How To Learn A Language Fast

Homeschooling? Want to speak a new language for kicks? Check out these sites

Online language learning
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Embarking on the quest to learn a new language can be intimidating, so much in fact that many folks talk themselves out of the idea before they even get started. Being able to read, write and speak in a dialect other than your own is a skill that can pay dividends for the rest of your life, making it almost always a worthwhile endeavor. Below are some of the best options available across multiple desktop and mobile platforms.

There are many apps and online services available that take you through the entire process of learning a language, from teaching basic vocabulary all the way to speaking fluently. Whether you're interested in language learning to advance your career, enhance your travel experience, impress that special someone or you'd like to add it to your child's homeschooling curriculum, the key is starting here.

Duolingo - Best Free Language Learning Website

Duolingo
Screenshot from iOS

Language learning is broken down into bite-sized skills by Duolingo, with each lesson designed to feel like a video game. You accrue points when you successfully complete a module and lose a life when you're wrong, gaining experience points as you proceed just as you would in most role-playing games.

Since lessons are constructed as mini-games, you sometimes forget that you're learning but you certainly are. Fluency is tracked by percentage, which rises incrementally as you get closer to mastering the language. Duolingo charts the number of days in a row in which you've spent time learning, encouraging you to keep the streak alive as long as possible.

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Daily goals can be set at four different levels, ranging from Casual to Insane, and optionally tracked using your Google or Facebook account. If you already know some of the language you're trying to master, Duolingo offers a placement test that helps gauge exactly where in the program to start.

Duolingo lets you choose from over two dozen languages, and they even have learning tracks for High Valyrian and Klingon aimed at Game of Thrones and Star Trek fanatics. Full-featured mobile apps make it easy to meet your daily learning goal, even during the busiest of times, as you can always fit in a quick lesson or two on-the-go.

Although Duolingo doesn't dive as deep as some of the other options on this list when it comes to learning via real-life conversations or review modules customized towards your own individual interest, what you do get free of charge is quite impressive. A paid monthly subscription to Duolingo Plus removes advertisements and allows you to download lessons for offline usage, helpful for when you plan to continue learning in places where an internet connection is not available.

The Duolingo for Schools platform is also free and lets teachers incorporate these language learning tools into a classroom setting. Educators can control Duolingo through a centralized dashboard interface, allowing them to tailor lessons and feedback to each student individually if desired.

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Memrise - Language Learning Games To Maintain Interest

Memrise language learning
Screenshot from iOS

Memrise provides about two dozen languages to choose from and tens of thousands of native speaker videos, with the ability to sign up via email, Google or Facebook. Its beginner and advanced courses are also game-centric in many ways, with language learning broken out into structured levels. A leaderboard is posted alongside each course selection, showing weekly, monthly and all-time high scores in an effort to motivate the student through old-fashioned competition and bragging rights.

Ziggy, your "personal learning buddy" who is ever-present throughout your lessons, actually evolves from an egg into a larger and more powerful creature as you reach higher milestones. Speed Review, Listening Skills, Difficult Words and several other challenges are all part of the process, crafted to make you more comfortable in the new dialect with each passing day.

Included in the Memrise app is a chatbot button, which allows you to enhance your skills through real conversations. Grammabot, launched in a similar method, provides a series of questions and prompts you to form responses using a specific set of words. These bots, only available in the Pro version, improve your grammatical structure and vocabulary through an interactive back-and-forth.

While a decent amount of learning tools and content are accessible for free, you'll need to purchase a monthly subscription or package to Memrise Pro if you wish to utilize bots and play some of the better games. The paid version also lets you learn in offline mode on Android and iOS devices, eliminating any excuses for skipping a day or two, and utilizes results data to determine which time of the day you learn best.

The option is given to create your own course within Memrise's browser-based interface, which is then synced with your app for mobile access. You can also take other courses created by fellow community members, or use Memrise's free flash card game intended for teachers.

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busuu - Native Language Speakers Guide You

busuu language learning
Screenshot from iOS

Busuu takes a slightly different approach to language learning by employing what is essentially a social, crowdsourced model with a global reach. Many of your speaking and writing exercises are corrected and graded by actual native speakers, as opposed to some automated process, ensuring that you receive feedback tailored specifically to your current knowledge level.

You're given the ability to add these folks to a friends list, and even designate them as your preferred graders for future lessons. You can also pay it forward if you wish, assisting other busuu members that might be trying to learn your native language.

The service's vocabulary trainer feature also lets you conversate with native speakers across a dozen popular dialects. If you already possess a basic handle on the language you're trying to learn, placement tests allow you to start busuu's program at the appropriate juncture. You can even earn official McGraw-Hill certificates as you conquer certain levels.

Free flash cards are available if you want to get a feel for busuu, but access to most of its features requires a Premium subscription -- available in monthly increments for $9.99, with prices gradually declining if you spring for a longer commitment. The company behind busuu claims that 22 hours of its paid service is the equivalent of a semester-long college language course.

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Rosetta Stone - Expensive but Battle-tested Software

Rosetta Stone language learning
Screenshot from iOS

Somewhat of a household name when it comes to language learning, Rosetta Stone is only recommended for those who are definitely serious about learning a new language since it is far from cheap. It does offer a free demo to see if the teaching style is right for you, which includes total immersion techniques and top-notch accent coaching.

Rosetta Stone's interactive lessons are sprinkled with real-life situations in over 20 different languages. The integrated TruAccent speech recognition functionality works to develop correct pronunciation, with the end goal to have you speaking as if it was your first language. You are asked to read stories out loud, letting you practice in an interesting, enjoyable method all the while analyzing your cadence and pronunciation.

You're given the opportunity to interact with native speaker coaches, many whom are long-tenured educators who add another level to the program beyond just your predesignated lessons. Rosetta Stone also offers a downloadable audio companion which can be used to continue your lessons while offline, as well as detailed phrasebooks which can be useful while traveling or when you just need to say something common in an everyday situation.

The overall build-up of the program is gradual and progressive in a way that gets you comfortable with the new language, ramping up to harder and more immersive lessons without even realizing it. Rosetta Stone has stood the test of time despite its relatively high price tag, with the option of monthly packages or a one-time fee offered, because it is battle-tested and proven to get the job done if followed correctly.

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Babbel - Passive, Interest-based Lessons

Babbel language learning
Screenshot from iOS

Babbel doesn't really take the immersive approach that some of the others on the list do, instead opting to provide tips and other guidance in your native language as you proceed through its lessons. Using a combination of your native tongue and the new dialect as opposed to total immersion, the "Babbel Method" is designed so that your brain passively learns based on dialogue content.

Keying in on grammatical concepts that you already used as a child to learn, Babbel provides lessons that typically span between ten and fifteen minutes. Many of these are interest-based, containing vocabulary that is geared towards your individual likes. Interactive learning with speech recognition corrects your pronunciation and accent until it's on point with a native speaker.

Babbel's custom review manager takes what you've learned and presents it in entirely different ways, ensuring that you're not just memorizing but actually processing and retaining new words and phrases. Your first lesson is free, and the subsequent cost varies based on your commitment. The shortest is a month for $12.95, while paying for a year in advance lowers that amount significantly.

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Tandem - Always Someone To Help You Learn

Tandem language learning
Screenshot from iOS

A very interesting concept in learning, Tandem's mobile language exchange pairs you with people from all over the world so that you can practice and learn their native language. With over a million community members spanning 150-plus countries, the app's large and extensive member base all but guarantees that there is always someone available to connect with.

Tandem lets you find an exchange partner in one or more of the following languages at no charge: English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish. Visual and audio interaction provides a very personal experience, and you also have the option to request a professional tutor for a fee by booking prepaid lessons during your desired time window.

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