While new research has brought into question whether you’ll really lose it if you don’t use it, keeping up with a language has other benefits beyond being able to blend in with the locals or making your language teacher proud.
For children, those benefits are accelerated brain development and developing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. For adults, they take the form of an improved memory and ability to multitask.
Whatever your age, or motivation, read on for an in-depth look at what some of the most popular language-learning platforms have to offer to choose the ideal one for you.
Duolingo stands out, first and foremost, because it is free. This language-learning app offers bite-sized lessons which are backed by science and hone in on all of the main skills in English, so you’ll get the chance to read, write, listen, and most importantly, speak.
It also goes one step further and anticipates the obstacles its learners may face that could stall their progress. To ensure consistency, you’ll receive reminders that it’s time to study. Meanwhile, where motivation is concerned, you’ll earn points and unlock new levels every time you complete a lesson.
Beyond unlocking new levels, another unique opt-in is the Duolingo English test, which costs around €55. You’ll receive your results within 2 days and the certification is accepted by over 4000 universities and institutions.
While it’s not free, Rosetta Stone’s approach to language learning centres on two methods, which are also offered as separate subscriptions. For self-study, a 3-month subscription costs €11.99 per month, for self-study in combination with tutoring this increases to €29.67 monthly.
In terms of material for self-studying, you would have access to downloadable lessons so that you can study even when you’re offline. You would also be able to use a phrasebook to finesse your pronunciation of key expressions and an audio companion that you could listen to when you’re on the move or tired of looking at a screen.
Tutoring, on the other hand, would occur in small groups with experienced tutors. These lessons are 25 minutes long and focus on spoken production. Although this may seem brief, especially when in a group, the amount of lessons you can book is unlimited.
Babbel is another app that has tried to appeal to different learning needs and also offers two different subscriptions for learners. You can either subscribe to the app or you could go for a combination of live lessons and utilizing the resources on the app to reinforce your learning.
The app, itself, was developed by over 150 language experts and offers a whole host of learning activities, from podcasts and games to interactive lessons to keep you engaged. As opposed to only working on a strong understanding of the grammar of a language, Babbel focuses on real-life conversations. This is built on and practised further in the live classes.
Be aware that the difference in price tags for the two subscriptions is quite steep. For the app, you can expect to pay €8.99 per month for 6 months, however, for both the app and live online classes, that rises steeply to €48.16.
On Memrise you can study 23 different languages, including English, Italian, Chinese, and even Icelandic. The best part? It’s completely free. On the app, you can set your level and learn by watching native speaker videos based on your interests.
This language learning platform is very much about its learner’s individual needs. With over 48,000 conversations between real native speakers available for your perusal, you can practise understanding different accents and perfecting your own. All the while you’ll learn useful vocabulary that you either need or want and skip whatever isn’t relevant to you.
Despite being free, Memrise also offers the option to upgrade to a pro version of the app. For the price of €10.99 a month, you would have full access to all of the languages, all lessons would be unlocked and you would no longer have to deal with ads.
If full immersion is what you’re after, then FluentU is the ideal platform for you. On FluentU you will have access to a wide range of foreign language content on the web and learn by watching videos with interactive captions.
The captions provided are subtitled and translated, and should you be unsure about a word, you can simply click on it to see an in-context definition as well as multiple example sentences. The rest is very much rinse and repeat, with the aim of learning using real-world contexts.
You can try before you buy with a 14-day free trial. After that, a monthly subscription is around €30. Keep an eye out for sales, too. The current September sale offers 60% off on the yearly subscription.
This learning platform takes a slightly different approach from the others, in that you learn through tailored lessons that are either one-to-one or in groups. What’s more, there are no set prices. Instead, you get to choose a teacher who simultaneously fits your budget and needs.
Although the majority of your learning will take place in your lessons, you can also learn for free outside of class time on the community section of italki’s site. Moreover, you can read the regularly posted blogs for more expert language learning tips, such as the best TV shows to learn English. Though if you’re extra eager, more can also be found here on startup.info.
The sky is very much your limit on italki when it comes to language learning, with over 150 languages to choose from. Who you’re comfortable learning with, however, is up to you. Check out the teacher’s introduction videos and try a trial lesson before committing.
Overall, where language learning platforms are concerned, the internet is rife with choice. This is the case not only for prospective learners but also for those considering pursuing a career in language teaching.
So, if you’re looking to sign up for a platform to learn, your best bet is to weigh up which method and price range is most compatible with your income and how you like to study. Budding teachers, meanwhile, can learn more about the best TEFL certification courses here.
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