If you’re reading this, you’ve probably just recently decided to throw caution to the wind and learn a foreign language, traumatic high school Spanish finals be damned.
Or maybe you’re in the midst of learning a new language online, and your mission has been a fruitless journey of online translators and trying to navigate your Facebook timeline in Yiddish. Oy vey.
Either way, congratulations! You’ve just stumbled upon the most epic list of online language courses.
You no longer need to slam your face QWERTY-style out of frustration, begging the polyglot gods to give you some kind of direction for your linguistic quest. These courses will give you a roadmap to language learning success.
If you’re wondering what distinguishes an online course from the plethora of other resources online, it’s that a course contains lessons, modules, or quizzes–some kind of structure that newbies (and language learning vets!) need to help them weave other language learning tools into context.
Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of web-based courses that serve different language-learning needs. Whether you’re on a shoestring budget or need a course that satiates your podcast addiction, there’s something that fits your style below.
30 of the Best Online Language Courses
Babbel is perfect for fans of Duolingo who want to learn Spanish or Norwegian (Babbel currently has 14 languages as compared to Duolingo’s nine). For $12.95 a month you get a fun, game-like structure that is accessible on your smartphone, and access to a learner’s community that can help make your adventure a little more social.
LingQ is a web-based language-learning system founded by YouTube polyglot sensation, Steve Kaufmann. Like LiveMocha, there is a community aspect to the interface that rewards you for helping your peers. LingQ also has a massive database of lessons which are 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.
FluentU’s unique platform focuses on language immersion, which is something language learners of all levels need. FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into learning lessons.
It lets you learn using fun videos and real-world context. Did you ever want to sing along to “Let It Go” in German, or watch a crash course in world geography in Japanese? FluentU makes this entertaining approach personal by integrating new words into its “learn mode,” which uses interactive games to teach vocabulary and track your progress. I bet you never knew learning could be so fun and yet feel so effective!
Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of content available on FluentU:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s “learn mode.” Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
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 would otherwise be playing Candy Crush. Duolingo focuses on making language learning intuitive. Did we mention you can connect with friends and family through Facebook? You are forewarned—things can get strangely competitive with distant cousins and passive-aggressive co-workers.
Another free resource with lessons in 15 languages, ELanguageSchool is also ideal for learners who like to focus on written instruction. Without a doubt the best features of ELanguageSchool are its long lists of commonly used nouns and verbs, and the site’s surprising lack of ads.
This is polyglot super-star Benny Lewis’s brainchild. As someone who has 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. A premium subscription to his site works best for those who want to learn how to become lifelong language learners rather than learn a specific language.
Some awesome individuals have dedicated their time to creating an online collection of public domain language courses that were created by the United States’s Foreign Service Institute. You’ll find that most of these 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. It’s great for beginners!
Designed for military personnel before deployment, Headstart2 is another good resource for beginners. Every language has two units made up of ten modules each, which you can access online or on your iPod. It’s worth noting that the second unit focuses on “mission-specific tasks,” which could be great for those who want to watch war films in their target language.
This is an iPad app for learners on the go. Known for its crowd-sourced information, Hello-Hello World always has a professional on staff to make comments and corrections to your sentences. It’s a great option for those who want to review words and phrases on a tight deadline before a business trip or big test.
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.
Want to mix your target language and social media? italki is the Facebook of language learning. Explained as a language teaching marketplace by co-founder Kevin Chen, this incredible 2.0 website has a massive listing of language tutors from all over the world. There are also plenty of free services, and you can connect with users who may want to engage in a free language exchange via Skype. There is no set pedagogical standard for italki, but you can find the teacher, learning style and lessons that work for you and your wallet.
The Pod Series is a network of websites with names like Spanishpod101.com, etc. You’ll find programs for the following languages:
They have free and paid subscription models with tons of material available, ranging from 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.
This is the right option for you if you like having a tutor but also want to be able to review your lesson later, because all courses are recorded. These courses are customized to the student, and their instructors are known to be highly qualified professionals.
LearnaLanguage.com is another website filled with free language courses, but with a twist: Some of the lessons are delightfully weird. Learning Spanish? Why not play around with the “Burrito Builder,” or brush up on your Japanese love phrases?
Livemocha is a massive language learning community that gives you instruction in 38 different languages. Many liken its structure to that of Rosetta Stone, but instead of relying on a program to assess you, be prepared for native speakers and other language enthusiasts to rate your linguistic chops.
Known for its comprehensive fusion of online learning, mobile apps and web conference style e-tutoring sessions, Living Language is well worth its steep access fee. Be prepared for very knowledgeable and professional teachers instructing you in small groups.
Mango 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 it also has an added cultural component if you’re interested, and can be used for organizations and classrooms. The monthly subscription includes access to all 63 language courses.
18. Memrise (Free)
Memrise may not be a course in the traditional sense, but instead is a collection of user-generated courses in dozens of languages (including sign languages). Based on the spaced repetition technique, Memrise functions best as a resource for vocabulary retention. You can even create your own course to help you remember those specific terms that trip you up.
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. Interested in a literature or culture class? No prob. Check out this guy’s TedX talk about giving himself an MIT education through this program.
Do you ever get bored or lonely trying to learn a lesson by yourself? My Language Exchange is a great option for you social butterflies out there. 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?
MyLanguages.org has lessons in 95 languages and all for free! Here you can learn vocab, grammar and quick phrases, and even quiz yourself on your knowledge. The courses on this site are mostly written (though they do collect some audio and video material), making them perfect for intermediate learners who need to review and refine their grammatical skills.
Did you ever think you could learn a Hawaiian language online? Modules are $30 each, and all you need is Mozilla Firefox, a Flash Player and an interest in Hawaiian languages. ‘A‘ole pilikia.
This is another curated list of courses in a number of languages, some free some not. Omniglot also contains mini-lessons on over 600 languages, detailing some of the histories and origins of archaic scripts like Ladino or Old Norse. Omniglot is also useful for lesser known languages like Xhosa, Igbo, and Ojibwe.
The self-proclaimed source of the “best free cultural & educational media on the web,” Open Culture is another awesome website that collects free courses and resources for its users. Equipped with an engaging blog and links to over 1000 free courses, this resource is perfect for the culture snob in all of us. It’s not exclusively dedicated to language courses, yet you can still find resources in over 40 languages.
Looking for college credit? Oregon State has a very well-known and accredited online campus that’s worth looking into. If you want travel around and be a cool expat while earning class credit, this is the virtual campus you’ve been looking for. You can even get a bachelor’s degree in German, completely online! No pants? No problem.
Rocket Languages has a number of different account types that may appeal to you depending on your budget. Though it’s on the pricier end of the courses on this list, Rocket Languages is 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!
You’ll be able to take courses for the following languages:
You may still have Rosetta Stone stuck in your mind as that yellow box in the airport, but it has 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. Recommended for long-term learners rather than quick phrase-building. It’s available for many languages, including:
Do you need a teacher to help you through your lessons? Verbalplanet.net has a large staff of native tutors to help you through the trials of learning a language online, and their useful analytic tools help you track your progress.
29. Word2Word (Free)
Word2Word is a massive online database of free courses in 119 languages. What’s unique about this site is that 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.
World Wide Learn is another comprehensive list of accredited language courses online. There are courses in 18 different languages, as well as in translation, ESL, and TESL. There’s also a “live chat” feature if you need help figuring out which course is best for you. World Wide Learn is especially good for those who want to travel as they go to school, or have busy work schedules that don’t allow them to attend brick-and-mortar campuses.
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!
Carlo Aaron is a writer, artist and language-learning enthusiast who lives on the internet. She’s been featured on xoJane, Skirt Collective and Feministing. Follow her on Twitter.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.