Tuesday, November 28

How to learn a language online

Last year, I decided to start learning Korean. It was entirely on a whim — I don’t live in Korea and have no reason I’d ever need to go there. Nonetheless, it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I’ve gotten to a point where I can speak, read, and write comfortably much faster than I ever thought I could.

That’s entirely due to the wealth of apps and online services out there that I’ve been able to take advantage of. Without easy access to native speakers or in-person classes, much of my early journey involved scouring the internet for resources and trying every one I could find. Here, I’m going to briefly discuss my experience with each one and whether I’d recommend it for its price.

It’s important that I make a few caveats here:

While I am a language nerd, I am in no way a language expert. While this article is meant to reflect my own experience with these products, it’s one data point. What’s effective or ineffective for you could certainly differ.
The quality of any product will often vary by the language you’re using it for. I’ve used many of these services for multiple languages (like I said, I’m a language nerd) and will draw from those experiences here, but the best way to figure out if an app will work for you (as is the case with many products, in general) is to try it out yourself.
This article is tailored to native English speakers (because I am one). If you speak another language fluently, make sure you’re looking into additional options for speakers of that language.
In addition to these resources, you should make sure you’re looking into resources specific to the language you’ve chosen. Reddit can be a good place to find these — many languages have specific subreddits where learners can share what they’ve been using.
One last thing before we dive in. My primary advice for online language learners like myself is to avoid going all-in on one resource (at least, at the start). Not only has using multiple apps at a time helped to reinforce the things I’m learning, but it’s also given me a broader picture than I’d otherwise have. Most languages will have multiple ways to say common phrases (i.e., in English, you might say “Hey,” “Hi,” “Hello,” etc.), and different courses might teach different ones. Different resources may also skim over concepts that others explain in more detail. I recommend that you diversify your learning portfolio, at least until you’ve found one option that you’re confident is comprehensive and works for you.

With that, here are some apps I’ve tried.

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