It is common knowledge that immersion is the best way to learn a new language. However, most of us don’t have the time to spend every day in a class, or for a lengthy stay abroad. Luckily, there are many tools for learning languages online at your own pace, and some of them specialize in immersive techniques.
1. Yabla: Learning through Videos with Dual Subtitles
Yabla offers a radically immersive approach. On Yabla, you will find a wide range of video content in the language of your choice, all with dual subtitles. From television series to travel vlogs, from grammar lessons to news reports, all of the videos feature native speakers. This means that you will hear the language as it is actually spoken in real life and learn about the countries where the language is spoken.
Each video has captions in the original language as well as the translation language you have chosen. So if you are an English native speaker learning Spanish, you will see subtitles in both Spanish and English. You have full control over the playback of the video, and can slow it down, repeat a caption, or pause it whenever you want. Vocabulary cards, comprehension questions, and Yabla’s patented Scribe game help you learn as you watch!
The best part is you can learn a language by watching videos that interest you. Are you interested in news and politics? Watch news reports or interviews with politicians. Are you into music? Check out a wide selection of music videos, featuring everything from traditional music to hits from pop stars.
There are also, of course, many videos focusing on grammar and vocabulary as well. It is this mixture of essentials and real-life content that makes Yabla a great resource for learning a language online. Subscriptions are available for as little as $8.33/month after a free 14-day trial.
Babbel is a platform that offers online exercises ranging from basic grammar to business vocabulary. Starting at $6.95/month, Babbel is a good value and gives you a lot of flexibility, though it concentrates on texts and pictures instead of videos. One nice touch is that a refresher course is available for those who want to brush up on their skills. You can also browse by topic: for example, clothing, vacation, or health.
3. Lingvist: Learning through Flashcards
Lingvist offers online vocabulary flashcards that you can also access through their app, as well as grammar overviews. Their algorithm adapts to your mistakes and identifies words that you are less likely to know. The program then uses spaced repetition to help you memorize new or particularly difficult words. The subscription costs 15.99 €/month or 79.99 €/year and they offer English, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese, and French.
4. News in Slow Spanish, et al.
For Spanish, Italian, French, and German, this program focuses on “language learning through current events.” You can hear reports on topics related to science and technology, politics, and the environment delivered slowly in the language you are learning. You will also see a transcription of what you are hearing. In addition, you can find a handful of grammar lessons and history series. After a free 7-day trial, the subscription costs $14.90/month.
5. Duolingo: popular for people on the go
Duolingo is popular because it’s free and because the lessons are short and designed for use on a smartphone – which makes it a great choice for people on the go. You can eliminate the ads by opting for the premium/paid version. It is based on the written language and the lessons are designed as games, which can be a great motivation for learners.
MosaLingua is a paid service, but you get a 15-day free trial to see if it’s the right fit for you. There’s a smartphone app as well as a web version that offers more flexibility for personalization. The focus is on useful words and phrases to get you speaking. Flash cards, memorization techniques, and language aptitude certificates are also available. Prices start at $4.99/month with added tax in countries outside the U.S.
For online learning, a go-to dictionary is essential. For this reason, WordReference is fantastic for going back and forth between two languages. You can just keep it open in your browser for whenever you need a definition. The site also offers user forums where language learners can post questions and exchange tips. The translations are thorough and extensive and there are conjugation charts for verbs as well.
What are your needs?
If you’re simply looking for some quick exposure to vocabulary and phrases on the go, then Duolingo, MosaLingua, Lingvist, or Babbel could work for you. For a highly immersive experience with a greater focus on speaking and listening comprehension, Yabla may be a better option.
Decide for yourself:
The good news is that each one of these options offers a free trial so that you can make sure it is right for you. You can feel free to shop around and see which you like best before making a decision. We wish you all the best for your language-learning journey!