There are many ways to learn a foreign language – it all depends on your desire and learning style. Among others stands language learning software, that has already proven itself to be an advantageous helper for those learners who value their time and want to keep stable progress on their course.Here are some tools which are useful for any language learner.
Kidding aside (though isn’t it remarkable that children don’t have to learn languages so much as simply acquire them?), language-learning takes considerable effort and time, and having access to the right program can make a huge difference, too. And what constitutes the “right” program changes based on one’s previous exposure to the language being learned, as well as the personal preferences of the student.
Some language-learning packages now have mobile apps, too, which help you squeeze in some extra study time while commuting, waiting in lines, or anywhere else you find yourself with a few minutes to spare. And still other programs, such as Living Language Platinum include in their prices live Web classes to get you speaking with other students and a real instructor.
From $12.95 per month
For an inexpensive and little-known language-learning program, Babbel exceeds expectations, delivering high quality courses for anyone who doesn’t mind an online-only program. I’d put it on par with Living Language (see below) in many respects. I like Babbel’s core content better, as well as the ability to pay per month and quit any time, but Babbel does not have real-time Web classes hosted by trained instructors, though Living Language does. For beginners who aren’t ready to commit just yet, Babbel offers an inexpensive way to dive into great content in 11 languages.
Available Languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.
Get Babbel here
Duolingo is by far the best free program for learning a language, but it is only offered in a few languages at the moment. Part crowd-sourcing project to translate the Web and part language-learning site, Duolingo has tremendous features that work surprisingly well at getting you to practice a language—but not necessarily master it. Mid-level or experienced speakers of other languages won’t like that Duolingo does not easily let you skip ahead to the point in the program that’s right for you. You can test out of sections one at a time, but doing so requires serious time. Babbel (see above) lets you skip around willy-nilly, while TELL ME MORE (see below) has a thorough adaptive assessment test that makes sure you start at the right point in the program.
Available Languages: French, German, Italian (beta), Portuguese (beta), Spanish.
Get Duolingo free here
Duolingo iPhone App
The Duolingo iPhone app syncs with the online Duolingo app to keep track of your progress seamlessly. This app is only available for iPhone at the moment and it requires an Internet connection to work, but it is 100 percent free. The Duolingo iPhone app handles special characters and some translations with greater ease than even the full Web version. It’s an ideal way to practice Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese anywhere you have an Internet connection and a few minutes on your hands. Even though Duolingo offers Italian in its online program, that language is not yet in the iPhone app.
Languages Available: French, German, Portuguese, Spanish.
Get Duolingo iPhone App here
Hello-Hello World (for iPad)
free for app, subscriptions from $9.99 per month
Hello-Hello World iPad app aims to get you learning a new language through reading, listening, and speaking both with the software and with other learners around the world. The program takes a hybrid approach by blending typical language software content, like flashcards and fill-in-the-blank exercises, with crowd-sourced interaction. The crowd, made up of language enthusiasts around the world, upload voice recordings of them practicing their new language, and if you happen to speak that language, you can give them feedback. And vice versa. The Hello-Hello World iPad app is not an ideal way to learn a new language through and through, but it does serve as a good way to study and practice words and phrases on the go.
Available Languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Indonesian, English.
Get Hello-Hello World (for iPad) here
Living Language Platinum
$179 for one-year membership
The online program Living Language has the best live online classes, which it refers to as “e-tutoring.” You can take as many of the 30-minute classes as you like during your membership, which makes Living Language an outstanding value if you take advantage of this feature. When it comes to the primary course material, however, other software provides a better way to learn, so Living Language is the best option if what you need are live classes with other students (up to three per class) and a trained instructor.
Available Languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Arabic
Get Living Language Platinum here
$79 for Journey 1; $132 for Journeys 1-2; $176 for Journeys 1-2-3
The Mango Passport language-learning program teaches solid content for travelers. The downloadable software is mature, with a polished interface and clear audio recordings. It lacks most of the interactive goodies found in other installed software programs for language learning, making Mango a pretty modest product, although it’s less expensive than some of the big-name products, like Rosetta Stone. The selection of languages is more than decent though, and the software comes with MP3s that you can load into your music player for on-the-go learning. Free companion iPhone and Android apps can extend where and how you learn with Mango Passport as well.
Languages Available: Brazilian Portuguese, English (for speakers of 13 different languages), Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese.
Get Mango Passport here