Free resources are increasing in quality!
When I was a young language learning student about 10 years ago, free resources were rare, and if they were available, they were not high in quality. 10+ years ago, language learning apps were unheard of. Google Chrome extensions weren’t even a thing then. I had to go to second-hand bookstores to find some kind of resource just to try to learn a language.
We’re spoilt for choice today with the amount of free and paid resources, including browser extensions, audio apps, free grammar lessons and flashcard tools. Here’s a list of my favorites.
1. Toucan - learn a language passively online through reading
Type of resource: Google Chrome Extension
Languages available: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese
Toucan is my go-to Google Chrome extension. If you’ve ever wanted to learn a few words here and there without reading content fully in one language, Toucan is for you! I keep it on and switch between Korean, Japanese and Spanish, depending on which language I feel like I need to improve my vocabulary in.
Toucan calls itself “The ultimate multitasking flex.” While you’re browsing any website, whether it be Medium, Wikipedia or someone else’s blog, Toucan will show you words and phrases in the language you want to learn. You’ll pick up vocabulary faster when you see it in context. What’s more, you can also take language quizzes and play games to assess your knowledge in the words you learn.
2. Polygloss - practice your writing with interactive games
Type of resource: Android app (iOS coming soon)
Languages available: Unlimited options, given you match with a player who chose the same language
Eitene Dalcol is a computational linguist who developed Polygloss as a master’s project, so you can be sure the app is based on solid linguistic research.
Polygloss connects you with people who learn or speak your target language and allows you to play games with them. It’s simple – just text and images – but it sure is effective for practicing writing, reading and vocabulary. Guess images with friends, write creatively, and expand your vocabulary – these are the key things you’ll be doing on Polygloss. The app still has a small user base, so there’s a chance that you might even match with me for a game or two!
Fun fact: I recently joined the team at Polygloss and will be working on design ops with them over the next few months, so keep a lookout for new feature improvements coming soon!
3. Bluebird Languages - audio powerhouse
Type of resource: Customizable audio lessons
Languages available: 164 languages!!! – including Hausa, Mongolian, Uzbek, Arabic dialects
The treasure trove for anyone who enjoys audio lessons and is learning rarer languages. Apart from having all the popular languages, Bluebird is excellent for smaller languages that might have limited resources. My favorite part is that you can customize a curriculum by selecting topics that interest you. That means you can skip boring stuff… like sports, if you aren’t interested in that, and just listen to verbs, vocabulary and phrases related to your specific hobbies. I can’t believe this much content is available for free.
Bluebird has 12.5 million lessons and if you play them non-stop, it would take 713 years to hear it all. If you’re serious about language learning, you won’t waste time on “gimmicks or tedious grammar” here, as they claim. Try out Bluebird to listen to audio lessons and quizzes to up your speaking abilities at lightspeed.
4. Inkah (Chinese & Korean)
Type of resource: Google Chrome extension
Languages available: Korean & Chinese
Inkah is a brand new product to help you learn useful and relevant vocabulary in context through reading and watching interesting content. It’s a browser extension that you can use to hover and look up words in Korean and Mandarin Chinese (Simplified, Traditional, Pin yin, Zhu yin). There is also text to speech and tone coloring! Inkah allows you to save words to bookmarks to track what you know. What’s more, you can export bookmarks to flashcards like Anki and Quizlet!
For Netflix integration, you can try Inkah to hover over subtitles and access popup dictionaries. View target language, transliteration, and native language subtitles all at the same time with this great extension.
5. Clozemaster - practice vocabulary in hundreds of languages
Type of resource: Web and mobile app
Languages available: 68 languages, including Icelandic, Yiddish, Bengali, Tagalog, Lithuanian, Kazakh…you name it!
Looking for resources in a not-so-popular language? Clozemaster probably has the language you’re learning. Tired of single-word flashcards? You’ll learn new phrases rapidly with Clozemaster. Emphasizing context, Clozemaster teaches you new vocabulary and phrases through the activity of filling in the blanks.
Clozemaster is completely free, but you can sign up to get access to stats and insights if you’re a serious learner.
6. Journaly - get corrections on your writing
Type of resource: Writing correction website
Languages available: Unlimited, given there is someone who can correct the language for you!
Remember when italki used to have notebooks where people could correct your writing? It was eons ago and they’ve moved away from the feature now. With this gap in the market in mind, Robin McPherson single-handedly developed a new language journal & correction tool called Journaly. Look no further if you enjoy writing but need a community of native speakers and fellow language learners to correct or comment on your writing. I have been a part of the Journaly beta testing team for a while and was excited to see this new product being released so that more people can use it. Sign up to Journaly for free and I’ll see you there!
7. Ling App - holistic lessons for multiple languages
Type of resource: Website and mobile app
Languages available: 60 languages, including Thai, Korean, Afrikaans, Hungarian and Vietnamese
Free up to a point, then you have to unlock lessons.
Ling app is designed to make language learning quick, fun and easy. The interface is colorful, has a cute monkey character guiding you along, and includes a chatbot to practice what you’ve learnt if you’re not yet ready to use the language in real life. There are hundreds of dialogs on daily life topics, audio for every lesson, and extensive grammar explanations.
Great for people who are dabbling or exploring new languages, Ling has 2 beginner units for free, with all features and 60 languages included. The premium categories and more lessons can be purchased at a small cost to support the team who build and maintain the content. You can get a 7 day free trial on any subscription plan using the button below.
8. SpanishDict (Spanish only)
Type of resource: Website and mobile app
Languages available: Spanish <> English
I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with a website this much. SpanishDict started out as a simple Spanish/English dictionary, but has since progressed to becoming a single resource for grammar lessons, word of the day with example sentences, pronunciation tips and even contains vocabulary specific to certain textbooks. Where would my Spanish learning be without SpanishDict? I don’t even want to think about that.
My favorite part of the website is the free grammar lessons. You choose from a difficult topic, progress through lessons with teaching videos, and take some quizzes. There’s audio so you can improve your pronunciation too. If you’re not interested in grammar, the dictionary itself is powerful and contains great example sentences.
Do you have any to add?
Leave a comment below to let me know what your favorite free resources are!