There are a number of ways to learn a new language: websites, online language-study communities, apps, e-books and translators are some of the most common approaches. Unfortunately, the sheer number of materials online only serves to confuse willing language learners. How do you know where to start? The quality of these materials varies so much that learners can spend unnecessary amounts of time trying to find the perfect fit. The key is to know best how you learn and go for the ones that enables you to learn in a way that suits your learning style. Having spent some time on a few different language-learning sites, below are five language sites you could try.
Memrise isn’t only a language site: you can learn pretty much anything here (I took an art history course, for example). The language courses use mnemonic flashcards (mems) that build on your pre-existing knowledge to help you ‘memorise’ new vocabulary.
Best bits: The mems are original features, and the principles underlying the methods are scientifically backed. I also like the fact that you can upload your own mems to help others learn.
Busuu works on language development through new vocabulary and phrases supported by dialogue, written and listening exercises. There’s a free and premium option. The free option is certainly good enough to learn the basics of a language, so unless you’re looking for total fluency, you may be OK with this. Busuu’s app lets you learn on the go. I used Busuu to brush up on my Italian, and managed to get it back to its original standard in no time.
Best bits: Networking with other language learners, especially natives of the language you’re learning.
Duolingo is another site that lets you learn a language for free, so top marks for that. It also scores highly for its well-rounded approach to teaching languages. Learn the vocabulary and weave it into sentences using a combination of reading, writing and speaking support.
Best bits: The attention to grammar, Duolingo’s quirky but subtle humour and engaging graphics.
4. The American Foreign Services Institute
The Foreign Services Institute doesn’t have the sort of chatty copy you’ll get on the aforementioned sites. Do expect high quality language instruction though, in the form of materials that have been designed by language experts.
Best bits: Astonishingly, you can even learn my native language here: Yoruba. Lesser-studied languages aside, if you learn best within the confines of strict structures, you’ll do well here. It’s also free to use.
5. Livemocha (by Rosetta Stone)
Livemocha offers lessons in more than 35 languages, and is free to use – up to a ‘premium’ point. That said, users can earn credits by helping out another learner, for example by reviewing their work or giving them feedback. The site focuses on building target skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking, and each of these areas are studied individually.
Best bits: Livemocha’s approach is a fun one. There’s a strong focus on language “immersion” which is the bedrock of its “Whole-Part-Whole” methodology. If you’d love to learn within a buoyant and diverse community, this one’s for you.
If these sites haven’t persuaded you to book yourself on a language course, this charming video from the film “Paris at Last (I Love Lucy)” might. And consider this: having another language under your belt could be the X factor that lands you an amazing job, so why not give it a go?
Have you used this or any other online resource not mentioned here to learn a new language? What was your experience like? Your thoughts and comments below please...