At some point, most of us have failed horribly at learning a language.
Because for most of us, that language was just another subject we had to take in school.
And we really didn’t have the motivation to do it.
Even if we passed the course, we may have still bombed at learning the language to any degree of real usefulness.
However, just because we’ve already had this experience of failure doesn’t mean the need for language learning itself is going away anytime soon.
What if you want to not just survive but really enjoy your vacation to Paris?
What if you’re interested in opening a business in Beijing?
What if you play soccer with people who don’t speak English, and you want to chat with them?
Or what if you’re heading off to college now and you want to actually learn a language for real while you’re there?
When the desire to learn a language is real, the stakes are different.
And luckily, your learning options can be different, too.
Learning a language with online programs gives you the opportunity to customize your process, goals and the timeframe in which you accomplish those goals—whether or not you’re taking an academic or in-person course, too.
In addition to being able to choose your own pace and learning style, studying languages online and with apps also gives you the added advantage of having tons of course options.
All these factors give you the ability to actively guide yourself towards real success in language learning, whatever that means to you.
To help you further towards that success, we’ve compiled a list of the best programs for achieving your language learning goals that are currently available.
These programs use highly effective methods that have been proven to bring learners great results. If you don’t want to settle for second-rate language programs, the nine options below are perfect for you.
But before we get to the list, let’s look at how to effectively use online resources and how to get the most out of the time you spend using them.
How to Effectively Use Online Language Learning Programs
I know it’s tempting to find a language program that you like and start studying without really thinking about how it works. However, here are a few things you can do to greatly increase your chances of success at online language learning.
Find an accountability partner
First, find an accountability partner so you can stay motivated!
This strategy allows two people to share their goals with each other and to keep at them. People use accountability partners in different ways, but there are some things you should definitely do with yours.
Specifically, share your goals, victories and failures.
Doing so keeps you motivated to keep moving forward. It also allows both you and your partner to grow your knowledge base of learning strategies that work and those that don’t.
Set realistic goals
Second, make sure you and your partner set realistic goals for yourselves without asking too much or too little.
A good way to do this is to set achievable daily goals rather than long-term goals. An example of an appropriate goal would be, “I want to learn ten Russian words a day.” This is much more achievable than saying, “I want to learn Russian in a year.”
By making your goals small and short-term, you set yourself up to succeed, because you can have a small success every day.
To really accomplish these daily goals, you need to set a reasonable daily schedule and aim to work on your language study every day. It’s also helpful to set your language study at the same time every day, as this establishes a routine that’s easier for you to follow.
Diversify your learning
Finally, to really take advantage of these fantastic online resources, you need to diversify your learning by not using only one resource all the time.
This will help you to broaden your knowledge of the language and round out your abilities. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to use more than one main learning program—this depends on the program itself as they have different strengths and weaknesses. But no matter what program you’re using, you should always try to supplement it with authentic materials (in other words, articles, videos, radio, etc. intended for native speakers rather than learners).
Now that you know some of the ways to effectively use our list of the top language learning resources, let’s look at the resources themselves.
Language Learning Programs: The 9 Smartest Online Options
Pimsleur uses a mix of science and good planning to make a genuinely good audio system for learning the core of any language offered—and there are lots offered.
This innovative system is based on the research of Dr. Pimsleur, which covered very important functions of the brain like anticipation and graduated recall.
These scientific principles allowed him to create a system to help push a language deep into your memory in a shorter time through memory hooks and reviewing the right vocabulary at the right time.
If you’re not interested in the science behind why Pimsleur works, that’s okay. Just understand that by listening for 30 minutes a day, you can start building a foundation for a language inside your brain with this system.
Pimsleur focuses on important basic vocabulary and sentence structures to push you to a conversational level in a short amount of time.
View available languages and get started here.
Have you ever searched around the internet for hours looking for real content in your target language?
“Maybe if I change my YouTube search just a little, I’ll find something that’ll actually help me learn German!”
Well, you’re not the only one. We’ve all been there.
FluentU solves this problem by painstakingly selecting authentic videos from around the web—like movie trailers, music videos, news, vlogs, speeches and more—adding helpful subtitles and publishing them according to difficulty, so you can always find a video to help you learn.
Not only does FluentU end your days of endlessly searching for new content on the web, but it also gives you a complete learning system in the form of powerful tools that make learning the content you find in the videos easier than ever—like interactive captions and custom quizzes.
Plus, the database of videos is constantly being updated, so you’ll always have something new to watch. As Fluent is based around real-world videos, you’ll also be able to absorb all kinds of cultural details and understanding as you learn.
FluentU also continues to add new languages, and here are the programs that are currently available:
There’s also an accompanying app for iOS or Android devices that syncs with the online platform, so you’ll never have to struggle to find where you left off. Your videos, flashcards and quizzes will be with you on the go, which means you’ll have no excuse not to learn a language!
Plus, FluentU has content for all levels and interests. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced language student—and whether you’re into beauty vlogging, travel videos or the most recent superhero films—FluentU was made and continues to be updated with you in mind.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos, including 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 over or tap on 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.
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.
You can try any FluentU subscription with a free 15-day trial, and one subscription covers all languages, so you can learn multiple languages with one account.
Rocket Languages is based on interactive audio that you can listen to anywhere you want. Do you have a long commute to work every day? Why not take advantage of that free time to accomplish your daily goal of learning a new language?
Rocket Languages also incorporates cultural lessons into their units, so you can simultaneously learn the functions of the language and the culture of the people who use it.
For every language, there are three Premium levels that take you from beginner to advanced.
Here are the different programs offered by language:
Also, Rocket Languages supplies you with a host of motivational tools to keep you from getting discouraged and giving up—which can be very useful as a supplement to your accountability partner or language learning friends.
If you’ve ever seen those online videos of the twin polyglots, you’ve at least heard of Babbel. But many people don’t know about the wide variety of features that Babbel offers.
This is a great system for people who don’t have a lot of time in their schedules but still want to jam pack their spare time with learning. Babbel’s flexible system allows you to learn in bite-sized chunks of 15-20 minutes throughout the day.
With their innovative app, you can create powerful memory hooks with pictures, sounds and words to retain new vocabulary and sentence structures longer than with traditional learning methods.
Babbel is known for innovation, which is why you can sync your progress between your devices and pick up on your computer where you left off on your phone. That means you can use Babbel on your phone on the bus during your commute, on your tablet on a plane or on your computer at home.
Customizable, flexible language learning means that you can reach your goals on your own schedule with Babbel.
And the best part is, Babbel starts by gauging your level, so you can be sure of being set up with the right material. View the languages Babbel offers and start learning here.
Innovative Language uses audio and video language lessons to keep pushing your language learning further.
Their database is updated weekly with even more lessons, and it allows you to choose content that interests you.
Their content is created by real teachers and native speakers, and they focus on learning practical, actionable language skills from day one.
You’ll be having real conversations soon after starting to expose yourself to the native content on the website.
One thing that makes Innovative Language so innovative is that they offer in-depth progress reports that allow you to monitor your own progress and stay motivated along the way.
Here are the different language courses you can subscribe to:
In addition to their subscriptions, Innovative Language also offers many free online resources to give you help in your language learning journey.
With Innovative Language, you’ll be exposed to real, native content that will push you and grow your language abilities from the very first day.
Rosetta Stone is what you may think of as the classic computer-based language learning program, but there’s more to it than meets the eye (plus, they now offer online subscriptions in addition to software).
With this program, you’ll learn a language the way a baby learns his or her first language—with images. Throughout the program, you’ll never be exposed to your native language. Instead, you’ll learn new words by being introduced to them through pictures.
This helps your brain think in your target language rather than translating everything from your native language.
Over the years, Rosetta Stone has had the chance to perfect their approach and add many key features that allow them to push your language learning to the next level.
For example, Rosetta Stone takes advantage of voice recognition technology to help you perfect your accent, audio lessons to help you master comprehension, native literature to perfect your reading abilities and live tutor support to allow you to dive into real conversations with native speakers.
Will handling yourself in another country be difficult after all of that practice? Probably not.
Rosetta Stone can take you from zero to hero, as they have programs for all levels.
Check out the links below to see what Rosetta Stone has to offer for the following target language(s):
Duolingo is one of the most innovative language learning platforms online. Their game-like lessons help you develop various skills in your target language in a convenient and flexible way.
Once your level is high enough, Duolingo can help you further enhance your language skills with articles from around the web in your target language that have never been translated into English. While you’re practicing your language comprehension by reading and translating these articles, you’re actually translating the web!
Duolingo started out small with only a few languages, but they have grown very rapidly and now offer over 25 languages, including some artificial languages from popular TV series!
By using this innovative service, you can pick up a new language and start from zero, or you can take a placement test and pick up where you left off. The test is generally pretty accurate and allows you to skip lessons that would be too easy for you.
The gamification of the entire website and app makes learning a fun competition between you and your friends, so take a look around and start studying a language!
You can check out their available language courses here.
If you’re learning an obscure language, a common language or any language in between, chances are good that you can find it on Transparent Language.
Transparent Language offers a unique platform that touches on all aspects of learning a foreign language—even some that you may not have thought of!
Do you want to make sure your spelling is perfect? Try some of the spelling exercises. Do you want a native accent? Make use of the voice recognition features to compare your accent to real natives.
Not sure if you can figure out how to type in another language with a different alphabet? They have fully mapped on-screen keyboards that allow you to learn to type quickly and accurately in another language.
Along with these truly innovative tools, Transparent Language offers grammar exercises and tons of supplemental material to help you learn the culture and function of each language.
With tools to cover any skill that you can think of, Transparent Language is a great way to pick up a new language and develop your skills from day one, especially for beginners.
Their innovative tools to improve accent, comprehension and grammar will help you handle yourself with confidence in your target language—whatever that language may be.
You can view their list of available languages and programs here.
Living Language functions on the principle that building blocks are established at every point in the language learning process.
Every learner will start with words and phrases that are actually useful and progress to real sentences.
Finally, after sentences, words and phrases can be combined naturally, and the learner will easily advance to conversations and expressions.
This system is designed to give learners the real ability to create language in their heads, not simply listen and regurgitate what they’ve already heard.
Living Language takes advantage of a multi-sensory approach that combines audio, visual, interactive and written practice. At each level in the program, retention of the previous levels is stressed, and building blocks are added to the foundation that has already been laid.
Not only does Living Language have a reliable and trusted language learning system, but they also have free online resources and an online language lab that accompanies the program.
View available languages and get started here.
With this wealth of resources at your disposal, you can progress to conversing in a new language with confidence.
No matter what program you choose, it’s important to keep a few details in mind at every step in your language learning journey:
- Create goals and share them with an accountability partner.
- Create a daily schedule and stick to it.
- Don’t give up, because that’s ultimately the only way not to succeed.
If you keep these three tips in mind and stick to them, you’ll breeze through a second language like you never thought possible.
Best of luck to you on this exciting journey!
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.