Besides travel, design and photography, another big hobby of mine is learning foreign languages. Therefore I am overjoyed that during the last few years online learning tools have become more and more prominent. What’s even better, a lot of them are free! Websites like these are still taking their first real steps into the big and scary world (wide web) and are still (partly) operating in Beta version, but they are all worth giving a try, you can take my word for it! Below I’ve listed my top 3 language learning websites and their particular features, so you’ll be able to determine which website will suit your needs and preferences best.
Memrise was launched in September 2010 and focusses on three “ingredients”. The first is science, particularly brain science. As its name would suggest, Memrise has been designed to make most of your memories while learning a language. Its focal point are “mems”; really any kind of mnemonic to help you form a connection to newly learned vocabulary, which users themselves submit and are subsequently voted up or down by the community, linking back to the second ingedient of “community”. The other ingedient is “fun”. Memrise utilises a friendly and quirky system of “planting [new] seeds”, which are then “grown in the garden” until they are ready to be “harvested” into your long-term memory (where they, of course, have to be watered from time to time). Memrise is currently my favourite language learning website. The main reason for this is the fact that they offer the largest number of languages (200+). From Japanese to Portuguese, Memrise offers it all. Additionally, I find its interface and general look and feel comfortable and easy on the eyes. A slight disadvantage of its format might be the emphasis on vocabulary lists (bigger lists tend to load a lot longer as well), meaning grammar and other linguistic aspects are not really touched upon as much when learning a language at Memrise, however, the Memrise team seems to be constantly extending its scope, so I have no doubt this won’t be much of a problem in the future.
Second best for me is Duolingo, which has recently opened itself up to the “general public”, previously retaining an invite-only system. Duolingo doesn’t just focus on broadening your active vocabulary, but draws its strength from their “killing two birds with one stone” approach to learning a language. Duolingo primarily focuses on teaching you basic vocabulary and implementing it into simple phrases. The user chooses a language and is securely led through different levels, each focussing on different components. On top of that, Duolingo offers another way to earn “skill points” and to level up: each level is matched to different documents that need to be translated. In this way, users are able to put their skills to practice by translating “real-life” sentences (the number of skill point that can be earned appropriated to its level of difficulty) and the owner of the document can get his or her text translated fast, accurate and for free. Duolingo ensures translation accuracy by a similar system of the user community rating the quality of a member’s translation, which eventually results in the best translation. One big disadvantage of Duolingo is the fact that it currently offers only 4 languages: English, Spanish, German and French (Beta), although I expect Duolingo to add more languages in the future, as I see plenty of potential for further expansion.
→ Visit Duolingo
Instreamia (previously StudyStream) is my least favourite website among these three, but hey, it still made the top 3! I have to say that I find Instreamia a lot less user friendly, compared to Memrise and Duolingo, as its ways are a lot less straightforward. However, at the same time, this is also its biggest advantage. Instreamia leaves a lot of room to adjust your language tool to your own personal preferences. The user is able to choose their own (music) videos and articles in the language you are aiming to learn, from which you will practise listening, comprehension and grammar. So even though Instreamia is not my absolute favourite website (as it seems I’m really just too lazy to look for my own content), it might still be the perfect tool for you. Instreamia currently offers English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Italian.
→ Visit Instreamia