The Best (Completely Free) Language Learning Alternatives to Duolingo

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.


The language learning app Duolingo has become one of the most trusted sources for people to improve their language skills 6 Snappy Ways to Learn a New Language in 5 Minutes a Day 6 Snappy Ways to Learn a New Language in 5 Minutes a Day You can get a lot done in the few minutes of free time you have. Learning a new language with microlearning is one of them. Try these excellent apps and websites for microlearning. Read More . With lessons in over 20 languages through short games and challenges, Duolingo has captured all ages and language ability levels.

But it isn’t the right solution for everyone — and that’s okay! There are plenty of other great (and completely free) services out there that may be a better fit.

How Free Is “Free”? It’s Complicated

One of the reasons some people are looking to move away from Duolingo is the recent introduction of in-app purchases. While the core functions of Duolingo are still free, the purchase options can give learners a boost when playing games — much like the bonuses and extra lives you can purchase on Bejewelled or other addictive gaming apps The 8 Most Relaxing Puzzle Game Apps for iPhone The 8 Most Relaxing Puzzle Game Apps for iPhone Here are the most relaxing puzzle game apps to play on your iPhone. Why not sit back, relax, and puzzle away the stress? Read More .

Learners may become frustrated when they are prevented from working on a specific language skill or accomplishment because they ran out of “hearts” or need to purchase “gems” to continue. Other in-app purchases allow users to remove ads from their learning experience and to download offline content.

duolingo review

While there’s nothing wrong with Duolingo charging fees for its services, it can be frustrating for those looking for a truly free resource. Other language learners simply do not enjoy learning through games. This is especially true for those who require industry-specific vocabulary or who already have a background in the language.

Thankfully, there are many other online resources available for language learners. While you won’t get the same kind of program as Duolingo for free, you can easily use these resources to put together a language learning strategy How I Finally Learned a Different Language. And You Can Too. How I Finally Learned a Different Language. And You Can Too. No single language learning app is the magic wand. The secret to learning a new language is a blended solution. With desire and motivation you too can learn any foreign language. Read More that works well for you.

An Argument for Paid Services

While this article focuses on free services, it’s important to note the benefits of choosing to go with a paid language learning strategy. Julie Hansen, US CEO of Babbel (one of the most trusted paid language learning services currently available online) states that:

“Language apps on the surface might look similar, but they are not. Babbel teaches genuinely useful content that can be applied in real-life scenarios . . . When you consider that other language apps teach you how to say useless sentences such as ‘the penguin drinks milk,’ it is clear that Babbel is the most effective app for learning a new language in a meaningful way. None of our content is machine-generated or user-generated, with all of Babbel’s courses being created by a team of more than 150 linguists and teachers, and tailored to each combination.”

And research supports this approach:

“This efficacy was demonstrated by a recent study by City University of New York (CUNY), which found that truly novice users with no knowledge of Spanish need on average just 15 hours of study with Babbel in a two-month period to cover the requirements for one college semester of Spanish.”

If you are a serious language learner 4 Hidden Benefits Of Learning A Foreign Language If You Are A Geek 4 Hidden Benefits Of Learning A Foreign Language If You Are A Geek English is overwhelmingly the language of the Internet. And yet, there's never been a better reason and a better time to learn a foreign language. It opens up the world, and opportunities. Read More with financial resources in place, there are a lot of great reasons to invest your money in authentic language learning experiences, whether through an app, a university course, or an immersion experience.

But for casual language learners or those without extra income, there are a lot of great (and effective) options out there for you as well.

1. Online Communities

One of the best ways to learn a new language is to surround yourself with other people who have similar goals. Online communities of language learners are fantastic resources to learn tips and tricks about effective language learning, practice speaking with native speakers, and find out about other great learning opportunities online and offline.

Fluent in 3 Months

This very active forum offers language learners a place to practice their writing skills in any language they choose, connect with language partners, post information about their language learning journey, and learn from the success of others.


Like most communities on Reddit, this subreddit is a mishmash of topics and discussions. Many posts recommend resources for continued language learning, share personal accomplishments, or pose questions to the almost 100,000 community members.

The Polyglot Club

This free language exchange community focuses on getting language off of the page and into the conversation. The site offers opportunities for video chatting or in-person meetups, as well as free lessons and corrections by native speakers.

2. Rhino Spike

rhino spike language learning

If you have difficulty “hearing” the native language as you read it, this site can be a lifesaver. You can use the recordings that are already online to hear how different accents sound in your target language while reading the accompanying transcription. You can also submit your own texts for native speakers to read, and record your own voice for others seeking help.

3. Mango Languages

If you do want a game-style online language learning platform, consider Mango Languages. This program is available for free through many library systems, and offers language learning opportunities for over 70 languages. The program is intuitive to use, and prioritizes culturally and conversationally relevant language skills. I was pleasantly surprised at its availability — even my rural library in the middle of nowhere had a subscription available!

4. The Yojik Website

While this site isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing option on this list, it’s hard to beat the quality of its resources. Courses in the public domain intended for training the Foreign Service Institute, the Defence Language Institute, and the Peace Corps offer PDF instructional guides in numerous languages and dialects.

estonian peace corps

With some digging, you can also access multiple audio files and training materials. You can also access many of these resources through the Live Lingua website if you prefer its organization.

5. YouTube

No matter what combination of online and offline language learning resources you use, YouTube should your #1 choice. You can learn almost anything on YouTube 10 Interesting Things You Can Learn on YouTube 10 Interesting Things You Can Learn on YouTube We are on a quest to learn something new every day. So ask yourself -- have you learned anything interesting today? If not, turn to YouTube. Read More , and a new language is no exception.

Nowhere else online do you have so much access to native speakers talking about any subject imaginable. Whether you choose to watch specific language learning videos, news, or television shows, YouTube makes it easy to practice your new language.

Here are 10 channels to start with, but this list is far from exhaustive! Just a few minutes of searching will lead you to a wealth of resources for almost any language:

Looking for More?

The internet is an unending source of information, so it’s impossible to list all its language learning resources. But if you’re still looking for more, you can check out the exhaustive list at OpenCulture, watch foreign-language movies online The 10 Best Foreign-Language Films on Netflix The 10 Best Foreign-Language Films on Netflix Are you sick of Netflix recommending the same old films over and over again? It may be time to broaden your horizons, with the best foreign-language films available on Netflix... Read More , connect with local language learning clubs, continue hunting around on YouTube or follow the recommendations of other language students in the communities mentioned above.

Did I miss one of your favorite online language learning sites in this list? Or do you prefer paid services? Let me (and other language enthusiasts) know all about it in the comments below!

Image Credit: gpointstudio/Depositphotos

Explore more about: Education Technology, Language Learning.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. John Schmon
    January 12, 2019 at 1:33 am

    Thanks for the little preaching about paid services. Just what I clicked to read about. Go suck an egg, babble. We can also pay "researchers" to point out the skim positives in our product. We don't do it because we're not user-hungry scum.

  2. James E Pedigo
    January 5, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    The title of this article is very misleading. Duolingo is free. I have never purchased anything. Speaking to simple silly phrases; have you read a easy or beginning reader book lately? The sentences are very simple and oftentimes silly. By the way, I do not like green eggs and ham Sam I am. ;-) I signed up for Babbel and they immediately wanted me to give them a credit card, even though they advertise that most of their lessons are free. No thanks. I am good. Yo apprendo Espanol con Duolingo. :-)

  3. Peter Rettig
    October 25, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    We'd also like to suggest our completely free courses and Quick Language Games. We currently offer French, German, Italian, Spanish and English for Spanish speakers.
    Our courses use a travel story and easy, fun games to learn and practice.
    No ads, no premium or up-sell - just play and learn.
    Courses require simple registration - Quick Language Games and Podcasts can be played by just clicking on the links!

  4. Siaron James
    September 19, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Say Something In... is an extremely effective online course. Initially set up as a Welsh language course, there are now also versions in Spanish, Dutch, Manx, Cornish and Latin.
    These are courses that focuses on helping people learn to speak and understand the language, and avoids wasting time on complicated grammar rules and reading/writing. Based on the latest research in language learning, the course provides downloadable MP3 files for free. The entire introductory course of 25 lessons, the practice sessions and vocabulary units are all entirely free of charge. Further courses are available for a very small subscription. There are also dedicated online forums for each language where people can come for support/advice/socialising. It has thousands of people across the globe using it and really works.