If you’re on this blog, then it’s probably safe to assume that you’re awesome and that you’re a budding linguist whose projects for this summer include learning a language or two.
I’ve been using several online sites to learn various languages for a while now. They’re all free (to an extent; some offer premium memberships and let you do really brilliant things, but I’m a student and also a self-confessed stinge, so that’s out of the question for me).
Here’s a short list I’ve compiled (I’ve rated them out of five stars):
- http://www.busuu.com/ * * * *
Languages: Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese (Brazilian), Turkish, Polish
I’ve been on this site the longest, but only because it was the first site I found, thanks to an ad in WordReference. It’s attractive, clear, good for learning vocabulary. There are reading, writing and listening exercises. Speaking is for premium only. You go through units and levels and are rewarded ‘busuuberries’ (these don’t actually do anything - they merely look pretty on your profile.) There are tests at the end of each unit, and you can ‘star’ vocabulary so you can look through it again.
It’s a very community-based site, so you mark people’s writing exercises and natives will mark yours. You can chat to people from all over the world, which is great for speaking/writing practice.
The only downside is that it isn’t very helpful on grammar, even if you’re on premium.
- http://www.livemocha.com/ * * * * *
Languages: Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal and Brazil), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu
I haven’t been on this site long; the layout confuses me a bit at the moment, but I’m sure that once I get used to it, it’ll be fine.
It’s a lot more thorough than Busuu. The grammar units are a lot more helpful (and you don’t need to be a premium member). And of course, the variety of languages is absolutely astounding. If only my life were longer and my memory better - I would attempt them all!
You earn ‘mochapoints’ and also get a ‘Teacher Score’ - again it’s a community-based site where users help one another. This ‘Teacher Score’ aspect is good in controlling the quality of people’s marking, something Busuu doesn’t have.
Like Busuu, you can chat to people from all over the world. There are reading, writing, listening and speaking exercises (and you don’t have to be a premium member!) as well as tests; you can also create flashcards.
- http://www.lingq.com/ * * * *
Languages: French, Russian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, Korean
A great variety of languages. I haven’t been using this site for long, but from what I see, it’s really useful. Its structure is different to Busuu and LiveMocha. You can download podcasts and their transcriptions for free. You can save your vocabulary and create flashcards. Another community-based website, it allows you to Skype with native tutors using Skype - at the end of the discussion, you get a report, which is added to your database (I think you have to be premium to get this though).
Again, you have to be a paying subscriber to get access to all of LingQ’s materials, but from what I gather, members can get access to it if they create and upload lessons.
There are other sites that are useful in language-learning too:
The BBC has the best resources for everything. Their lessons here are completely free and interactive, but I find they are rather brief. They’re more for people who are in a hurry to learn a language before going on a holiday etc. The lessons offered are very practical though.
Languages: French, German, Russian, Spanish, English, Polish, Danish, Italian
When I found this site, I couldn’t contain my excitement (OK, I know, I’m a language nerd). It’s a fairly new site, but they recently added Russian (and some other languages), which made it a hundred times more awesome.
This site allows you to read classic literature in their original languages, completely free and online. If there’s a word you don’t know, all you have to do is click on it to get a translation; this word is then added to your own personal vocab list. Bear in mind that the translations can be quite literal because it uses Google Translate.
Languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish
Yes, I know, unfortunately there isn’t Russian. I’ve subscribed to French and Spanish. There are different writers for different languages, of course, and they all do things a little differently. About.com is a great source to refer to; there are clearly structured lessons and there’s pretty much everything you need to know about the grammar of a language. If you subscribe, you’ll receive a weekly newsletter about the language and/or the culture. Laura K. Lawless, the French Language guide, writes articles in French and provides an English translation next to it; Gerald Erichson, the Spanish Language guide sends a daily ‘Word of the Day’ in Spanish, as well as the weekly newsletter.
This site allows you to contact natives from different countries for language exchanges. There are three different types: Face to face (of course, you’ll have to be living in the same area for that), Correspondance (i.e. a PenPal scheme), and Text/Voice chat (via Skype, MSN etc.). It’s simple and fulfils its purpose.
I haven’t actually used this site (yet), but it looks amazing. Developed by the US government, the range of languages is absolutely incredible (it even has Amharic!). It’s quite basic, but it’s still impressive.
Just found this. Its lessons are quite short and few in number, but this site is worth taking a look.
This site lists some great links to Russian TV, radio and films.
I also recently found a user on Youtube who uploads full-length films in Russian with English subtitles (YES!) : http://www.youtube.com/user/PyccoTypucmo
Finally, this blog has a page dedicated to Russian karaoke, if that’s something you’re into… http://russianlessonsonline.com/
Right, that’s it! I’ve provided you with all the sites you need to become fluent in a language, so there’s no excuse not to learn a language now! GO GO GO!