindi, Urdu or other Indic languages (2.2 million), French or French Creole (2.1 million), and Tagalog (1.7 million).

Their research indicates that over 37 million in the U.S. spoke Spanish in the home in 2011, including about 3 million non-Hispanics, and that figure may reach 40 million by 2020.

As our culture becomes more linguistically diverse, how can we learn to better communicate with those around us – in our communities, in our places of work, in our commerce, and in our travel? What are the best online Spanish courses?  And what are the best courses in other languages as well?

Please refer to the reviews to see what
languages are available in each method.

Which Language Learning Program Is Best?

Rosetta Stone (See Review of #1 Best Seller and 54% Discount!) comes to mind as one of the best known and most widely seen language learning systems on the market today.  Available in 29 languages, Rosetta Stone employs lots of visual images and an immersion method using only your new language!

But is it the best?  Personally, I don’t think so.  But given the various aspects of language study – reading, listening, speaking, writing, spelling vocabulary, grammar, syntax – is any one course the best?  Perhaps it would be better to ask about the strengths and weaknesses of each approach or which one is best for YOU.

A Variety of Formats

Consider the formats of the various courses and different learning styles of people, as well as convenience to fit into various schedules and lifestyles.  For example, some would prefer to study from a book, others on their computer, still others using a smartphone which is both mobile and conveniently available in the odd moment.  I’ve actually spent time working with all the programs reviewed below; so, let me save you some time and money.  Ask yourself: “What format and learning style will work best for me and my lifestyle?”  Then check out the reviews and try out the one(s) which sound best for you.

The following illustrate the variety of learning formats available:

  • The Pimsleur Method Language Programs (See our Review)  The Pimsleur Method is tried and true, offered in over 50 languages, and regarded by many as the best way to learn foreign languages fast! My wife is using it now and absolutely loves it.  Pimsleur is available on either CDs or downloadable MP3s.  It lends itself well for someone who would like to pop it into their car CD player or smartphone and learn during their daily commute, run, or walk.
  • Rocket Language (See Review) is one of my favorite all round systems — for listening, speaking, reading, & writing.  It is available for 13 languages and may be purchased in an online format or on CDs. It’s more computer or mobile-app based, making use of a variety of learning methodologies, including interactive audio, written lessons and transcripts, educational games, apps, quizzes, progress tracking, and more.  In addition, Rocket Languages recently released their 2017 update, making an excellent product even better!
  • DuoLingo (See Review) is a free smart phone app which asks you to translate a phrase or sentence from written English to written Spanish, from written or spoken Spanish to written English, or to transcribe spoken Spanish.  You then receive immediate reinforcement or correction.   If you respond well to games and rewards, this might be a good fit for you.
  • Fluent in 3 Months (See Review), by Benny LewisBenny, the Irish Polyglot — “the Irish Polyglot” and author of the best-selling book Fluent in 3 Months,” offers a completely different approach.  Instead of teaching you Spanish, or German, or any other language, it teaches you how to learn a new language, shows you where to find the resources you need, and walks you through the process of learning a new language step by step.  With a 30 money back guarantee, you can’t go wrong with this one.  (See also my Review of Conversation Countdown,  Benny’s one week introductory course.  And, if your language of choice is Spanish, French, German, or Italian, be sure to check out our review of Benny’s newest books entitled Language Hacking: A Conversation Course for Beginners.)
  • Before You Know It, Memrise, and Anki (See Review) stand out for providing computerized flashcards, available in various formats for desktop or laptop computers, or as apps for tablets or smart phones. You can build your own cards or use one of many available decks of cards.  All make use of spaced repetition and adapt to your success or mistakes.  Flash cards are an excellent way to build vocabulary, as well as to recall verb conjugation patterns.  BYKI is my personal favorite, and Memrise has a neat feature of suggesting mnemonic devices to remember new words.

Other Major Players

In addition to those named above, other language learning programs, courses, and tools to consider include:

  • Italki (See my full Review) is one of my favorite tools for any language.  Taking a giant leap beyond pen-pals, Italki puts you in touch with conversation partners, tutors, and/or teachers in a wide variety of countries and languages (using connections such as Skype or Voice over IP).
  • Glossika (See our Review) is one of my personal favorites and my current “go to” program!  Listening is at the heart of language acquisition, and most methods do not incorporate enough of it.  Glossika focuses on listening.  It takes a bit more self discipline than some methods, but if that’s not an issue for you, this method will pay great results.  I regard Glossika as one of the premier tools available for language acquisition.
  • [Language]Pod101 (See Review) — Check out the free version, then upgrade because it’s fast, fun, and just plain worth it!  Offered in 34 languages from Afrikaans to Vietnamese.
  • Learning Spanish Like Crazy (See Review) is a popular program which I have really enjoyed.  It comes on CDs or downloadable MP3s and is available in Latin American Spanish or Italian.  It differs from Pimsleur in focusing on more informal, common speech.
  • Berlitz
  • Complete Spanish (Teach Yourself Languages) — A great deal at 45.7% off!!
  • Earworms Musical Brain Trainer (See our full Review)Earworms Learning
  • Fluenz
  • Babbel
  • Instant Immersion
  • Assimil
  • Living Language
  • Transparent Language
  • Interpals
  • My Language Exchange

Initial & Ongoing Cost

There’s also the matter of cost.  Of the countless Spanish courses, websites, and smartphone apps available, some are completely free, others have a significant initial cost, and still others are free for a trial period and then require an ongoing monthly subscription.

Full Reviews to Come

Please bookmark this page and return soon.  Some of the links above lead to my full reviews, comparing their methods, strengths, weaknesses, and price points.  Other reviews will be added in the days ahead.

Your comments, experiences, and questions are welcome below.  I reply as soon as I can.

~ David

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11 thoughts on “WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE LANGUAGE COURSES?

  1. Hi, it is really interesting to read this post. I am in the process of learning Spanish right now. You give a comprehensive list of formats and of possible learning programs.

    In the past a few months I have seen Babel all the time when I enter the Internet. So I wonder what do you think of this platform? Many thanks.

    1. I’m working on reviews of various programs, but that will take a while. For now, I can say that Babbel is available for 14 languages, at pretty reasonable cost, and provides a variety of online exercises including reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It offers short lessons and tracks your progress. On the other hand, there are no real-time interactive classes, and it answers questions only through threaded online forums. It is often compared with DuoLingo, which is free and available in 20 languages.

  2. Hello there !
    To begin with I love your domain name. It’s a good thing that you’re doing.

    I am actually a French, Arabic, Spanish and English speaker + My native language (Berber)

    I was looking for Chinese courses online. I don’t think that resetta Stone is a good tool for Chinese or Japanese. What do you think? If you have any suggestion I’ll be pleased to hear it. Thank you

    Cheers Youba

    1. I appreciate hearing from you, Youba! I have no experience with Rosetta Stone for Chinese. I can say this much. Rosetta Stone works by a total immersion system. There are no explanations in your own language. If you prefer to have at least some explanation of how your new language works, you probably won’t prefer Rosetta Stone. That said, there are many who prefer total immersion.

  3. This is really insightful and very similar to my interests which makes it motivational to see that there is a high amount of interest.
    From my research thus far, a large number of the sites that claim to be ‘free’ are only so for the first few stages. To get to the meat of the product, you generally have to pay or buy credits of some sort or earn points (via a payment).
    I would stick with the options such as Rocket Languages and Rosetta Stone. Fluenz is up and coming, but apparently subject to many bugs?

    1. Over the coming months, I intend to add reviews of the major language courses. You are certainly correct that some of them offer a free trial of the first levels, then require payment to access the subsequent levels. I appreciate your insights regarding Rocket Languages, Rosetta Stone, and Fluenz.

  4. Hi David

    Although I am not in the US, those stats are amazing. Spanish is not a prominent language in New Zealand but it is a language I would like to learn nonetheless. It has a romantic connotation about it.

    Rocket Spanish sounds like a good choice for me. Can you please suggest a recommendation for someone who is new to learning alternative languages? I would envisage a program that is somewhat simple to grasp! Lol

    Kind Regards

    Michelle

    1. Michelle, I encourage you to give Rocket Spanish a try since it sounds good to you. It’s hard to recommend one as best, since each have strengths and weaknesses. I do my best to describe them so that you can say “That one sounds like my learning style.” Better to choose one that sounds good and get started, than to spend too much time trying to figure out the “best” one. ~ David

  5. With 4 years of High School Spanish in my past and perhaps actually retaining the first half of the first year it was a task to find a program/site that offered a learning experience to build on what I knew. DuoLingo is free which really holds a lot of sway and it also offers the same classroom module concepts that I remembered from school. I have never lost the Spanish “bug” as I have continually found myself translating what I see and say through the years. What translating has done has had me know the words I know and not go beyond…it really is powerful to concentrate the knowledge one has gained. I mainly do DuoLingo as I walk my dog and wonder if this is too distracting to truly learn. Perhaps I will put effort into the app when I have more of a focus. Learning Spanish also has a payoff in that my vacations to Mexico have gone smoother because of it. Your reaching out to second language learners is needed as anytime something is learned outside of one’s box is something that adds to life. And hopefully there is a payoff of the second language as strong as mine with margaritas and a beautiful sunset or beach on vacation .

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