Traveling to a new country on vacation may result in you falling madly in love with the environment, weather, and culture. While English remains the international language and most tourist spots will not leave you requiring a translator, being able to speak the language of the locals — especially in a nation you visit frequently — makes everything more enjoyable. Thankfully, with modern PCs and the internet, it's really easy to get started. All you need to do is choose a learning software that supports the language you want and your available budget.
Here are some of the best language software suites available.
Rosetta Stone has been around for decades. Founded in 1992, it has offered premium plans (around $120 for 12 months online access) to anyone looking to learn a new language on a PC. But the company has evolved with the times and now offers mobile apps, games and other methods to help you out.
Don't just take my word for it — I took some time to learn a little Turkish — PC Mag rates Rosetta Stone as the best commercial option, noting in its review:
Rosetta Stone is a wonderful, polished, and technically competent language learning program, one that's especially good for beginners who are looking to build a foundation of knowledge on their own time. If true fluency is your goal, you will probably want to also consider other types of instruction, such as local classes or private tutoring, but Rosetta Stone can definitely help you build a solid foundation.
And not only can you learn on your own (with the aid of confirmation via a microphone) but fluent tutors are available should you need a little help. It's all good using software to make the process of learning a new language that much easier, but actually speaking to a real person as if you were in a class is a fantastic benefit with Rosetta Stone. If you can afford the subscription for 12 or 24 months, it's well worth considering.
There's even an app on Xbox.
If you don't have $10 to spare each month, Duolingo is a well-known free suite that offers access to courses that cover popular languages and even Klingon from Star Trek. All you need to do is choose a language, create an account and you're good to go. Like Rosetta Stone, mobile apps are available but you won't be able to connect with live tutors.
What Duolingo offers is a gamified structure, rewarding you with experience points (XP) for completing sessions and even allowing you to configure goals. Should you create an account, everything you achieve is tracked online with an easy-to-digest dashboard, showing how much XP you've earned and how much progress has been made.
It's a great, affordable way to learn many languages, including Czech, Indonesian, Japanese, and Korean, though it is not perfect and can lead to instances where words aren't really pronounced correctly.
Sporting just 14 languages, there's a slight chance Babbel doesn't offer a course for you but more are in the works and should be available at a future date. Supported by the European Regional Development Fund, Babbel is a commercial suite that requires you to purchase a subscription ($12.95 per month) for access to the online material. Mobile apps are also available for Android and iOS.
Live Fluent praised the pricing in its review, but was a little concerned about the readiness for the real world:
Babbel's low price tag is also a plus. It's most expensive price point is $12.95 for a one month subscription, which is much less than higher end courses like Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone. Babbel's shortcoming is that it doesn't prepare you very well for real life conversations. You simply aren't required to think of your own words or phrases, you usually pick an answer from a predetermined list.
Babbel also has a solid score of 4/5 on Trustpilot with nearly 6,000 reviews, so it's certainly loved by many who have used it to learn a few phrases before heading on vacation.
For something a little more instructor-driven, give Fluenz a try. This suite offers packages (starting from around $177) for home uses as well as education, which is ideal for classes where students need to be engaged. Even when learning alone, Fluenz makes it feel more interactive, as opposed to using a simple text-to-speech system. Just like other options, you have access to online and mobile resources.
Fluenz takes pride in offering a more mature solution for learning languages, taking into account culture and how a language is used. Learning words and phrases is one thing, actually saying everything that makes sense to a local can be a whole different ballgame. Top Ten Reviews was impressed by the overall experience, even after taking into account the expensive price tag:
Fluenz's no-nonsense, beautiful platform and practical lessons make it a good program for teenagers and adults preparing to travel to Spanish-speaking countries.
More details can be found over on the Fluenz website.
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