21 Apps & Web Based Language Learning Tools I Use and Love
My name is Shannon Kennedy and I'm the language lover,…
I’m often asked which language learning applications I use regularly and so I thought I’d put together a post where I share 19 of my favorite web based language learning tools.
As I’ve mentioned before, I only like to use 3-4 resources at any given time for each of the languages that I’m studying, so these all rotate in and out of use depending on where I’m at with each of the languages I’m studying.
Below you’ll find a list of apps and web based tools that I love when it comes to learning languages and a few tips for using them.
Language Specific Tools
Memrise is a fantastic flashcard tool based on spaced repetition that utilizes gamification to make user experience more engaging. It has a fun interface that works to make learning new vocabulary more something entertaining and enjoyable rather than a task you have to endure. They utilize mems, a bit of friendly competition and user generated content to motivate you to both learn new words and review previously learnt material.
The basic version of Memrise is free to use, but if you want to unlock more learning modes and detailed statistics on your learning, they offer a pro version for just $9 a month. In addition to the web based version of the tool, you can also download a free app for your mobile device.
Duolingo is another fantastic free tool that utilizes gamification to motivate users to learn new languages. At the time of writing, they have about 20 languages you can actively study including French, Russian, and Esperanto, but they are constantly developing new languages.
Using a mix of grammar and vocabulary based lessons, Duolingo allows its members to compete against friends to maintain learning streaks, level up and unlock new content.
My biggest criticism towards Duolingo is that some of the sentences are quite random and thus, not incredibly useful, but I’ve found it to be a fun way to review basic grammar and vocabulary in the languages that I’m studying. Especially when I’m short on time.
HelloTalk is a mobile language exchange app available for both Apple devices and Android devices. It isn’t necessarily web-based, but it definitely still falls under one of my favorite apps for language learning.
There are currently over 100 languages to choose from when you setup your learner profile on HelloTalk, so it’s a great place to meet fellow language learners and engage in quick audio/video/text exchanges.
Plus, they have a ton of filters so that you can really narrow down the people who are able to find you and contact you through the app. This really helps ensure that you’re likely to meet someone who is a great fit for you.
Ninchanese is another gamified language learning web tool specifically for Mandarin Chinese learners. It is a story-based platform, so you get to know the different characters as their story progresses and you learn the Chinese language.
The game features a dragon and adorable cats that lead you along your language learning journey and there are a variety of exercises that allow you to practice not only reading and writing, but speaking and listening, too.
This is a fantastic app, again for Mandarin Chinese language learners, that helps you familiarize yourself with the language’s tonal system.
Waichinese is one of the only tools on this list that isn’t a free resource, but if you’re learning Chinese, it’s definitely worth the cost, especially if you’re struggling with tones.
Chinese tones are a huge challenge for a lot of learners and this particular tool really hones in on that aspect of the language. Plus, you actually work with a real life coach when you use the app which is a huge plus.
This one is a pretty obvious one for this list, but I’d like to point out some of the features that the mobile app includes – namely the photo translation feature. This has been so incredibly helpful while learning languages with unique writing systems because when the source I’m using doesn’t include transliteration (and isn’t computer-based so that I can copy and paste), I can simply take a photo of the text in question and Google Translate will still recognize it and translate it for me (or at least provide me with the transliteration).
I also absolutely love the mic feature on Google Translate because it’s a quick way for me to check my pronunciation in the languages that I’m learning. I set the source language to my target language and the translation to my native language. I then record myself saying a word or phrase in the language I’m learning and then look to see if the translation is correct. If it is, there’s a pretty good chance my pronunciation of the word is pretty close.
This has been a huge lifesaver whenever I’m trying to write down things that I know how to say but not spell or write in my target language (especially Chinese, Korean and Russian). It’s a quick way to learn how to write the phrases I’ve learned to say.
For those of you who hope to improve your vocabulary in your target languages, Drops is a fantastic tool. Upon signing up, you can immediately dive into more that 2,500 new words in your target language.
The free account currently only allows you to play with the app for 5 minutes with a 10-hour refresh window. But it’s a great way to make sure you’re able to fit in some language study each and every day.
They currently have more than 35 languages available including a few rarer languages like Ainu, Hawaiian, Samoan, and Maori.
Forvo is a web-based pronunciation guide that was established in 2008. There are now over three million words in 325 languages “pronounced in their original languages” on the site.
It’s a great tool if you’re looking for some help with pronunciation. You just type in the word or phrase you’re struggling with and the various translations with audio will pop up. You can also specifically choose which languages you would like the words translated from and into to speed up your search. The audio clips are limited to 2.5 seconds, so it isn’t to be used for blocks of texts, but it will definitely help you with words or short phrases.
Learn with Oliver
Learn with Oliver is a flashcard tool with quite a few helpful features and quizzes, but it’s really their customizable daily newsletter that I love most.
I am signed up to their newsletter for nearly every language that I’m studying and about once a week, I go through each of the newsletters, noting the useful phrases and words while listening to the audio pronunciation (this is a paid feature, but you can receive the newsletters without audio for free).
The Pod101 Series is put together by Innovative Language and they currently have courses in more than 30 languages available. I currently use RussianPod101, ChineseClass101, and KoreanClass101, but they also have programs available for languages like French, German, Italian, Afrikaans, and Finnish.
The programs are broken up into a variety of levels – everything from Newbie to Advanced – so they have quite a bit of material regardless of your level. They post new lessons every week and they also have newsletters with fun vocabulary and phrases that are sent out every so often.
I absolutely love FluentU and I use it every day for Mandarin. They also have content available for those learning French, Spanish, English, German, and Japanese and I can’t wait until they add more languages!
FluentU curates content from YouTube, adding interactive subtitles and quizzes based on the audio within the video. They have everything from commercials to mini movies to music videos, so there’s quite a bit to work with.
They also have fantastic language specific blogs you can check out for tips on learning those languages.
Omniglot is an online language encyclopedia hosted by Simon Ager. The site shares information on different writing systems, languages, and more and it’s really quite impressive how much is up on the site.
It is one of the first resources I visit whenever I take up a new language to learn a bit about the history of the language, it’s writing system and a few starter phrases.
Education Tools that Offer Language Learning Features
Coursera is an online education program that has teamed up with universities around the world to bring it’s community free (and paid) courses.
They have fantastic content in a variety of subjects, but it’s their language department that keeps me coming back. I recently took an introduction to Korean course as well as a few Mandarin courses, but one of the best features they offer is the ability to take courses taught in your target language. They have courses about a variety of subjects in French, Mandarin, Russian, et al. It’s a great way to get either an introduction to a language or to develop a more advanced understanding of the language(s) that you’re studying.
EdX is another online education platform that offers courses in a variety of topics including language.
EdX was founded by MIT and Harvard University in 2012 and they currently have more than 90 global partners. It is both nonprofit and open-sourced.
I’ve enrolled in both their Italian and Chinese courses and I look forward to when they add more language content.
FutureLearn is yet another online education platform that offers language learning courses in addition to a variety of other subjects.
In addition to language specific courses, they also have a variety of content available for language teachers and those interested in learning strategies.
I’m currently enrolled in their Introduction to Dutch course because I just can’t keep away from language introduction courses. ?
General Web Based Tools that Can Be Used for Language Learning
Social Media (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest)
Social Media can be used as a language learning tool if you go about it the right way. The first most obvious way is to change your settings so that your preferred platform is set to the language that you’re learning. I do this for both Facebook and Twitter and I have Instagram set to Chinese on my phone.
Second, you can use social media to find groups of people who either 1) speak your target language and share an interest of yours (for example, a scuba diving group on Facebook that speaks French) or 2) are learning your target language (a group of Croatian language learners from around the world). By joining these groups and connecting with others, you’re sure to get practice in and learn about materials that will help you learn your target language.
Thirdly, you can use social media platforms such as Pinterest and YouTube to collect and save language learning resources. I have boards on Pinterest where I pin useful graphics and resources for the different languages that I’m learning and I have playlists on Youtube that I use to save helpful videos.
I tend to take notes by hand more than anything else, but on the days that I get caught without one of my language notebooks (which happens quite often), I have Evernote installed on my phone so that I can quickly jot down (or even voice record or photograph) anything that I think may be relevant to my language learning.
This can be anything from a phrase I picked up while out and about, a photo of a book I’d like to do more research on at home, a photo of a sign I saw that I’d like to look into later on, or even a clip of something I stumbled across online.
Dropbox is another tool that I use to store language learning resources so that I have them with me wherever I go.
It’s a cloud storage app that you can install on your computer and various devices, but you can also access the content from your browser. Free accounts are only allowed a limited amount of storage, but they have certain things you can do to bump up how much storage your allowed for free.
I have it installed on my computer at work, my personal laptop and my phone so that no matter where I am, I have access to whichever PDFs or documents I’m using to study.
Google Drive is another great alternative to cloud storage if you don’t want to install Dropbox. Plus, it’s its own word processor, spreadsheet editor, and slide creating tools, so you can do quite a bit with it.
It’s especially great if you’re looking to collaborate on certain files, but you can also just use it as cloud storage if you aren’t interested in its other features.
Again, you’re allowed a limited amount of space (but much more than Dropbox) for free. Additional space is paid.
Hulu is a free (or if you’d like access to more content, paid) platform that hosts a variety of television shows and films in a selection of languages.
I’ve had access to French, German, Russian, Korean, and Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese) content and my free account allows me to add things I’d like to watch into my queue for later. Most of the content available on Hulu has subtitles which is great for when you’re just starting out, too.
If you’re learning a language like Korean or Chinese, DramaFever is another site where you can find movies and tv shows for free. In fact, quite a few of the shows I watched on Hulu have been available longer on Dramafever, so if you miss out on something on Hulu, you can always catch up on Dramafever.
There’s a show that’s going to be added soon that, based on the description, sounds like something I can’t wait to watch.
Bonus! Yes, I know this list actually has 22 web based language learning tools.
Last but certainly not least, I use my blog, Eurolinguiste to learn languages. By writing the various posts I share in this space, I am able to review and internalize much of what I’ve learnt.
One of the best ways to really ensure that you understand something is to teach it to someone else and by sharing what I’ve learnt here on Eurolinguiste, I not only get to help you along on your language learning journey, but I also get to spend some time analyzing my own personal experiences and study.
If you have a language learning blog, it too can be a great place for you to bring together everything that you’ve learnt so far.
What about you? What language learning applications do you use?
Do you use any of the ones I listed above? Which are your favorites?
Did I miss any that you think are essential that you’d like to share with the community? Feel free to share them in the comments below!
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My name is Shannon Kennedy and I'm the language lover, traveler, and foodie behind Eurolinguiste. I'm also the Resident Polyglot at Drops and the Head Coach of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge.