33 Best Online Language Courses in 2023
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably decided to throw caution to the wind and learn a foreign language—traumatic high school Spanish finals be damned.
You’ve also just stumbled upon the most epic list of courses to ramp up your online language learning.
In this post, we’ve compiled a list of 2023’s best web-based courses and programs so you can learn a language at home.
Read on to see which one(s) suits you best!
- Best Comprehensive Language Learning Programs
- Best Audio Language Learning Programs
- Best Gamified Language Learning Programs
- Best Language Programs for Social Learning
- Best Classroom-style Language Learning Programs
- Best Learning Programs for Uncommon Languages
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Best Comprehensive Language Learning Programs
Best for: Intermediate learners
Price: Free basic plan; Premium plan starting at $7.99/mo
LingQ is a web-based language-learning system founded by YouTube polyglot sensation Steve Kaufmann. It has a community aspect that rewards you for helping your peers—plus a massive database of lessons composed of text documents accompanied by audio.
With a Premium plan and points on this site, you’ll have access to their apps, vocabulary features, one-on-one English conversations, group conversations, writing corrections and a huge variety of learning activities and quizzes.
LingQ offers lessons in 37 languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew and Czech.
Read our review of LingQ here.
Best for: Long-term learning
Price: Starting at $7.99/mo
You may still have Rosetta Stone stuck in your mind as that yellow box in the airport, but it’s come a long way in recent years to integrate online language learning.
Rosetta Stone includes online classes, games and mobile apps, hopping on board with a lot of recent language-learning trends. This resource is recommended for long-term learners rather than those looking for quick phrase-building.
The program promises to immerse the learner into the 25 different languages, featuring well-rounded courses that tackle all aspects of a language, including grammar, vocabulary, listening skills through audio, reading skills through stories and more.
Unlike many other programs, Rosetta Stone promises to get you speaking from the first lesson—and speaking correctly, at that. The language learning program’s “TruAccent” feature records your speech and compares it to the correct intonation and pitch, helping you fine-tune your speaking skills.
Read our review of Rosetta Stone here.
Best for: Self-learning
Do you need to learn a language for work or business? Looking for a self-paced, straightforward approach with no gamification or frills? Give Alison a try.
Alison uses a “freemium” model: Access to its self-paced video lessons, with ads, is free—and you can take as many different courses as you’d like. Stick with a single language or learn several from nine options: Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Chinese, Irish, Arabic, Engish or Swedish.
When you finish a language course, you have the option to purchase a diploma or certificate as evidence of your achievement.
For a modest monthly fee, you can remove the advertisements that support the free program. You’ll also get a substantial discount on any certifications you purchase.
Best for: Text learning
Price: Starting at €49,90 (roughly $61)
A language learning program from France, Assimil has many comprehensive foreign language products. It currently offers resources for many languages, but not all of them have a full course available.
The company has its own learning method, referred to as the “Assimil Method,” and offers it for 14 different languages. It follows a two-stage process—the first “impregnation phase” lets learners soak up the language and mentally ingrain the content. Meanwhile, the second “activation phase” encourages learners to formulate sentences and information on their own.
Assimil’s learning products include a full e-course, audio CDs and downloadable or printed textbooks.
Best for: Immersion learning
Price: Monthly and yearly subscriptions; 14-day free trial available
FluentU is a language learning program (also available as an iOS and Android app) that turns authentic, engaging videos—like movie trailers, music videos, commercials and inspiring talks—into immersive lessons.
All videos are curated specifically for language learners by language experts. There are 10 languages available—Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese and English.
By exposing yourself to the language as it’s used by natives, you’ll pick up nuances, correct pronunciation and better listening comprehension resulting in more natural-sounding speech.
FluentU also includes extra learning tools like dual-language transcripts, a video dictionary and interactive subtitles. Just tap a word to find contextual information about it, and review what you learn in the videos with multimedia flashcards and personalized quizzes.
Best Audio Language Learning Programs
Best for: General audio lessons
Price: Starting at $20.95/mo
Pimsleur also uses its own special learning method based on the work of Dr. Paul Pimsleur, an accredited academic. The method focuses on the significance of proper retention and internalization. Thus, Pimsleur lessons are both comprehensive and easily digestible, meaning they serve their purpose best when you study on a near-daily basis.
Pimsleur’s 30-minute lessons are very accessible and portable. An all-access subscription plan gives you each of the lessons for all 51 languages.
Read our review of Pimsleur here.
Best for: Podcast learning
Price: Subscription plans starting at $4/mo
LanguagePod101 allows you to choose from 40 languages, including popular options like French, German, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.
They have free and paid subscription models with tons of material available, including different types of lessons (generally revolving around themes), podcasts and a fun flashcard feature that uses vocabulary words from the media present on their sites.
Despite the “pod” in the name, most of these online language courses include visual resources. Many are accompanied by a lesson, some grammar points, transcripts, flashcards and more.
The program now also offers a Plus subscription, which gives you access to a teacher and weekly assignments, though it’s uncertain whether this is manned by a real person—we mention the issue in our review of JapanesePod101, if you’d like to learn more.
Best for: Beginner conversations
Price: Starting at $149.95
Rocket Languages has a number of different account types for 14 languages that may appeal to you depending on your budget.
It’s known for its incredibly vast amount of downloadable content. It’s also very well-structured, which is great for those of us who have no clue how or where to begin!
The program uses voice recognition software to make sure you’re pronouncing things right (similar to Rosetta Stone), teaches thousands of practical words and phrases, provides insight into different cultures and more.
Read our review of Rocket Languages here.
Foreign Services Institute
Best for: Clip-based lessons
Some awesome individuals have created a collection of public domain language courses from the United States’ Foreign Service Institute.
Most of these online language courses are broken up into audio clips that revolve around short conversations, so it’s best for those who are looking for some on-the-go material that challenges their listening skills.
FSI offers language courses for approximately 70 languages. Keep in mind that many of these recordings are for US diplomats and other government officials. It can also be dry, since these are government courses.
Despite these caveats, these recordings can be excellent resources for learners who want a no-frills approach to language learning.
Read our review of Foreign Services Institute here.
Best Gamified Language Learning Programs
Best for: Absolute beginners
Price: Starting at $7.45/mo
Babbel is perfect for language learners who want to learn Spanish, Norwegian or 11 other languages.
You can get a fun, game-like structure that’s accessible on your smartphone. There’s also access to a learners’ community that can help make your adventure a little more social.
Although you can access the first lesson in each language, you’ll need a subscription to unlock more lessons. Babbel offers two distinct plans. The app subscription gives you access to all the lessons, while the “Babbel live” subscription has the extra bonus of letting you attend virtual live classes taught by language teachers.
Read our review of Babbel here.
Best for: Casual learning
Price: Free; Premium plan is $59.99 per year
Duolingo is perhaps one of the more well-known options on this list.
Designed more like a game than a course, Duolingo is a fun way to squeeze in language learning on your lunch breaks or whenever you’d otherwise be playing “Candy Crush.” Duolingo focuses on making language learning intuitive.
Did we mention you can connect with friends and family through Facebook on Duolingo to add some social incentive to your learning? This feature allows you to see who can maintain a streak longer, who can progress through a lesson quicker and other fun ways to keep each other motivated. Be forewarned—things can get strangely competitive with distant cousins and passive-aggressive co-workers.
Duolingo teaches 38 languages, including some that you likely wouldn’t find in any of the other apps on this list, like Navajo and High Valyrian.
Read our review of Duolingo here.
Best for: Vocabulary practice
Price: Free basic plan; Pro plan starting at $8.49/mo
Memrise may not be a course in the traditional sense, but it started as a collection of user-generated courses in dozens of languages (including sign languages).
Recent updates to the program have turned it into a thorough exploration of languages using vocab-learning games, authentic videos and guided lessons. It’s not a robust learning program, but worth a look if you’re interested in professional-grade, visual learning.
At its core, though, Memrise still uses its original idea: Based on the spaced repetition technique, Memrise functions best as a resource for vocabulary retention. It provides users with flashcards enhanced by fellow learners with images, wordplay to make the terms more memorable and a variety of memory games plus visuals to encourage you to keep on pushing!
You can even create your own course to help you remember those specific terms that trip you up. Memrise currently offers 22 languages as well as an offline mode.
Read our review of Memrise here.
Best for: Essential phrases
Price: Starting at $6.67/mo
Mango Languages is known for its game-like design and its ability to have you speaking phrases within a few weeks.
It’s much like Babbel and Duolingo, but this language learning program offers a few fun extras. Specifically, it incorporates augmented reality into its teaching, bringing your learning experience to life in your living room.
It also includes cultural information about the language you’re learning and can be applied on a larger scale for organizations and classrooms. Finally, it incorporates a special review system that tracks your progress and gives you a more personalized training regimen.
The monthly subscription includes access to more than 70 language courses.
Read our review of Mango Languages here.
Best for: Image-based vocabulary lessons
Price: Free basic access; Premium plan starting at $9.99/mo
Gamified app Mondly introduces basic vocabulary through simple photos. In various exercises, you’ll swipe, drag-and-drop and use word banks to do simple translations. There are also grammar tips and conversation practice. Conversations are presented as text messages.
Mondly lets you take a few trial lessons for free, although your access will be limited. Once you sign up for a Premium plan, you can take the lessons in sequence, or skip around to different topics. Depending on the plan you pick, you can learn a single language, or have access to all of the available 41 languages.
One of the advantages to Mondly is that you can potentially study a couple of languages—including harder-to-find ones such as Bengali, Magyar or Catalan. You can also choose to learn through one of many languages. So, for example, you could learn Italian through Hebrew, French through English or Bulgarian through Vietnamese.
Read our review of Mondly here.
Best for: Learning activities
LearnaLanguage.com is another website filled with online language courses, providing free lesson materials, language learning games and memory activities. You can, for example, learn more Spanish or brush up on your Japanese love phrases.
The website serves as a fun and easy way to get a first glance at certain languages. Best of all, it’s dedicated to offering free content so you can learn key words, phrases and more in 19 languages.
Best Language Programs for Social Learning
Best for: Learning with other language lovers
Price: Free basic plan; Premium plan starting at $6.56
With a dozen languages available for study, Busuu—named for an endangered language in Cameroon—is a lively platform for language learners.
Busuu integrates a great deal of social interaction into its program. Make and accept friend requests to connect with other language learners. Take turns correcting each other’s reading and speaking exercises.
This language learning program offers courses for 12 different languages—English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Polish, Russian and Arabic.
Premium users can gauge their progress with placement tests from McGraw-Hill Education. These correspond to the mastery levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Read our review of Busuu here.
Best for: Communicative learning
Price: Starting at $4/lesson
Want to mix your target language and social media? italki is the Facebook of language learning programs, with over 130 languages from Spanish to Tibetan.
Explained as a “language teaching marketplace” by co-founder Kevin Chen, this website has a massive listing of language tutors from all over the world.
There are plenty of free services, like the ability to get written corrections and connect with users who may want to engage in a free language exchange via Skype or another service. There’s no set pedagogical standard for italki, but you can find the teacher, learning style and lessons that work for you and your wallet.
Read our review of italki here.
Best for: Language exchange
Do you ever get bored or lonely trying to learn a lesson by yourself? This website is a great option for social butterflies.
On this site, you complete lessons with language-learning buddies from all over the world. Did we mention there are over a million members who speak upwards of 115 languages?
Find someone who speaks your target language and is learning your native language—and help each other learn!
Best for: Private lessons
Price: Starting at about $20/lesson
Do you need a teacher to help you through your lessons? Verbalplanet has a large staff of native tutors to help you through the trials of learning a language online.
After every lesson, your teacher will provide feedback and let you know how you’re doing in the core language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) using the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR). This means you can track your progress over time and easily pinpoint trouble areas to work on.
Best for: Individual lessons
Price: Starting at $59/mo (for four hours of lessons)
If you’re looking for comfortable private lessons and have an idea of what level of proficiency you’d like to reach, try out Rype.
Rype is a language tutor service that works around your needs. When signing up, you provide details on how much time you have for learning. From there, Rype can give you a reliable estimate of what you can achieve within that time frame. You can then book your own native-speaking teacher who will create a custom lesson plan just for you.
Lessons are held over Skype and each lasts roughly 30 minutes. There’s no real limit to how many lessons you can book: you can pause or continue your learning whenever you’d like.
Fluent in 3 Months
Best for: Learning strategies
This is polyglot super-star Benny Lewis’s brainchild. As someone who’s learned seven languages and has been traveling the globe for over a decade, he has tons of tricks and resources to help you hack your way through language learning.
Benny’s course tries to solve one of the biggest issues learners have when they start out—learning the language, but not how to use it. The Fluent in 3 Months program embraces the social nature of languages and promises to get you speaking comfortably and naturally from the very beginning.
A premium subscription to this site works best for those who want to learn how to become lifelong language learners. This program won’t teach you a specific language, but it’ll teach you how to learn any of 15 different languages, which is valuable information that you can carry on to any future learning endeavor.
Read our review of Fluent in 3 Months here.
Best Classroom-style Language Learning Programs
Best for: All-around classroom lessons
Price: Starting from $177
Are you a classroom learner who likes structure but wants to take your online language course on the go? Try Fluenz.
The structure of their courses is based on a typical, English-speaking classroom, using English as a foundation for learning new languages.
It will feel quite familiar for native English speakers who learned a foreign language in their middle or high school.
Fluenz offers one-on-one tutoring sessions with native-speaking language coaches, who provide learners with personalized feedback and support.
You can find courses for seven languages—European Spanish, Latin American Spanish, French, Italian, Mandarin, German and Portuguese.
Language Trainers Online
Best for: Group learning
Price: Starting at $8
This is the right option for you if you like learning in a group with a tutor but also want to review your lesson later because all courses are recorded.
These online language courses are customized to the student and their instructors are highly qualified professionals. As an added bonus, you can get a certificate of completion when you get through your learning, which you can use on your resume.
You can choose from over 80 languages and take a level test in some of the languages before you sign up for a lesson.
Best for: Lecture learning
Would you like an MIT education? Wouldn’t we all? Thanks to MIT OpenCourseWare, you can download the syllabus and course material in the language class of your choice.
You can find courses for Chinese and Portuguese where you can learn about basic oral expression and listening comprehension as well as elementary reading and writing.
Interested in a literature or culture class? No problem. Check out Scott Young’s TEDx talk about giving himself an MIT education through this program.
Oregon State eCampus
Best for: Accredited learning
Price: $346 per credit
Looking for college credit? Oregon State has a very well-known and accredited online campus worth looking into.
Currently, seven language programs are on offer, though you can also minor in French, German or Spanish. No pants? No problem.
Best for: University-style learning
If you prefer a more traditional classroom experience, consider the language learning program edX.
With curriculum from universities around the world—including Boston University, the university system of Maryland, Harvard, Peking University and the University of Oxford—edX gives learners at all levels free access to top-notch language courses.
In addition to the languages you might expect (such as French, German, English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian), you’ll find more unusual topics such as Noongar (an indigenous language from Western Australia) and Tibetan.
Some of the language courses are very specific to particular goals, such as Mandarin Chinese for business.
At a paid level, EdX has professional certificates and the XSeries (for deep dives into a language).
Best for: Culture studies
The self-proclaimed source of the “best free cultural & educational media on the web,” Open Culture is an awesome website that collects free courses and resources for its users.
Equipped with an engaging blog and links to over 1,000 free courses, this resource is perfect for the culture nerd in all of us.
It’s not exclusively dedicated to language courses, but you can still find resources in over 48 languages.
Best Learning Programs for Uncommon Languages
Best for: Quick research
Omniglot has mini-lessons on over 600 languages, detailing some of the histories and origins of archaic scripts like Ladino or Old Norse. It’s a great resource for anyone learning lesser-known languages like Xhosa, Igbo and Ojibwe.
In addition to an overview of the writing system and some cultural information about each language, Omniglot provides links to further information about every language and how to learn it, as well as YouTube videos showcasing the language.
Omniglot also has its own Facebook group where language-lovers share interesting tidbits about linguistics in a fun and approachable way. The multilingual nature of the group means you can find help with many different languages among the nearly 30,000 members.
Best for: Language variety
Price: Starting at $24.95/mo
Whatever language you’re interested in learning, Transparent Language is highly likely to have something for it. It offers teaching material for an impressive roster of over 100 languages.
Although you can learn on the website, the app version is the more favored format. Lessons are short (roughly 10 to 15 minutes each) but challenging enough to keep you on your toes. There’s no strict course structure—although the program may recommend certain lessons based on your level, you can customize your learning and focus on the skills you’re interested in.
Transparent Language is another program that offers a nifty speech analysis function that lets you practice your speaking. Your voice is analyzed and any problem spots are visualized on a sound wave graph.
Best for: Multilingual learning
An indispensable resource for language learners, Internet Polyglot also contains a feature that most other online courses don’t: the ability to translate lessons to and from any language they have available. Do you want to learn French through Spanish? No problemo, mon ami.
Internet Polyglot offers courses for over 20 languages, including popular ones such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic, as well as less commonly studied languages like Hungarian, Lithuanian and Estonian.
Thanks to this, there’s a huge selection of courses to choose from. The content mostly features vocabulary with audio. Unfortunately, the game buttons no longer seem to work.
However, you can find usage examples for many of the words, so this website can serve as an excellent themed word builder. You can even use it to learn words in two languages at once if you’re feeling ambitious!
Best for: Language resources
Word2Word is a massive online database of free courses in over 100 languages. It also points you in the direction of language learning forums and more general polyglot guides and resources.
Most importantly, Word2Word contains links to tools and resources from all over the web in less common languages like Frisian and Malay.
Live Lingua Project
Best for: Language foundation
The Live Lingua Project has made language courses from Peace Corps training free to all who visit their website. You don’t even need an account to access these.
It hosts thousands of free ebooks, audio clips and videos for over 130 languages from around the world.
There are lots of hard-to-find languages, such as Anufo (spoken in Togo) and Q´eqchi (spoken in Guatemala). You can also find regional variations on more well-known languages—such as 11 different varieties of Arabic, three varieties of Russian and four different styles of French.
Many of the courses feature audio clips to help you learn pronunciation. While the materials aren’t brand-new, they will give you a thorough foundation in the languages you choose to study.
Best for: Extra review
MyLanguages.org has lessons in 95 languages—all for free. You can learn vocab, grammar and quick phrases. You can even quiz yourself on your knowledge! The main draw of this language learning program is the illustrated word lists.
The courses on this site are mostly written (though they do involve some audio and video material), making them perfect for intermediate learners who need to review and refine their grammatical skills.
So there you have it, the online language course list to end all lists. It may come as no surprise that native material (video, podcasts, books, etc. in your target language) can far surpass any course when used effectively.
But several of us benefit more when we balance or supplement those authentic materials with a course, so now you know where to look. Choose a course (or several) that appeals to you, and get started today!