“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
This quote has been traced back centuries to Vincent van Gogh, and it’s still relevant for 21st century knowledge-seekers.
No matter what you’re learning, from painting to foreign languages, you can’t just read passively and theorize.
You need to learn by doing.
For today’s language students, that’s where interactive language websites come in.
They give you the chance to apply your language skills by chatting, playing games, clicking through fun videos and much more. Not only does this make your study time more effective, it also motivates you to keep moving forward.
Here are the nine best interactive language learning websites you can start exploring today.
If it was good enough for van Gogh, it’ll be great for you!
The 9 Best Interactive Websites for Language Learning
Open Culture is a goldmine of language learning material. There are dozens of courses, language sites and other learning tools available for tons of major and lesser-known languages.
And it’s all available for free.
With the interactive, enjoyable content on Open Culture, the days of being bored to tears by cookie-cutter textbook dialogues are over. There’s something for everyone, from comprehensive, classroom-style courses, to culture-focused podcasts, to poems and short stories. And the best part is the complete freedom to study exactly what you want, when you want to.
Click the link above to browse language offerings alphabetically.
Nobody learns French hoping to understand shampoo labels. They do it to order fromage et vin (cheese and wine) in Paris and to make friends while wandering through the Tuileries Garden.
That’s why authentic content in your target language—the type of stuff native speakers read and watch—is so important. You need it to prepare for those real-life situations.
That’s the idea behind FluentU, which offers real-world videos in your target language such as movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks and more. FluentU then transforms those videos into an interactive language learning experience.
Each video comes with clickable captions to teach you any new words you encounter in the videos. Just click an unfamiliar word, and boom! You get an instant definition, native pronunciation and FluentU also shows you other videos that use the word. It’s an entertaining way to build your vocabulary and the words are easier to remember since you’re learning them in authentic contexts.
With FluentU, you learn real languages—the same way that natives speak them. FluentU has a wide variety of videos like movie trailers, funny commercials and web series, as you can see here:
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 “quiz mode.” Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
FluentU also offers flashcards and exercises for each video to help you retain new words.
The videos are organized by genre and learning level—and since FluentU remembers what you’ve watched and suggests new videos based on that information, you get a truly personalized learning experience.
Check out the free trial to see how interactive, authentic language learning works for you.
Do you like the classroom dynamic but don’t want to cough up the money it takes to actually enroll?
Coursera solves this problem by offering real university-level courses online, affordably. You know you’re getting a high-quality education in a foreign language while you still have complete control over what you’re learning (and over your wallet).
There are a number of wide-ranging language courses available, as well as multi-course “specializations.” Most Coursera classes follow a set schedule and are offered every few weeks throughout the year. You’ll be following along with lessons and completing assignments, and can often earn certificates to prove your skills to employers or schools.
Sometimes, it’s hard to find people to talk to in your target language. Depending on where you’re located, it can be really hard.
There are two ways to solve this problem. The first solution is to sign up for a language course and talk with a teacher.
However, you probably won’t get to talk to them individually very often, you might not have time to devote to a full class and you’ll be out a nice chunk of cash.
Verbling is a cheaper, more efficient and in many ways more enjoyable alternative to traditional language courses.
You’ll hire a private tutor through Verbling’s easy-to-use interface and talk with them on a platform called “Verbling Video.” The platform is specially designed to make file sharing, note taking, screenshots, chats and calls easy—sort of like a virtual language learning classroom.
There are thousands of tutors available and you can easily browse their profiles by filtering for language, price, credentials and other criteria.
Outside of your lessons, Verbling has discussion boards and a forum for language questions, making language learning more social.
Do you ever feel like you just don’t have enough access to varied teaching styles and content?
Innovative Language offers tons of audio and video podcast lessons that are designed to be both entertaining and culturally relevant. The lessons come from native speakers and language experts, and they’re super prolific. There are hundreds of lessons available for more than 30 languages, with more added every week.
What makes it interactive? Their system focuses on learning to speak from day one, so you’ll interact heavily with the online content in order to practice your conversational speaking ability right from the start.
There are also tons of supplementary learning materials available, including PDF lesson notes, memorization tools and access to an online community of language lovers.
With Babbel, those 10- to 15-minute breaks you have in your busy schedule will get turned into productive lessons to advance your language abilities.
The interactive online platform gives you short lessons that are designed to target your conversational abilities. There are lessons tailored not only to your interests but also to the native language you’re coming from.
Babbel has browser and app platforms that automatically sync, so you’ll never have to worry about losing your progress.
If working with a flexible and dynamic platform that was created with innovative, interactive language learning in mind sounds like something that you could benefit from (…it probably is!) you should definitely check out Babbel.
No one argues with the fact that talking face-to-face with natives is a crucial way to advance in a foreign language.
HelloTalk understands this fact. Their app is designed to connect you with language partners from around the world.
Hopping on HelloTalk feels no different from opening your favorite social network app. You’ll browse profiles of people who speak your target language and are learning your native language, and can begin interacting with just a message.
It’s a truly flexible, self-designed language exchange. You have complete control over what you talk about and what you focus on in your studies. It’s a great way to start seeing how native speakers use your target language in a learning-focused environment.
Does that sound boring to you?
Not to me. I’ll take real conversation over textbooks any day.
When it comes to interactive language learning, nothing is more interactive than a wide, vibrant community of learners just like you and me.
You’ll likely find that italki is the language community you’ve been looking for. (If you haven’t been looking for one, it’s the community you should’ve been looking for.)
With professional teachers and language partners, italki offers one of the most varied and colorful learning experiences that can be found on the web.
For focused study, you can hire one of the platform’s professional, experienced language educators who’ll teach you everything from grammar to slang to day-to-day conversations. All you need to do to get started is to select your preferred teacher, then schedule a paid trial lesson.
It’s not hard, I promise, but it does bring serious results. Having real conversations with experienced teachers in your target language may be the thing you need to push past that plateau and get to the level you’ve been dreaming about.
You can also set up a language exchange for less formal, free practice.
Language + gaming = Duolingo.
Now offered in more than 20 languages, Duolingo allows you to start a new language or continue one that you’re already familiar with by competing with friends, racing against the clock and trying not to run out of lives.
And the best part is that it’s completely free (though you can pay to remove the ads).
The fun interactive levels progress in difficulty as your abilities increase, and they provide an interesting and motivating environment for learning.
Then, after you start mastering your target language, you can even help Duolingo translate online content into English or your native language.
Maybe you love studying verb tables, reading grammar descriptions and stressing out over not having enough material to learn from.
If not, join the club. I know I don’t.
If you’re ready to break free of the stereotype that studying languages is boring and difficult, try these fun, interactive language learning websites. They’ll give you an edge and push you further and further toward your target language goals.
Yassir Sahnoun is a content strategist, writer, polyglot and co-founder of WriteWorldwide. You can learn more about Yassir at YassirSahnoun.com.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.