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In Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, interstellar travelers had a little fish, called a Babelfish, that they could slip into their ear and make them instantly literate in any language. We normal, boring humans, however, do not have this luxury, which is why we must rely on the internet.

Although there are endless resources to learn languages on the web, it is often difficult to find quality websites that offer structured lesson plans for free. I, however, have scrounged the murky depths of the web to bring you the following, resource-packed sites; may they be the Babelfish for your future forays.

BBC Languages

BBCLang.png

BBC Languages’ site is very aesthetically pleasing, even though the organization is a bit confusing. The site is aimed at travelers, who only need to have a basic knowledge of a few key phrases in order to stay in a foreign country. Thus, BBC Languages offers “Quick Fix Phrases” in 36 languages to aid the weekend traveler in surviving abroad.

However, for those inclined to pursue either French, Spanish, German, or Italian further, BBC Languages offers a total of six 12-week courses in those languages. BBC Languages’ use of multimedia resources, including audio recordings of dialogues and videos of people encountering language-related mishaps overseas, makes this site a worthwhile site to check out, especially if you’re learning a language to travel.

LiveMocha

LiveMocha.png

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LiveMocha is one of the most full-featured language learning sites on the web: not only does it offer structured lessons for over twenty languages, but it also links you with other users all over the globe who are learning, or already fluent in the language you are learning.

As an incentive, LiveMocha uses a reputation system to encourage its users to submit flashcards and other teaching content, contact one another in order to practice speaking, and correct one another’s assignments.

The only drawback of using LiveMocha is in the event you are learning a language that does not use a Latin writing system – LiveMocha does not teach other writing systems, so for languages like Korean or Mandarin, you are on your own.

LMlesson.png

Check out Saikat’s review of LiveMocha here LiveMocha - Smell The Coffee & Learn The Lingo LiveMocha - Smell The Coffee & Learn The Lingo Read More .

Babbel

babbel

Babbel’s premise is similar to that of LiveMocha – community driven learning. However, akin to previously mentioned Busuu, Babbel only offers Spanish, French, German, and Italian, and does not have LiveMocha’s structure.

Babbel teaches mostly vocabulary, and offers a very limited set of grammar lessons and writing exercises. However, when it comes to teaching vocabulary, Babbel is very thorough: it offers almost ten different ways to learn words, including “Listen and Match,” and “Slideshow.”

Like LiveMocha, Babbel also offers a chat, but rather than being one-on-one, Babbel offers five different chat rooms in the languages it teaches. In addition, Babbel hosts its own forum for users to interact and help each other learn.

Foreign Services Institute

The courses offered by the Foreign Services Institute were created by the United States Government and geared largely towards developing a verbal command for any particular language. All of the languages that FSI offers come with either a scanned textbook,  a large number of audio lessons, or both. Some of the more popular languages even come with a workbook.

In terms of solid material, FSI has the most usable content, but its lack of social features that allow you to interact and practice with other people is a major drawback, at least for me. However, if you’re not me, and would rather not have a social component to your language-related pursuits, then that shouldn’t bother you at all.

So today, I’ve introduced to you a few useful websites that will kickstart your language-learning adventures. However, the above sites may not be enough for you knowledge-hungry cosmopolitans out there, so indulge yourself in the following, language-specific links.

Spanish

Study Spanish – Best used in conjunction with Babbel, Study Spanish is great with grammar, but very limited with vocabulary.

Voices in Spanish- A Spanish Podcast – for intermediate to advanced students.

Learn Spanish at About.com – A conglomeration of other articles, the highlight being lessons on Spanish culture.

Chinese

Min Multimedia – Although the main page is a bit disorganized, the lessons are quite structured. Each has embedded audio, practice worksheets, and homework.

Chinese Tools – Grammar lessons, in addition to useful tools for writing in pinyin, converting between simplified and traditional, etc.

CRIENGLISH – Every lesson comes with a flash video, a review of difficult points, vocab, cultural tips, and more.

French

French Language School – Very well organized grammar lessons, but lacking interactive exercises.

The French Tutorial – Lacks exercises, but the lessons are downloadable as a printer-friendly PDF textbook.

Japanese

Learn The Kana – Uses cute image association tricks to help students learn Hiragana and Katakana.

Nihongo o Narau – A great collection of resources, including Japanese songs, to help you learn and practice Japanese.

Italian

Learn Italian at About.com – A collection of articles teaching various points of Italian grammar and vocabulary.

Italian Language School – The most complete, free Italian lessons I can find; comes with podcasts too!

German

Deutsch Lernen – 34 German grammar lessons (10 beginner and 24 advanced), accompanied by exercises and tests

DW-World – An impressive range of interactive lessons categorized by difficulty, and a progress meter for each lesson!

Whew, that was a lot of links. In any case, you should now have no excuse not to play around with the links and learn something new. If links don’t cut it for you, check out previously covered AIR application Popling, which pops up vocabulary words in your chosen language, or watch some subtitled music videos!

Are you dabbling in any languages? Do you have a tried and true site for learning languages? What do you think is the best method to learn a new language? Let us know in the comments!

Almost everybody claims to speak English, so I wonder where people can find any chic at all in this language. And yet. Some Germans are especially disconcerting when they show off their English and look back at their fellow Germans with a satisfied grin.

  1. Matt
    December 8, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    I am learning intermediate Spanish. Two really useful resources are Coffee Break Spanish podcast - which really helps practice understanding spoken Spanish. And I use FlashcardsMate (http://www.flashcardsmate.com) to create flashcards for memorising the vocabulary I am taught in class every week. Both of these are free.

  2. Mugica Garcia
    May 25, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    For me the best site to learn German is 5 Minute German http://www.5-minute-german.com/

  3. Tamar Murphy
    April 25, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Are a few of these free?

  4. Tom
    December 15, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Try this innovative course online,it works for me very bellsenglishonline.com

  5. How to Speak Japanese
    January 8, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Nothing beats learning with a native speaker, but you can get a good basic knowledge about a new language with website based training courses or books and audio courses.
    Done that myself with a few languages and then started to go to language schools either in my home country or abroad (best experience for language training ever).

  6. Steph
    December 7, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Honestly, I've found that websites are usually great for reference, but not much else. I've been learning Mandarin, and since it's such a visual language, there's just so much help that any website can give. What really helped me was finding a good book with supplemental stuff (which you should be able to snag at your library). Be sure to grab a few books and see which one looks like the best fit. You're going to be spending a LOT of time with it. Then, use a flash card program (Anki and Mmemnosyne are the two that I've tried), and make your own flash cards or download a deck if the deck goes with the books you're using.

  7. Alex
    December 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Hey you should use the resource that I have been using for the past 3 years - http://www.wordchamp.com Usually my problem with other websites is that they spend 90% on the vocabulary but if you really want to get fluent at a language you need to know 90% of the grammar.

    Wordchamp is my conjugation go to source, with audible translations for most words in like 30 different languages.

    They also have a program where you can take lessons from a fluent person. Never used it though... I guess I was always using my spanish teacher for that.

  8. Michael Schwager
    October 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I find the best site to learn a new language is with my S.O.! :-) I get instant grammar and pronunciation correction, and a new vocabulary word every day! LOL Seriously, though, there's nothing like using a language in order to learn a language.

    Sadly, my daughter knew more Spanish at 2 years old than I will probably ever know! :-O Oh, to be young again...

  9. marmaraelt
    October 12, 2009 at 6:20 am

    very nice list of websites for learning a new language..thanks

  10. Parrish
    September 14, 2009 at 7:38 am

    There are thousands upon thousands of words in the English language. I have heard it said that the average person who grows up under the English language must learn an average of 20-30 words per day beginning with his or her first day in this world and continuing until the age of 18! Wow, how much we have learned and the majority of this learning was probably not in a formal teacher-student environment.
    There is a lot to learn in a short amount of time. But one thing we can do to improve our growth in any language is to focus on those vocabulary words which are most commonly used. I found many sources online for free that feature lists of the most commonly spoken words in English. For example, the 250 most spoken words or the 1000 most spoken words.

  11. kevin
    August 31, 2009 at 3:10 am

    It's also worth checking out italki.com. There are a lot of free community services, like foreign language questions and answers, and of course language exchange. You only pay if you want to book a lesson with a teacher (or to state it in reverse, you can earn money as a teacher).

  12. dave
    August 23, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    for Chinese, the best site is skritter.com !!!

  13. arun
    August 11, 2009 at 12:10 am

    check this framez

  14. Audrey Allleyne
    August 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Greetings Angelina,

    I think your site is quite interesting.Your offers to language students must be pretty helpful. As a writer and educator, I've written some language articles, some of which I'd love to have as related links to your site. Here are two of them:
    http://www.brighthub.com/tools/createedit.aspx?articleId=35193&returnurl=%2ftools%2farticle-moderate.aspx
    http://www.brighthub.com/tools/createedit.aspx?articleId=36837&returnurl=%2ftools%2farticle-moderate.aspx

    My penname is ChantalAlleyne2

    Please let me know if you are interested and if you would like to have any more. Thanks.

    Audrey Alleyne.

  15. Dmitry
    July 31, 2009 at 6:05 am

    CORRECTMYTEXT.COM – experts will check your text in a foreign language

    correctmytext.com Learning to write and speak a foreign language correctly requires having somebody to correct your grammar and usage errors. Otherwise you may learn a substandard version of the language with deep-rooter mistakes and incorrect usages that are hard to get rid of.

    A popular and tried-and-true way to learn languages involves writing texts in a foreign language on a daily basis and reading them aloud to a native speaker, who will correct any mistakes.

    Our project, correctmytext.com, offers an absolutely free way for native speakers of different languages to share their knowledge.

    The website interface currently supports ten of the most widely used languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. If you are learning any of these languages, feel free to register and upload any text of yours that you need corrected.

    Native speakers or language professionals will review your text and correct all errors of style or grammar free of charge. You can also request a sound recording of the spoken version of your corrected text that will let you hear the subtleties of pronunciation by a native speaker.

    The website offers opportunities to meet and communicate with native speakers via internal mail.

  16. Bryan
    July 26, 2009 at 2:40 am

    nciku.com/

    I really lament not having known about this resource during prior, more intense periods of Mandarin Chinese study. If one is committed to studying and learning, this site has the capacity to be invaluable.

  17. Min Min
    July 25, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Great post.
    I have a (learnchineseeveryday.com/) Chinese learning website.
    Free, free... yes, it is free.

  18. Ron
    July 25, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Lang-8.com is also good. Very much like LiveMocha. Nice article.

  19. Jalisa
    July 25, 2009 at 11:53 am

    What, no Portuguese? Considering the fact that Brazil is becoming a lot more "popular" here in the states, I was really expecting to see some resources for Portuguese. Great article, but BOO for the lack of Portuguese. :P

  20. Chloe
    July 24, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    A very useful website for learning how to *write* Chinese is skritter.com. It uses a spaced repetition algorithm to prompt you for characters that you're less familiar with, so you'll write those more. It's a really robust Flash app and I'd highly recommend all Chinese learners to try it out.

  21. lola
    July 24, 2009 at 3:38 am

    free,free,we are looking for free website.

  22. David
    July 24, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Iola,

    We are a teacher's website for students and teachers. Always free and new is our slogan. Try us out... eflclassroom.com

    I agree with many of the comments about - about.com Not for learning but reference.

    I also agree with many who wrote that learning a language depends not just on the site but "the people". It is that connection that makes things happen linguistically for a person. I'd suggest trying some of our chatterbots for technology ....

    Keep searching,

    DD
    eflclassroom.com

  23. Mark
    July 23, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I'm a little biased but:
    If you truly want to become fluent in a language, nothing offers you the capabilities that LingQ does. The volume of audio and text content and the vocabulary learning tools are the most efficient way to acquire your new language.

    • Istvaan
      July 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm

      It is a "Nice" language website and I agree with you Mark !.. But, IT IS NOT FOR FREE !!!!!!

    • Mark
      July 23, 2009 at 2:40 pm

      A lot of it is, in fact, free, Istvan. And, as for the paid services, our programmers and tutors don't work for free nor are our servers free so why not have our users pay for using those services.

    • Sean
      July 23, 2009 at 11:18 pm

      Ah, but this article was about free, nicht wahr?

    • Mark
      July 23, 2009 at 11:30 pm

      I didn't really see that stated anywhere and the bulk of our site and all of our content is free anyway.

    • Berta
      November 4, 2009 at 9:25 am

      Sure you can use lingQ for free, I do.

      All the content in the library is free. That is lots of audio with its translated text, read by natives. Then you can use the lingQ interface to study it, looking up the words you don't understand, saving them.... Download the audio to your mp3 player and listen to it anywhere... etc

      You can also earn point to get some tutor correct your writings and sign in for conversations. That is the non-free part of the website, but like I said you can earn points just uploading content (text+audio) and each time someone picks up your content to use it, you get points.

      So to use the website is totally free, just the tutoring part isn't. Which sounds faire, just like Mark said you have to pay the tutors and the servers.

  24. Tim Westover
    July 23, 2009 at 10:32 am

    For those interested in learning Esperanto, the International Language, a great (and free) site is Lernu.net. Free instructor-led and self-study courses, games, forums, videos, etc.

  25. Harvey
    July 23, 2009 at 5:36 am

    There are a lot of other amazing resources out that not mentioned here.

    Edufire.com should be on the list for Japanese for sure.

    • Angelina
      July 24, 2009 at 2:12 am

      The problem is, Edufire.com is a paid site. Make Use Of features free software/webapps, and only recommends paid services if there is a decent quality free alternative.

      But if anyone were willing to splurge, edufire.com could be a great resource, indeed.

  26. kcw
    July 23, 2009 at 4:48 am

    Astonishing that Angie doesn't consider Arabic, given the global moment.

    • Angelina
      July 24, 2009 at 2:10 am

      I'm sad :[ I wrote a long comment in response, then accidentally closed this tab...

      at any rate, in hindsight, I probably should have thought of Arabic. You make a very good point.

      Some of the sites I recommended, such as FSI and LiveMocha do teach Arabic; however, the resources for Arabic are not as abundant as those for, say, Spanish.

      Thus, in honor of my lack of foresight, here are a few links!

      learnarabiconline.com/
      madinaharabic.com/
      ghazali.org/arabic/WrightArabicGrammarVol1.pdf

      Of the sites that I looked through, these were the most organized and nicely presented. Hopefully, they serve you well. XP
      Good luck!

  27. Iván
    July 23, 2009 at 2:37 am

    I totally agree with George.

    I was using Livemocha but I quitted because the guys at Livemocha think that every language is like English and there are no declinations, different genders, irregular plurals and so on. Or it seems so.

    Yes, they teach you that "apple" is "Apfel" and "red" is "rot" but they do not tell you that "a red apple" is "ein roter Apfel" and not "ein rot Apfel". Trying to learn any of these languages (German, Spanish, French, etc) with Livemocha is really disappointing.

  28. Lian
    July 23, 2009 at 1:50 am

    Thanks for the Chinese Tools website, that's what I was looking for!

  29. anonym
    July 23, 2009 at 5:04 am

    A great podcast site to learn German. Articles about German culture and habits (in particular useful if your are living there)

    slowgerman.com/

  30. Amy
    July 23, 2009 at 12:02 am

    There's also http://www.palabea.net/
    It's like social networking for learning new languages (:

  31. george
    July 22, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I think it's really hard to judge how effective a website is in teaching a language without really spending long times trying out each one. A website might have 20+ lessons offered in many languages, but if the lessons are unorganized or impractical, then the website is not useful...

    • Angelina
      July 24, 2009 at 1:47 am

      I agree completely, but even if it were possible for me to extensively test the resources in every language, seeing as I don't speak any of the languages I would be trying, it would be difficult for me to realize that (see below) "a red apple" in german is "ein roter Apfel" and not "ein rot Apfel."

      Thus, I tried to focus my article more on the availability, accessibility, and presentation of resources, rather than the quality exclusively. Since quality is so particular to each student using the site, I leave that up to the users to make further judgment themselves. I can only suggest; I can't really say conclusively that "This site is definitely the all time best!" Hence, the "did I miss anything" at the end.

      I did try to pick out the ones I thought were most worth perusing though, so I can confidently say that out of the sites that I looked through these stood out in particular as more worthwhile sites.

  32. Marco
    July 23, 2009 at 3:04 am

    A usefull FREE reference while learning is (mymemory.translated.net) The world's largest translation memory. Has over 150 million translated sentences

    Hope this helps

  33. audrey
    July 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I don't know, how can anyone learn new language in About.com?

    • Angelina
      July 24, 2009 at 1:41 am

      Thats what I thought too, before I did my research for this article.
      Surprisingly, About.com is actually pretty organized when it comes to teaching languages. For example : http://spanish.about.com/od/tipsforlearningspanish/u/start.htm
      there's actually structured lessons. Although it may not be in depth enough for everyone, the sheer volume of resources on About.com makes it a worthwhile candidate to consider for someone trying to learn a new language.

      And... if you end up NOT liking about.com, hey, there are 17 more links to try, right? ;)

  34. Thierry
    July 22, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    You can also try lingueo which a very good site to learn any language

    • Street-Smart Language Learning
      August 24, 2009 at 5:12 am

      I've got a whole blog devoted to just this topic over at (treetsmartlanguagelearning.com) Street-Smart Language Learning. Come check it out!

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