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- With people staying home during the pandemic, many are finding themselves taking up new hobbies.
- E-learning is a popular option, and for those with international travel plans on pause, the extra time could offer a way to learn a new language for when that trip eventually happens.
- From casual, free apps to structured classes geared towards visual learners, we curated a list of the best cheap platforms to learn a new language online.
- Read all Business Insider travel reviews here.
While nothing can quite fill the void of checking into a sumptuous hotel or crossing off a destination on your bucket list, pausing travel doesn’t have to mean halting exposure to other cultures. A plethora of affordable online resources can make it easy and cost-effective to learn a new language — a worthy educational opportunity to grow a deeper connection to other countries if you’re looking for something to do with your downtime.
It could also prove especially useful if you’re one of the many people who canceled overseas trips until the time is right. Perhaps your vacation to Italy was pushed to next year — you could use that time to learn how to order your future plate of pasta in Italian.
Looking for more e-learning? Here are some of the best online classes you can take
From casual free apps to structured classes and software geared towards visual learners, learning a new language can cost as little as a few dollars each month, and many services include free trial periods.
After ample digging — and picking up a few cursory phrases myself — I’ve compiled the following list of online programs. While we haven’t been able to extensively vet and test each one (yet!), these offerings are all highly rated and reviewed by past learners; offer comprehensive language and lessons; are free or affordable with varied payment plans, and present a wide variety of instruction styles to suit every type of student, whether you want to learn Spanish, French, Hindi, Korean, or Russian.
These are the best cheap and free resources, websites, and apps to learn a new language.
Babbel is a subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, available in 14 languages. The German-founded company claims to offer the shortest path to real-life speaking ability, with 73% of users reporting that they could hold short, simple conversations in their new language within five hours of using Babbel.
Courses are tailored to your native tongue as well as interests, from food to travel. Plus, Babbel builds on grammar and vocabulary you already know, and lessons are created by experts and voiced by native speakers. You’ll learn to speak with confidence through interactive dialogues and speech recognition technology, and review sessions reinforce what you’ve learned to help commit it to memory. Best of all, you don’t need to set aside hours; lessons are offered in quick 10-15 minute formats. Of course, you can spend much more time if you like.
A subscription to Babbel starts at $6.95 per month for a 12-month commitment or $13.95 to go month-to-month. There are also three-month and six-month plans with pricing that falls down the middle. There is no free trial, but Babbel does offer a 20-day money-back guarantee.
Rosetta Stone has long been considered one of the most well-known names in language learning and continues to lead the pack with comprehensive offerings. The software and apps help users read, write, and speak in more than 30 languages. By helping users develop a strong vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation foundation, Rosetta Stone is ideal for beginners with little to no knowledge of a language. It’s also a good fit for someone committed to the process who needs structure akin to an in-person class. It’s not only trusted by individuals around the world, but corporations and classrooms, too.
Cloud-based programs allow you to learn online or on-the-go and incorporate audio and images (though, if you find yourself somewhere not suitable for listening out loud, you can adjust the settings). Programs can be customized to suit your level and goals, whether it’s learning phrases for an upcoming trip or more serious career ambitions.
Typical pricing offers three months of one language for $11.99 per month, or commit to a year-long subscription and pay $9.99 per month and enjoy access to unlimited languages. Or, pay $179 once for a lifetime subscription of unlimited languages. If you’re unsure, they do allow for a free three-day trial.
Fluenz is a comprehensive program specifically designed for English-speakers to anticipate confusing pain points and challenges. The customized approach is intended to feel like you’re working one-on-one with a tutor through hundreds of video tutorials led by multi-cultural coaches, including the likes of Anna Wintour’s assistant, who was born in Italy to an American-French family.
Instead of games or matching exercises, which Fluenz argues only arbitrarily unlock new levels, Fluenz offers extensive tutorials in English, with tips for retention and pronunciation. Subscribers practice comprehension, writing, reading, and verbal expression with the help of an assessment tool that indicates areas in need of some work. Additionally, users can access flashcards, audio materials, assessments, and a community of learners.
Courses are only available in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin or Portuguese, and unlike other monthly programs, pricing is a one-time lifetime purchase based on the number of levels you want to access. One level starts at $187 and goes up to $378 for all five levels.
As such, it’s costlier than other programs, however, Fluenz is offering Insider readers a special discount for those purchasing the levels 1-5 programs or the 1-3 Mandarin program. Click here (or above where it indicates to sign up) to select your language and automatically receive the discount.
Duolingo is a fun, casual way to learn a new language whenever you have a couple of minutes to spare. I used it to learn a few key Polish phrases before a work trip and to brush up on Hebrew before visiting family in Israel. Lessons are bite-sized, free, and gamified. You’ll earn points for correct answers and win rewards for leveling up. The fun is science-based too, created around a methodology proven to foster long-term retention. And most importantly, it’s useful, with content tailored to real-life goals like being able to order at a restaurant.
Develop vocabulary and grammar skills through reading, writing, listening, and speaking in a way that doesn’t focus on language rules — kind of like how you learned to speak as a child.
Most of the content is free, though, for $6.99 per month, Duolingo Plus makes everything available offline (and without ads), offers progress reports, and supports a mission of bringing free education tools to millions. If you’re unsure, you can try premium free for seven days.
One of the best ways to integrate into a new culture is to live like a local. When you can’t Airbnb, you can learn a language through Busuu, which connects users with a network of 100 million native speakers who can provide instant feedback. Over 1,000 lessons in 12 languages are available from expert linguists, created with machine learning technology and speech recognition software.
Flow seamlessly between a website platform or mobile app. Some content is free, though the most helpful and immersive lessons are behind a premium paywall. A premium plan for casual learners is available for approximately $6 per month, while Premium Plus adds on features such as personalized study plans, official certificates, and the ability to learn multiple languages for $1 more per month.
As the name alludes, Memrise teaches languages through engaging memorization techniques. Watch and learn real conversations from thousands of native speakers and receive a personalized experience through fun (and proven) memory challenges that speed up retention. While the method employs memorization, there’s no staring at boring flashcards.
The user-generated content works with locals and utilizes visual keys and graphics. Premium plans include monthly, quarterly, annual, and lifetime pricing ranging from $8.99 for monthly, $7.50 for annual, or a one-time lifetime charge of $119.99. Premium memberships grant access to all official language courses and unlock exclusive features such as pronunciation features, grammar skills, working with locals, and more.
Visual learners will appreciate the option to learn with FluentU, which teaches a new language through real-world graphics and videos. Watch clips, movie trailers, news excerpts, inspiring speeches, and music videos to get better acquainted with the language of your choosing. Interactive captions are presented in both the language you know and the one you’re trying to learn, and you can click on any word to see an in-context definition, along with examples of how to use it in a sentence.
There are nine languages available, along with quizzes that help reinforce what you’ve learned to master vocabulary and measure progress. Try it for free for 14 days, and if you like it, FluentU costs $20 per month for an annual subscription or $30 for a month-to-month plan.
Fluent City sets itself apart with an interactive, teacher-led approach that mimics the feel of classroom learning. The platform currently offers affordable classes in 11 different languages, including English. Offering group classes and one-on-one subscription services, both options offer the chance to connect with a teacher via Zoom and engage in real-world conversational scenarios.
Group courses start at $399 per course. Lessons for grammar and vocab are created by natural language processing programs, but teachers recommend specific modules and activities for students to use based on skill level and additional factors. Group classes meet weekly online at specific times so students can chat with each other to put their new skills into practice.
One-on-one subscription options offer the ability to learn as many languages as you want with the flexibility of scheduling Zoom lessons with a teacher whenever it works for your schedule. In addition to one-on-one instruction, users also receive access to Fluent City’s resource library and learning modules. The private subscription lessons start from $49 per month.
If you’re seeking a more classroom-like experience with one-on-one video lessons with a teacher, Rype is a great option. Rather than using app-based software on your phone, Rype is a membership-style program that offers 30-minute conversations over Skype with native speakers and certified teachers. It’s helpful for learners who like to ask questions and who are able to commit to a specific block of time. Rype is also handy for more advanced speakers who want a consistent conversation partner.
Rype currently has 10 languages available to learn. New users can try a free trial of Rype for seven days — after that, monthly plans start at $79.99 for four hours of lesson time and go up to $179.99 for 10 hours of lesson time. Six-month plans start at $59.99 per month for four hours of video sessions and go up to 10 hours a month for a monthly rate of $159.99.
What sets Mondly apart is the vast number of language-learning combinations available. The subscription-based app and website currently offer 41 languages that can be studied in 33 native languages, supporting a staggering 1,320 different language-learning combinations. Mondly attempts to bridge the divide between casual self-paced apps and more rigorous classroom courses by employing a more high-tech approach.
The platform uses voice recognition and augmented reality to immerse users in real-world situations. For example, students might learn travel vocabulary by acting out checking into a Parisian hotel. Mondly’s VR offerings even work with an Oculus headset. However, the idea is better than the execution, and not all of the advanced tech features work as well as they should.
You can try the Hello module, which includes six lessons, one conversation, and one vocabulary section, plus a chatbot conversation and one daily lesson for any language for free. After that, one month for one language is priced at $9.99 and unlimited access to languages for a full year runs at a pricey $1,999.99 but is frequently on sale (currently, it’s 95% off).
The Mondly VR app is an entirely separate app that can be bought for an additional $3.89 and then used with a subscription.