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  • The Best Free Language Learning Apps in 2020

    Given the current situation, many of us have more time at home and on our own. You likely have a list of tasks you’d like to catch up on at home–cleaning, organizing, finally wheedling through that stack of books you’ve always wanted to get to… or maybe to finally start learning a new language. Or to just make the time to continue learning the language you already started.

    If that’s the case, you’re in the right place.

    Best Language Learning Apps

    Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to test out a variety of language learning apps and here are the best language learning apps I’ve come across during that time.

    Memrise — learn new vocabulary and basic grammar

    Memrise started out as a vocabulary learning app exclusively, but have since expanded. You can still use Memrise for free if you’d like to learn new words, but if you’d like to try out their courses, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid subscription.

    That said, they’re still one of the best language learning platforms out there if you like to make and study your own flashcards (I certainly do). Using this feature is free as are the community decks.

    Try Memrise.

    Drops — learn thousands of new words

    Full disclosure, I work for Drops. But I was a fan of this vocabulary learning app long before I became affiliated with the company. I originally featured them in a post on language learning activities you can do when pressed for time, and it’s the only language learning app I currently use on a daily basis.

    You get 5 minutes for free every ten hours. It’s an engaging, fun, and visually-memorable way to learn new words in a language and build a strong foundation.

    Try Drops.

    Duolingo — pick up the basics of a new language

    Duolingo is one of the most popular language learning apps out on the market today. It helps you learn new vocabulary and basic grammar, though its methods are somewhat unconventional and there’s even a Twitter channel dedicated to it.

    Try Duolingo.

    Google Translate — get translations on the fly

    Google Translate is an incredible tool, even if it’s translations still have room for improvement. I use it in a variety of ways–to get quick translations to or from a foreign language, to scan text so I can import it into LingQ (see below), to test my pronunciation using the microphone tool… The options are endless.

    Try Google Translate.

    Clozemaster — contextual language learning

    Clozemaster is an app that uses cloze, another way of saying “fill in the blank” to help you learn a new language through context. They offer a wide range of languages–including languages like Breton and Croatian!

    Try Clozemaster.

    The Best Paid Language Learning Apps You Can Try for Free

    The following language apps require paid subscriptions but offer free trials so you can test them out.

    LingQ — read and listen to your new language

    LingQ is a paid app, but you can try it out for free on a limited basis. The free trial isn’t really enough to get a good sense of how LingQ works if I’m being totally honest. But I can assure you that it’s worth upgrading your account if it works for your budget. It’s one of my favorite language learning apps out there.

    Try LingQ.

    Pimsleur — build listening comprehension and speaking skills

    Pimsleur started out as an audio course that was pretty cost-inhibitive (around $350 per level). Recently, however, they introduced a subscription model that makes using this audio course much more affordable. It’s $14.95/month (at the time of writing), but you can try it out for 7-days before making the commitment.

    Try Pimsleur.

    FluentU — use video to learn a new language

    Want to dive right into native source material in your language? FluentU uses videos on Youtube in a variety of languages to teach you new vocabulary and phrases in a language. You can try it out with a 14-day free trial. After that, it’s $20-30/month.

    Try FluentU.

    March 17, 2020 • Language Resources • Views: 1760

  • Best Gifts for Language Learners

    It’s holiday season and I’m sure your inbox has been flooded with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. How do you decide which tools are right for you with so many amazing choices?

    Here are a few of my favorite choices and some of the items on my holiday wishlist:

    Best Gifts for Language Learners This Holiday Season

    The Language Learning League

    For a few years, Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages and I have hosted Language Study Club—a monthly membership for language learners looking for new community, support, and creative new language learning strategies. In the coming year, we’re being joined by Kerstin Cable of Fluent Language and renaming the membership course The Language League.

    You can sign up for Language League at a discount here.

    The Fluent in 3 Months Bundle

    Fluent in 3 Months is currently offering 85% off their Black Friday Collection. This includes The Fluent in 3 Months Challenge, a 90-day challenge that helps you build the confidence and skill you need to have a 15-minute conversation in your new language (ps. I’m the Head Coach!). It also includes a Travel Hacking Workshop with Benny Lewis, Conversation Countdown, and Easy Languages. And it’s just $97! The Fluent in 3 Months Challenge is normally priced at $247 so this is a killer deal.

    You can sign up for the Fluent in Months Bundle here.

    Olly Richards’ Uncovered Courses

    I recently took Olly’s German Uncovered course and was really impressed not only with the amount of content available within in the course, but the quality of the content. You’re guided from beginning to intermediate, learning tons of important vocabulary and grammar along the way. It’s currently available for French, German, Italian and Spanish and is discounted 67%.

    You can sign up for the courses here. 

    Drops

    Drops is my favorite way to learn new words for many of the languages that I study (they have more than 35 languages available). You can spend just five minutes a day with the app and learn several thousand words and phrases.

    You can sign up for Drops Premium here. (Or if you’d like to get a gift for your friend, here)

    Language Learning Accelerator

    My course Language Learning Accelerator, normally priced $147 is now available for $97. It’s an in-depth course on time management and energy management in language learning. If you’ve ever felt that you don’t have the time or energy to learn a language, this course will help you discover you do, in fact, have both!

    Get Language Learning Accelerator 

    Pimsleur

    One of my favorite audio courses is put together by Pimsleur. I’ve used it for every language I’ve learned, especially because it allows me to make good use of all the time I spend commuting. They’re currently offering 50% off their audio program.

    Up to 50% OFF CDs + 25% OFF Digital with Code: BESTDEAL

    Language Learning Notebooks

    A while back, I designed these fun language learning notebooks. They make great, affordable gifts for language learners!

    Get the notebooks.  

    What about you? What’s on your holiday wishlist? Let me know in the comments below!

    November 27, 2019 • Language Resources • Views: 789

  • GERMAN UNCOVERED REVIEW: TAKE YOUR GERMAN TO THE NEXT LEVEL

    German and I had fallen out of love. 

    At least, that’s what I told myself after graduating university. It helped me feel better about the fact I was giving it up. Doing so gave me more time with the languages that I loved–namely, Chinese and Croatian.

    I was sure that German and I were never, ever, ever getting back together. But then, something came up with my music work, and suddenly I needed to reconnect with the language I had lost. 

    I turned to my good friend, Kerstin Cable, for help. And as it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been any better. She had just finished putting together German Uncovered with Olly Richards of I Will Teach You a Language, and that meant that I had the perfect course to help me get started.

    What is German Uncovered?

    German Uncovered is a course that uses stories to help you learn the German language. There are 20 modules that each include a story, and audio recording, a cognates video lesson, a vocabulary video lesson, a grammar video lesson, a pronunciation lesson, a speaking exercise, and a quiz to test your knowledge.

    Each of the video lessons is about 20 minutes in length, so there is a lot of material to work through. It’s presented in a way that is easy to work through, and you pick up German grammar more naturally than you would by memorizing a bunch of grammar rules.

    When you first start German Uncovered, you’re given a set of instructions on how to best use the material in the course:

    “1. Start by listening to the audiobook recording of the chapter: It’s a good idea to do this before you read the text or the translation. Focus on listening and see how much you can pick up. (You can also download this audio file at the bottom of the lesson in case you want to listen again offline).

    2. Read the text in German: After listening to the chapter, read through the text in German. It’s a good idea to do this a couple of times and listen along to the audio as you do so. Try and see how much you can figure out from the German before looking at the English translation.

    3. Watch the Cognates video lesson: Watch the cognates lesson to uncover the German of the story and understand large chunks of it easily.

    4. Check Your Comprehension: Once you’ve completed the steps above, complete the short comprehension quiz. This is a quiz which will check how much you’ve understood. Don’t worry if this is difficult. This is the very first lesson. In time, you’ll find that you can work out more and more of the story.

    5. Download the English translation: Finally, download and read through the English translation. See how much you understood and notice any words or phrases that are similar in German and English.6. Complete the other lessons and worksheets for this chapter: Work through the video lessons and worksheets for this chapter.”

    If you complete the course as instructed, it promises that you’ll attain “(B1 on the CEFR), and be a confident German speaker.”

    My Experience Using German Uncovered

    It’s been more than ten years since I last touched the German language, and I was worried about just how much I may have lost. I quit because the grammar got me down and I couldn’t push past it or find a better way to approach the language. What I had been taught to do in school was too ingrained and I couldn’t break free from grammar drills. Then I enrolled in German Uncovered.

    I just finished the introduction videos and felt so motivated to dive in and get started. The course wasn’t anything like my experience at university where I was drowning in German grammar.

    After completing just one module in the course, I was able to revive much of my lost German (and perhaps more!). I booked my first lesson with a tutor and flew through all the material, keeping the lesson almost entirely in German!

    I made mistakes, yes, but I was already making huge strides with the language.

    To demonstrate, here’s where I was at with German before I completed the first module in German Uncovered:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgErhdFkAa8

    And here’s where I was at shortly after the fourth module:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4QqRfFv60s

    Each of the lessons is taught by Kerstin, a native German speaker. This means that you get lots of insight into the language, it’s culture, and you learn the language it’s really used day-to-day.

    German Uncovered: The Good

    Kerstin is an excellent and outgoing course instructor. She keeps your attention through the lessons. Her love of the German language really shows, and it’s contagious. She does a great job keeping you motivated to continue through the modules.

    And as you continue through the modules, completing the work as suggested, you see real progress with your German. Because the course focuses on teaching you cognates and shows you how to make the most of the similarities between German and English, you progress quickly.

    German Uncovered is very logically organized and as you work through each lesson, you’re taught just the right amount of new material, building on what you learned in the previous lessons. 

    German Uncovered: What Could Be Better

    There were some issues with the audio on some of the videos, but nothing that was too distracting. For example, the volume of the pronunciation videos was lower than the other video lessons and on a couple of the videos, the audio had delay.

    Seeing an example of the speaking lessons would also be extremely helpful. The instructions for these sections are written so that you can hand your tutor or practice partner the worksheet, but seeing how this would work in practice would definitely help students feel more confident taking this step.

    In Conclusion

    Would I recommend German Uncovered? Absolutely. It helped me rebuild a foundation in German and gain confidence using the language. It offers students a way to build their listening skills, reading skills, and vocabulary and gives them everything they need to take things further with an instructor.

    If you’re still not sure if German Uncovered is right for you, you can try out the course and get a feel for Kerstin’s teaching style through German Stories, a free mini course. If you’re ready to dive in and start learning with German Uncovered, you can sign up here.

    April 2, 2019 • Language Resources • Views: 1002

  • Language Learning in 5-Minute Drops

    How one start-up is aiming to revolutionize language learning by combining augmented reality with gamification in 5-minute Drops.

    In a time when, on average, nearly everyone is too busy to invest time into intensive side projects, is there a place for language learning? Daniel Farkas and Mark Szulyovszky, of Plan B Labs, believe, without question, that there is, and they’ve developed the app to prove it.

    Rather than tasking learners with hour-long study sessions, or daily point goals, this app challenges you to learn as much as you can in a limited time.

    The Birth of a Language Hero

    It was in his final year at university and after one particularly sleepless night that Daniel Farkas had a realization that would set him upon the path to developing one of the most popular language applications. “It just struck me: nobody taught me how to learn.” This epiphany led to Farkas developing a passion for meta-learning, or as defined by theorist Donald B. Maudsley, “the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized.” But it wouldn’t be for several more years, after a brief career as a salesman for a luxury bike company, and a collaboration with two trivia app designing friends until he would be able to completely make the leap into a career that would allow him to fully explore his enthusiasm for meta-learning, channeling his hard-earned knowledge into an app designed for specifically for language learners.

    At the time, other language apps were becoming wildly popular, but despite their success, Daniel still felt that there was still a key element missing from the available options. “None of the big names were combing cutting-edge technology with the findings of behavioral psychology – things like habit forging, gamification, the psychology of play -, neuroscience, and direct visual association.” In his opinion, most language applications try to do too many things. They offer excessive language choices in an effort to appeal to a wider audience, and in doing so, correctness and quality suffer. In other cases, they attempt to cover too much of the language’s grammar, only scratching the surface when it comes to vocabulary – arguably the most important tool for anyone looking to really dive into a language.

    And so, in 2012, Farkas and Szulyovszky set to developing a focused alternative concentrated on the “meat” of language learning – vocabulary acquisition and the building of a rock-solid language learning habit. Kicking off with just three languages and limited features, Drops has rapidly grown in both its offerings and its subscriber base. It is now the powerhouse application behind many language enthusiasts’ consistent study habits. Recognized as one of the Top 5 Language Learning apps by Bloomberg, Drops has also been featured as one of the best educational apps in more than one hundred countries. Today, it is used by millions of learners.

    Before There Was Drops – Mnemonic Gaming and Language Learning

    Drops’ use of mnemonic association and gaming psychology to teach languages is not by accident. It all started when, back in 2012 the two Drops founders, Daniel Farkas and Mark Szulyovszky, were introduced at a party. Daniel had been working on a book about applying meta-learning techniques to learning vocabulary (meta-learning is basically using cognitive shortcuts to learning anything), and Mark–a longtime gamer–had developed a visual pattern recognition game called Thinkinvisible. Similar to the Rorschach test or the concept of Rubin’s Vase, ThinkInvisible images can be viewed in multiple ways, but in particular, they rely on the cognitive trick negative space to define the image. The lack of full contouring forces an “aha” recognition moment, which is at the root of mnemonics.

    Daniel and Mark instantly agreed that a similar mnemonic approach could be used to learn vocabulary. They set about designing and building an app they would later call LearnInvisible. Somewhere along the way, they decided this idea was more than just folly and they applied to the GameFounders–the Estonian gaming accelerator. They were accepted into GameFounders very first cohort of start-ups, received around $15K and were off to the races. They initially incorporated as PlanB Labs and soon after they launched LearnInvisible to some early fanfare, but suddenly soon realized that while people said they loved the app, they used it once or twice and then never came back.

    In a post-mortem of LearnInvisble’s failure, Daniel suggested that maybe they had strayed too far from Mark’s gaming background. They had built a great app, but it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sticky. It wasn’t a game. So they pivoted and redesigned the entire app from scratch with a laser focus on retention. In January of 2015, they launched Drops and never looked back.

    While the Drops and Scripts apps appear simple (intentionally), their deep intersection of mnemonics and gaming comes from Daniel and Mark’s unique backgrounds, as well as the painful failure that resulted from neglecting that background the first time around. I, for one, am glad they got it right.

    Rising Above the Rest

    What makes Drops a stand out language tool? Some might tell you that it’s the simple, yet elegant design and a user-friendly interface. Others are convinced that it’s the interactivity. And then, there are those that fancy the well-thought-out vocabulary lists. For the learners for whom Drops has become a part of their daily regiment, it’s all of the above. And then some.

    Drops is a powerful resource for learners because it isn’t time intensive. By restricting users’ study sessions to five minutes, Drops guarantees that even the most occupied user can work a little learning into their routine. Of course, for more serious learners, or what Drops likes to call the ‘genius’ or ‘polyglot’, there’s the option to unlock more time and more languages, respectively, for a sensible fee.

    Currently, the app provides around 100 unique vocabulary lists each containing around twenty words for nearly thirty languages including Korean, French, Hebrew, and Chinese. And while they aim to tackle a large selection of languages, they ensure the quality of their product by hiring native speakers, professional translators, and established polyglots to double and triple check the lesson content.

    There’s a lot of thought and care that goes into creating the wordlists and you’ll find plenty of vocabulary that isn’t readily available on other platforms. Whether you’re interested in discussing business-related topics, the birth of a new baby and an introduction to your family, figuring out what you’ll need to know to get around town on an upcoming vacation, or just learn the basics, you’re covered.

    The app experience is an exciting whirlwind of swiping, matching, and competing with a timer to get through as much new material as possible. The minimalist illustrations and color changes provide a backdrop that keeps your attention on the task at hand. It’s addicting insofar as it is educational, and although it feels like you’re merely playing a game, you’re building a useful life skill.

    Drops’ functionality is, in part, based on Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihályi’s studies of ‘flow’, that feeling you get when you’re so immersed in an activity that you lose track of time. It’s something you experience when you go out dancing, bury yourself in an excellent book, or get into the rhythm with a task at work. The execution of this element in Drops is flawless. As you compete against the timer, blazing through as much material as possible, you become hyper-focused. The message you receive when the time is up is the only indicator that you’re due to return to reality.

    The platform combines a series of exercises so that you’re doing far more than flipping over a flashcard to learn more vocabulary. You do everything from matching to fill in the blank, true or false to a Boggle-like word search as a part of its spaced-repetition based system. It seems like the only thing you don’t do is type. The variety of exercises is an effective way to give the new words you’re learning more than one context – a way to improve retention. With the swipe-based functionality, you can work through the material seamlessly and as you progress, the difficulty of the exercises progresses with you.

    A premium account also offers the opportunity to focus on tough words in its Tough Word Dojo once you study your first fifty words. Using the data collected on how many times you’ve answered questions incorrectly during the normal exercise section, the Dojo rounds up the words that you’ve struggled with most and offers you the opportunity to focus on them. This focus allows you to concentrate on your weaknesses and review a mix of vocabulary (this feature doesn’t focus on a specific theme).

    The vocabulary in Drops is very much noun-focused, but a few relevant verbs are included as a part of each lesson. You don’t learn how to conjugate them or get the chance to give them context, but it’s still a valuable resource. Particularly because it does what it does extremely well.

    For users with a free account, you’re given five minutes of study time every ten hours. It may not seem like much, but for those struggling to make language learning a part of their routine, it’s an excellent start. You get to spend that daily study with a crucial element of language learning success – vocabulary – and you get to have fun while doing it. The result? Developing a love for languages, a desire to learn more in other places and an opportunity to take things further. It’s all about building a strong foundation.

    Beautiful Interface

    Drops uses minimalist design features and detailed illustrations as a part of their functionality to help the learner eliminate the need to use their native language as much as possible. This means that rather than asking you to translate, you’re shown an image and asked to connect it directly to the language that you’re learning. This feature is one of the big characteristics that sets Drops apart from the other leading language learning apps which still, in large part, rely on translation. Using the app gives you five minutes of total immersion, though if needed, pressing and holding your finger over a word or image will give you the translation.

    Boost in Motivation

    When creating a language study habit is as easy as ‘playing‘ with vocabulary for five minutes, twice a day, feeling motivated to learn is a natural outcome. According to one user, “It’s so simple. Instead of playing Candy Crush or Tweeting during my breaks during the day, I play Drops. It’s easy, fun, and my vocabulary is expanding rapidly.” When you enjoy something, you’re more motivated to continue doing it. And Drops undoubtedly makes language learning enjoyable for many learners.

    Visual Progress Tracking

    As you progress through the vocabulary sets, you can track your advancement with a small progress bar that appears beneath the title of each vocabulary section. It’s motivating to see the bar creep towards the 100% mark and to watch all of the bars add up as you work through the various word lists.

    Audio from Native Speakers

    One of the biggest complaints when it comes to language learning apps are that they use poor quality audio or computer-generated voices. Paying voice actors who are native speakers of the language can be pricey – especially when you’re developing an app that offers a large number of languages. When it came to this feature, however, Drops spared no expense. Each of the courses includes high-quality audio recordings of every word read by a native speaker.

    Laddering

    For those who speak more than one language, Drops offers the ability to practice language laddering. Laddering is where you study one language through another. So, for instance, if you’re an intermediate French speaker and beginning German learner, you can learn German through French. This means that, rather than seeing the translations in English, you’ll see them in French (if you opt to turn them on).

    Flexible Settings

    For learners looking for a more personalized flashcard experience, Drops has several settings that enable you to tailor the app’s functionalities to your level and preferences. Learning Japanese but you still don’t have the writing system figured out? No problem, you can take it a step at a time starting out with the romanization turned on while using Hiragana only, then transition to no romanization and then Kana + Kanji whenever you’re ready. If you’re learning Chinese, you can modify the writing system so that it uses either simplified or traditional characters. You can also turn English translations on or off.

    Additionally, you can change the following features to get the best experience using Drops:

    • Select your learning style. The options are business, romantic, traveler or enthusiast. Changing this setting arranges the words lists so that they appear in an order most relevant to your goals. In this section, you can also select your gender so that the vocabulary you learn is tailored to you (in different languages word choice and word forms change according to gender). Most resources are targeted towards male learners, so it’s nice to see an app that tailors vocabulary to a wider audience.
    • Premium subscribers can change the session length. While free users are limited to five-minute study sessions, premium users are able to set their study sessions to five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, or unlimited.
    • You can turn the audio on or off. Want to enjoy the dings and fanfare effects without the pronunciation? Or perhaps you just want to test your ability to read in a new writing system without hearing the word first. With Drops, you can turn the pronunciation on or off.
    • You can also turn the sound effects on or off. Perhaps the celebratory noises produced by the app are more distracting than motivating for you. If this is the case, you can mute them while still getting to hear the pronunciation.
    • You can set the phone to vibrate when you get answers right or wrong. It’s extra confirmation that you’re making connections as you study new words – especially since everything is swipe-based. But if you prefer not to use this feature, it too can be deactivated.
    • Choose your skill level. If you already know some of the language, you can choose to start at the ‘intermediate’ level. When doing this, Drops drops you into the more advanced vocabulary and automatically turns off some of the aids like ‘show English’ and ‘Romanization’. For languages like Japanese, this means it defaults to Kana + Kanji rather than Hiragana. If this seems a little too advanced for you, you can also use the default settings for a beginning learner.

    Room to Grow

    Even with its gorgeous interface and useful word lists, Drops has room for improvement. To start, there isn’t a way to monitor your consistency as a premium user. A short time back, Drops featured a table that showed your daily progress. It included how many words you learned, how many days in a row you had studied, and it was a great way to stay both accountable and motivated. The app still includes several statistics, but because one of its biggest selling points is that it helps you build a language learning habit, having some way to track that habit is important. More varied and detailed statistics on your learning would definitely add to the experience of using the app.

    For those interested in multiple languages, it’s not always clear which dashboard you’re in. Are you in the French vocabulary list or Hebrew? Without going into your settings or actually starting a lesson, you have no idea which language you’re logged into. And once you open a vocabulary list, the timer commences counting down and you start to lose precious time. With Drops, what you do during those five minutes really counts. There’s no room for error.

    Second, for the time being, you’re not given the option to create or import your own personalized word lists. While having vocabulary selected for you is a nice way to take a major task off your plate, this is a desirable feature for many language learners. When it comes to picking up a new language, learning “you-specific” vocabulary is important. In order to get the most out of your language studies, you want to spend time with the words and grammar you’re most likely to use. And the best way to ensure you do this is by curating your word lists. A feature that Drops does not yet include.

    Finally, you aren’t able to preview the words included in each vocabulary list and knowing how to mute words that aren’t relevant takes a little detective work. Again, having the power to decide which vocabulary you spend time learning is conducive to getting the most out of the hours you put in. With Drops, if you forget (or don’t realize that you need) to drop the word onto the ‘x’ when it is first introduced, it isn’t until you scroll through your learned word list that you can swipe right to “hide” or “unhide” words that you don’t really need or those you already know really well (so they don’t come up for review).

    These, of course, are features the developers are currently at work improving, along with a whole slew of recently and soon-to-be-released options. Teaching learners vocabulary on a beautifully designed and well-curated platform is only a part of what Drops offers.

    From here, they have plans to continue to make vocabulary learning even more immersive and fun through a combination of augmented reality and other features.

    Can Five Minutes of Language Study a Day Work?

    One of the biggest criticisms of Drops is that five minutes a day just isn’t enough. It’s a fair assessment. If you’re looking to go deep with a language, or to learn fairly quickly, Drops alone isn’t a complete solution. But it isn’t trying to be.

    Drops aims to do one important thing well – provide an interactive and enjoyable method for acquiring vocabulary. They are extremely successful at accomplishing this.

    There are people who would argue that you won’t get far with a vocabulary-only language learning app, but you can’t get far without a strong foundation either. Focusing on building a strong vocabulary gives you that foundation, something to build grammar rules and speaking or comprehension skills on, and a ton of confidence, too. In short, Drops is the perfect place to start when learning a language. It will not only set you up for greater successes in the future, but it will make learning a new language an enjoyable activity and thus, a habit.

    Making language learning routine aside, does the app actually help you learn the language? Short answer: yes.

    There are countless reasons why studying a language has the reputation of being boring or difficult. Traditional learning methods are often laborious and tedious, and other resources on the market promise ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ learning without delivering. Drops is an exception to the rule, offering an experience that supports quickly building a strong vocabulary in a new language in a way that is entertaining, engaging, and effective. Highly recommended.

    Drops is currently available for iOS mobile devices through the App Store as well as on Android through Google Play.

    An announcement… 

    After writing this review, I spent a lot of time trying out Drops and I loved it so much I decided to join the Drops family. I am excited to announce that I am now working with them as their Resident Polyglot. If you’d like to see how my learning with the app went, you can see how I used Drops to learn Hungarian.

    What about you?

    Have you tried Drops? What did you think? 

    I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

    September 20, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 1561

  • FREE LANGUAGE FEEDBACK & PRACTICE WITH LINGORA

    When I first started learning languages on my own, I didn’t realize that the key to mastering them was speaking them. I tried learning on my own, but whenever I had an opportunity to use them, nothing came out. I’d get too nervous, tongue-tied, or flat out forget everything that I learned.

    Soon, I realized that the only way I’d get better at speaking would be by practicing that very skill. I needed to speak more.

    I started looking for ways to use my languages more often, but there were hardly any meet ups in my area (if any) and the cost of tutors could be prohibitive.

    I had one more option — language exchange partners.

    Free Language Feedback & Practice with Lingora | Eurolinguiste

    Meet Lingora

    Lingora is an online membership portal that offers language learners the chance to connect with language exchange partners around the world for free. You can chat with native speakers, upload audio for feedback, or even text for correction.

    Currently, it supports dozens of languages including Korean, Spanish, Chinese and Serbian.

    Free Language Feedback & Practice with Lingora | Eurolinguiste

    My Experience Using Lingora

    Lingora offers its members a variety of ways to get language practice. I wanted to make use of each of these, so I made sure to try out the voice recording feature as well as the text and chat features.

    Unfortunately, between when I posted my material and writing this review, I had yet to receive feedback. Because the site is fairly new, the membership is not yet that large and so finding active members (especially for Croatian) was tough. That said, when I do get feedback, I really like the criteria.

    For audio, you’re scored on accent, intonation, fluency, and pronunciation. You’re rated as either “adequate to good”, “good to excellent” or “needs work”. For written entries, you’re scored based on grammatical accuracy, punctuation, spelling, and style. For both, when members offer feedback, they also have a space to leave you more specific comments.

    Free Language Feedback & Practice with Lingora | Eurolinguiste

    The Pro’s of Using Lingora

    Everything is available to you in one convenient place. // The platform offers you a place to practice your writing, your speaking, to chat with native speakers or other learners, and even find a tutor. You don’t need any external equipment. Lingora even includes a built-in audio recorder that converts the audio files for you.

    It’s free. // With the exception of lessons with a professional tutor, Lingora is entirely free to use. For those learning a language on a budget, this is an incredible tool for getting valuable feedback.

    Free Language Feedback & Practice with Lingora | Eurolinguiste

    They offer prompts so that you have support if you’re not sure what to record or write. // One of the toughest things to do when you hit record or sit down to write in your new language is coming up with ideas. What should you write or talk about? Unless you have something specific in mind to practice, it’s hard to avoid rambling or to feel confident when you need to click the “submit” button. Thankfully, Lingora has already thought of this. Whether you’re using the writing or audio recording tool, you’re shown a list of prompts to help you get started (or to stretch outside your comfort zone). You can choose a theme, and then from that theme, any one of several prompts to help you get started.

    You can view chats between other members. // In addition to starting your own chats, you can also check out chats between other members. Initially, I was surprised when I first noticed this feature but I think it’s a positive thing for two reasons. First, it’s a way of moderating the discussions between members. When participants know other members will see your conversations, they’re less likely to engage in anything that isn’t above board. Second, it offers the Lingora community the chance to get reading practice and learn from the conversations taking place.

    You get weekly summaries of your feedback. // At the end of the week, Lingora sends you an email with summaries of the feedback you’ve received on whatever you submitted. It’s a great reminder to log back in and get more practice AND get an overhead view of how you did the previous week.

    Free Language Feedback & Practice with Lingora | Eurolinguiste

    Features I Feel Can Improve

    Lingora has a lot of potential, but there are a few things that could be improved. First, as far as I can tell, you can only search for exchange partners based on the language they’re learning, not on the language they speak natively. If you’re hoping to connect with a native speaker, this isn’t very helpful. The search features could definitely be improved with the addition of more filters and options.

    Second, the cost for lessons is a little higher than the average compared to other online tutoring sites. That said, they do have unique options – some of the tutors offer “on location” lessons.

    Finally, as I mentioned earlier, there aren’t a lot of members who speak languages like Croatian (and the members that are there don’t seem to be active). But this will surely change in time as its membership continues to grow.

    To Sum Up

    I really liked the motivation behind Lingora and I think it has a lot to offer learners. It’s still a small community, so at the moment, it’s not as active as it could be, but this is sure to change in time. If you’re looking for places to get speaking or writing practice in your language and to get feedback on how you’re doing, Lingora could be a great option.

    Learn more about Lingora.

    What about you?

    How do you get your speaking and writing practice? Have you tried Lingora? What did you think?

    I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

    August 21, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 317

  • Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary

    Los Angeles is often deemed the cultural hub of the Pacific Rim. Its inhabitants speak more than 224 recorded languages,  so it’s no surprise that restaurants in and around the area reflect this diversity.

    Growing up, I unknowingly ate quite a few Croatian dishes. These were recipes that were passed down and that were just things my dad made when he was in charge of dinner – sausages, cabbage rolls, homemade bread, the works. 

    As I grew older, I also grew more curious about the foods he viewed as “comfort foods”. My dad is a great cook, but I also wanted to try these foods (and more of them). 

    I took to Yelp and began my search for Croatian restaurants in Southern California. 

    The results, however, weren’t necessarily Croatian, but Bosnian. 

    Thankfully, many of the traditional foods in Croatia are also common in Bosnia, so they have many menu items in common. 

    Here are the two restaurants that made the top of my list:

    Sofra Urbana | Fountain Valley, CA

    You’ll find Sofra Urbana tucked into an unassuming shopping plaza in Foutain Valley. It’s a small, but cozy restaurant with charming decor and a friendly staff. 

    They serve both Italian and Bosnian food and at first glance, might appear to be just another pizza and wings joint. But it is so much more. 

    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste

    To start, in addition to popular pizza dishes such as sausage or barbecue chicken, they have the restaurant’s namesake, the “Sofra Urbana”. It’s a delectable blend of mozzarella, mushrooms, arugula, bresaola, truffle oil, and shaved parmesan served upon a pizza crust that was baked to perfection. This item alone is worth coming for, but because we were there for the more traditional items, we also decided to sample a few other foods.

    The ćevapi, ground beef sausages, is served with a small cup of kajmak and another of ajvar. These, spread across the mouth-watering lepinje followed by a light sprinkling of freshly cut onion, results in one of the tastiest sandwiches designed to share, but easy to easy to keep for oneself. 

    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste

    Other traditional dishes include:

    • Burek – Sofra Urbana offers meat, cheese, spinach or potato burek served with their version of tzatziki 
    • Shopska salad – a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, green olives, feta cheese, roasted red bell pepper, canola oil, salt and pepper
    • Cockta – a Slovenian soda

    Sofra Urbana
    17098 Magnolia St
    Fountain Valley, CA 92708
    Open 11am – 9pm

    Aroma Café | Los Angeles, California

    Aroma Café is another excellent Bosnian restaurant, set apart by its adorable grocery inside. While there, I was able to stock up on Croatian/Bosnian goodies AND feast on a tasty lunch. Plus, I couldn’t help but bring home a few sandwiches for dinner that night (they were wrapped up well and tasted amazing even after being reheated).

    Here too, the ćevapi is a classic and absolute must. Their housemade lepinje is outstanding, though a touch of ajmak was certainly missed.

    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste

    Since we went with cheese burek at our first stop, we decided to indulge in spinach burek here. It was delightful and Little Linguist voted it 10 out of 10.

    Served with fresh pita and a yogurt dip, you can order either stuffed cabbage rolls or pita, but our server was awesome and brought us a mixed plate so we could try both. It was hard to choose a winner, but after a vigorous taste test, I can confidently recommend the stuffed grape leaves as the victor.

    Finally, my favorite and the star of the menu. Those sandwiches I took home? Those were both the Aroma sandwich. A mix of cheese, pita, beef prosciutto and bell pepper. I could honestly eat it every day. 

    And of course, I can’t forget the Turkish coffee! Served at the perfect temperature and with a piece of Turkish delight. It was an enjoyable way to end the meal.

    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste
    Where to Find Croatian Food in Southern California + Croatian Food Vocabulary | Eurolinguiste

    Other traditional dishes served here include:

    • Grilled peppers or grilled feta cheese – marinated in garlic and olive oil
    • Shopska salad – here it’s served over a bed of lettuce with tomato, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, and feta
    • Bosanka lonac – slow-cooked vegetables served in a chunky beef stew
    • Pljeskavica – a beef patty served on housemade pita

    Aroma Café
    2530 Overland Ave
    Los Angeles, CA 90064
    Open 11am-10pm

    Croatian Food Vocabulary

    While we’re on the topic of Croatian food, I thought it would be fun to introduce a few useful vocabulary words on the topic. Here are a dishes and menu items you may find useful.

    Foods/Dishes in Croatian

    • Burek | a phyllo dough pastry stuffed with cheese, spinach, beef, or potatoes
    • Janjetina | roasted lamb
    • Zagrebački odrezak | veal breaded and fried, stuffed with ham and cheese
    • Lignje | squid
    • Crni rižot | black risotto
    • Brodet | fish stew
    • Grah i zelje | bean stew with sauerkraut
    • Riblji paprikaš | spicy fish stew
    • Žganci | cornmeal dish
    • Štrukli | stuffed pastry
    • Punjena paprika | peppers stuffed with minced meat
    • Lepinje | flat bread

    Cooking Styles in Croatian

    • S roštilja | roasted on a grill
    • S ražnja | roasted on a spit
    • Pečeno | roasted
    • Prženo | fried
    • Pod pekom | cooked on a stone while covered with a metal lid and hot coals
    • Na lešo | boiled 

    Croatian Cooking Ingredients

    • Maslinovo ulje | Croatian olive oil
    • Paški sir | sheep cheese
    • Kupus | cabbage
    • Češnjak | garlic
    • Ajvar | a spicy eggplant spread
    • Pekmez od šljiva | plum jam
    • Dimljena paprika | smoked paprika
    • Kajenski papar | cayenne pepper
    • Med cvjetni | flower honey

    What about you?

    Have you tried Croatian (or Bosnian) food? What did you like most?

    What restaurants in your area feature delicious foods from far away places?

    June 14, 2018 • Culture & Cuisine • Views: 899