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Best sites to learn a language online

We've compared ratings and reviews and trialled popular online language courses to find the 4 best places to learn a new language online.

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How did we pick this list?

Our editorial team selected the online language courses on this list based on customer reviews and hands-on use.

Altogether, we compared 29 websites that consistently featured on "best sites to learn a language" lists. We then chose categories based on consumer interest, examined hundreds of customer reviews and trialled the courses ourselves to identify which sites fit the criteria of each category best.

We only chose language courses available on the Internet. We excluded any that were app-only.

More detail on methodology below.

Best site to learn a language for free: Busuu

Busuu

Pro

  • You can make your lessons as short or as long as you like
  • Social chat room lets you converse with others online

Con

  • Can only learn one language for free
  • Only 12 languages available to learn

Price: Free (Premium service from $8.33/month)

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Why we chose it

Busuu offers free access to language courses online and has a Trustpilot rating of 4.2.

For free, you can access one language in a variety of courses and levels. The site allows you to tailor a course to your needs, first asking for your proficiency in the language, how frequently you'd like to learn and for how long each day. It then offers a lesson to suit.

A premium subscription service is also available, which allows you to access more content, multiple languages, native speakers and an offline mode.

Upon testing it, we found it to have a good course structure that allows you to develop your words, sentences and conversations easily. It features loads of repetitive quizzes to aid with memorisation, explains the context in which you'll use certain words, and features conversations for a better idea of sentence-flow.

What it lacks in is quality lessons in grammar. This may hinder you when you reach more advanced levels.


Best to learn a language fast: Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone

Pro

  • Intensive course helps you learn a language in 6 weeks
  • Available offline

Con

  • Mic recognition software is prone to issues
  • Quite pricey

Price: US$11.99/month for one language, or US$14.92/month for unlimited languages

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Why we chose it

Rosetta Stone was chosen as the best website for fast learning as it has an intensive learning model which requires a 30-minute commitment per day, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. It also has a bespoke Dynamic Immersion method which utilises repetition and real-world context to reinforce the language. Plus it boasts a 4.1 Trustpilot score.

You do have to pay for the course, however, a free trial is also available. Each course comprises of beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, which are further broken down to suit your needs into categories such as travel, family, work or basis. This allows you to hone in on words and phrases you truly need.

There's also a focus on speaking and listening skills, which will have you conversing fast.

When we tested it, the first thing we noticed was the lack of explanations. Similar to how you'd learn in the classroom, speaking your native language is not allowed. You'll only get written, audio and visual queues in the language that you're learning. You'll be tested on reading, writing and listening, as well as speaking and pronunciation using your mic.

All quizzes are given a numerical grade as opposed to a pass or a fail. This works amazingly to drive you to succeed and get that perfect score the next time around.

Live tutoring is also available for a fee.


Best for kids: Duolingo

DuoLingo

Pro

  • 35 languages available to learn
  • Keeps a bank of words you've learnt to refer back to

Con

  • Free version has a lot of ads
  • Conversation isn't natural but more childlike/playful, for example, questions like "Are you a horse?"

Price: Free (Premium service from US$12.99/month)

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Why we chose it

While Duolingo caters for all ages, its gamified layout and cartoon-based design makes it a fun way for kids to learn. While its Trustpilot score is poor at 2.6/5, many of its complaints are around how basic it is. This might be okay though if your child is searching for an entry point into a new language.

Duolingo is free and available online and as an app. Lessons can be short, starting from 5-minutes long, which is ideal for short attention spans. Longer lessons of 10, 15 or 20 minutes are also available and you can take as many or as few as you like.

The course is clearly structured and, much like a game, completing lessons "unlocks" your next set. You can also receive points, achievement badges and gifts for participating in lessons and correctly answering questions.

When testing it out, we found that Duolingo was very easy to use and we quickly found ourselves addictively "playing" to earn those points. The course progression is arguably quite slow, with each lesson only teaching you a handful of words. The online version tests your reading, listening, writing and verbal skills using a workable mic.


Best paid language site: Babbel

Babbel

Pro

  • Simple learning method lets you move through courses fast
  • Review and revise section to make those words and sentences stick

Con

  • No opportunity to chat with native speakers
  • Only 14 languages available

Price: $19.99/month based on a monthly subscription, or $9.99/month based on a 1-year subscription

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Why we chose it

Babbel has over 13,000 Trustpilot reviews with a 4.7 rating. Customers praise its quality courses and customer service. Babbel has also been featured in Forbes as one of the best online language courses. Amazon users give it a 3.5, however the negative reviews are centred on technical abilities to access the program and not the program itself.

Babbel uses spaced out repetition, real-life conversations, consistent quizzes and review exercises and speech recognition software to teach you a new language. It's not a free service – it only offers the first lesson as a taster – but course rates are fair. They start at $19.99 for a month-long subscription.

Babbel offers courses at newcomer, beginner I, beginner II, pre-intermediate, intermediate, independent and advanced levels. There are also courses for specific skills and interests, such as refresher courses for those coming back to a language and listening and speaking courses for those looking to converse only.

There's no limit to how many lessons you can take daily, which allows for flexible learning.

When trialling our first lesson, we found Babbel to be easy to use, with more than enough repetition of reading, listening and writing for remembrance. It jumps straight into phrases and sentences, with less focus on building your vocabulary, to get you conversing faster.


Methodology

29
Brands considered
20
Site courses tested
4
Best sites chosen
  • We compared 29 language learning websites.
  • We compared language courses that were easily and readily available online.
  • We excluded sites that were language-specific, tutoring or coaching websites, and websites that offered translation services rather than language learning resources.
  • We tested the remaining 20 sites, completing one lesson from each.
  • The products on this list have been chosen by our editorial team and were not selected based on commercial relationships.

How long does it take to learn a new language?

The rate you learn at depends on how well you learn, your diligence in learning and how often you attend lessons and revise your coursework.

If we had to give you a number, you should expect to be fairly proficient in three months when learning at an intensive level. We've based this number on the minimum subscription time to learn a language on Rosetta Stone.

What is the best way to learn a new language?

The ability to learn a new language changes from person to person. Some people are auditory learners, some are visual learners and some are more tactile learners. Depending on the kind of learner you are, and how much time and dedication you can put toward learning, a language course that you find helpful might not work as well for someone else.

The best way to find out how you learn best is by trying different methods for yourself. If you can identify the type of learner that you are, this may help in narrowing down your options to find the language site that works best for you.

All of the above language courses offer free trials so that you can see whether you align with their teaching methods.

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