Now more than ever, we need alternatives to the traditional classroom language teaching methods that don’t always work. Aside from [other strategies to learn a language from home, online courses are a great way to keep learning your language, wherever you are. If you’re looking for an online language course but not sure where to start to decide which one, this article is for you. Here is a quick round-up of all the best and most popular language courses on the web at the moment, and a guide to which one is right for you.
Why take an online language course?
If you’re starting a new language from scratch, it can be pretty hard to pick it up without some guidance. Things like grammar and pronunciation are not easy to get right, so if you’re completely alone you’re bound to make some mistakes. Once you start making mistakes in a language, they are hard to reverse.
Free apps like Memrise are a great resource, but they tend to be more for practice than for learning a language from scratch. I can’t say I have ever seen a free app teach grammar effectively, for example. Nor do they usually help much with fluency. Sure, they will get you to a certain point, but to really learn a language, you’ll need a bit more.
Online language courses are proven to be far more effective than traditional classroom lessons. This is because you can find the course which best suits your needs and your learning style. You can work at your own pace, and you can focus on things that interest you, instead of sticking to a particular curriculum or stressing about exams.
So online language courses are an affordable yet highly effective way to learn a language.
The 8 best online language courses
You might have noticed that there really are so many online language courses. It can be overwhelming to have all these choices. Which one is the best and which one is going to teach you what you actually want to learn?
To help you make the decision about which programme you should use, I have put together a list of some of the best online language courses and how they compare. These all offer courses in multiple different languages, and they cover a range of budgets. The benefit of all of the online language courses mentioned is that they either offer money-back guarantees or free trial periods. So if you try and don’t like something, you can keep trying until you find the course that is right for you!
Rocket languages is one of the high-end online language courses. You should consider it if you really want to teach yourself a language thoroughly, and learn properly.
Price: $100 – $300 one-off Trial Period: 60 days free, full access to course materials and lessons Number of languages offered: 13 What you get with Rocket Languages:
- Focus on refined grammatical understanding
- Audio and pronunciation practice
- Memorisation improvement
- Live forum
Innovative Language describe themselves as ‘the fastest, easiest and most fun way to learn a language’. Each of their language courses are run separately, with native-speaking hosts acting as mentors and tutors.
Price: $4-$23 USD a month Trial period: very basic version free for life Number of languages offered: 43 What you get with Innovative Languages:
- Weekly audio and video lessons
- Absolute beginner to advanced level lessons
- PDF lesson notes
- Line-by-line audio transcripts
- Lively community and forum
- Access to personal online tutor
- Online spaced-repetition flashcards
Rosetta Stone is one of the oldest and most well-known online language courses out there, which teaches in a deep and methodical way.
Price: $189 for 2 years Trial period: 30 days Number of languages offered: 30 What you get with Rosetta Stone:
- Sync lessons on any device
- TruAccent™ pronunciation training technology
- Audio lessons and read-aloud stories
- Phrasebook to easily reference words and expressions
- Native speaking tutors and live support over phone or internet
MosaLingua targets those who are under time constraints to learn a language, and who want to be able to communicate within a short period of time. It mostly focuses on words and phrases you will use in context.
Price: Mosa App: $5 USD one-off | Mosa Web: $59.90 USD/year Trial period: 15 Days for Web Programme Number of languages offered: 6 What you get with Mosa:
- Spaced repetition memory training
- Free language learning e-books, downloadables and information
- Choose what you want to learn about and study things that interest you
- Built-in flashcards and add-your-own flashcards
Pimsleur is a tried and tested language-learning programme. Ideal for people who are not academic or prefer learning by doing, Pimsleur focuses on speaking and listening, rather than reading and writing. Personally, I have used this many times, and I have even written a more [etailed review on the Pimsleur course for Japanese.
Price: around $100 USD per level (up to 5+ levels) Trial Period: 30 days & free lesson Number of languages offered: 51 What you get with Pimsleur:
- Each level is a group of lessons in MP3 format
- Listen on your phone, computer, or car stereo
- Uses spaced repetition technology to help you memorise words and phrases
- Pronunciation improvement by out-loud repitition
- Guarantee a measurable improvement on spoken language after the first level
Linkword Languages describe their approach as making languages ‘fast to learn and easy to remember’.
They have been proven to be up to 3 times faster than normal learning methods.
Price: $20-$30 USD one-off Trial Period: 60 day money-back guarantee Number of languages offered: 15 What you get with Linkword Languages:
- Will give you enough to hold a basic conversation within 12 hours of lesson time
- Versions available for all devices
- Improved memory retention by association, spaced retrieval, optimal colour-ways and testing patterns
- Buy bulk courses for different languages together and save
Babbel‘s mission is to get you speaking a new language as fast as possible. Their focus is on teaching vocabulary and conversation skills to make you fluent in a shorter period of time.
Price: $7-$12 USD a month Number of languages offered: 14 What you get with Babbel:
- A similar concept to Duolingo, it teaches vocabulary and relies on intuition to pick up grammar as you go
- Learn real-life conversation skills and fillers in the language
- Choose topics that interest you
- Learn at your own pace
- Speech recognition technology and interactive dialogues to prepare you for real conversations
- Available on desktop, smartphone or tablet
FluentU lets you watch short clips of video content in your target language, whether it be movie trailers, music videos or inspirational talks. The idea is to learn through immersion with content in the language. And it has a few handy tools to make sure you succeed.
Price: $120-$250/year Trial Period: 14 days Number of languages offered: 9 What you get with FluentU:
- Access to unlimited video content in target language
- Learn vocab and expressions in context
- Listen to native speakers talk naturally
- PDF printable transcripts of all content available
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Which online language course should you use?
The online language course that you decide to go for depends on your personal needs and learning style.
If your aim is…
- a thorough, in-depth understanding of the language and to master it gramatically, both oral and written, consider Rocket Languages or Rosetta Stone.
- improving your pronunciation and your conversational abilities, Pimsleur or FluentU are probably for you.
- to improve vocabulary in a certain field, you should probably try Mosalingua or Babbel.
- speed, then Linkword LanguagesInnovative Language might be the way to go (although remember to be wary about courses that promise fast fluency).
Of course, there are other things to consider, such as budget and what language you have in mind.
But whatever your needs are, if you want to teach yourself a language, but you are not quite sure how, try an online course.
All the courses mentioned above are great, and each have something that makes them unique. So give one of them a try, and start learning your next language today.
Have you used any language learning courses? Which one is your favorite?
Are there any major ones I’m missing?
Let us know in the comments!
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.