I love learning languages.
As I told you in a previous post, I have been learning languages all my life. I have an everlasting love for English, I am quite fluent in Spanish, I kind of struggle in German – but like the language anyway. Lately, I’ve been feeling a weakness tough. I feel I need to speak French too. Every time I go to France – which happens way too rarely, unfortunately – I can handle everything in English, but I feel I can have deeper conversations and better understanding of the culture if I knew the language.
So I decided to start learning French.
The best thing to do would be to hop on a train, go to Paris and spend there one year, going to school and just enjoying nice conversations while sitting in a café along the Seine. Well, open your eyes, Cinzia. Better go back to reality. Since I have no chances to go to France anytime soon nor time to enroll in a language school, the only thing I could do was launching my web browser and see what the Internet was offering.
Then I started looking for resources.
While researching for my own private needs, I realized that what I was doing could be somehow useful for you as well. While looking for French stuff, I could also check if there are good resources for learning and practicing Italian around the web – before my own Italian language courses launch *hint, hint*.
Here are the resources I selected for you.
Udemy is a great learning marketplace, where you can find all kinds of courses – from yoga to programming, from languages to gaming. For a serial course-taker like me, this is a kind of heaven. Regarding languages, you can find a lot of different courses – focusing on grammar, or pronunciation, or simply crash courses to survive in a foreign country. This means you can choose the type of course that is perfect for you. Courses are given by independent instructors, so the quality of the course depends on the quality of the instructor – but students can leave reviews and you can rely on them for your choice. Some of them are free, some others require a fee – but they are all reasonably priced and there are always offers and discounts as well. These are all the Italian courses.
Babbel is an online resource for learning languages only. You can sign up for free and try the first lesson of each course. If you want to access the full course, you then have to pay a monthly fee. Prices range from 9.95 Euros a month to 4.95 Euros a month if you sign up for 12 months. These subscriptions give you access to all the courses of the language of your choice. I tried the first lesson of a couple of courses, but I decided not to sign up for the whole course as I felt it was just another automated course and I was looking for something more personal. Anyway, prices are very good for the quantity and quality of resources offered.
Duolingo offers free online language courses. You can quickly sign up, create a profile and start learning. It is super easy and quick and – as for all free language resources – I’d recommend it to absolute beginners who want to approach the language. It is good for picking up words and building vocabulary, but I have the feeling that intermediate or advanced learners may definitely desire something more challenging. As many other free online resources, it is strongly based on community and interaction and – like all the other resources listed here – has its own social community and mobile app.
I have used Busuu a lot in the past for refreshing my German and I found it a very good resource for revising my vocabulary and writing skills. As Duolingo, I think it is a great resource to approach a new language and start building some vocabulary and basic grammar rules, even if you are immersed into full sentences from the very beginning – which can feel a bit overwhelming to some people. You can sign up for free and have access to some resources as a free member, but if you want to dive deeper into the language and access more resources – like videos, pdf printables and grammar lessons, you have to become a premium member. Premium memberships start from 14.99 Euros a month to 5.83 Euros a month if you sign up for 12 months. It is more expensive than Duolingo, but these fees give you full access to all materials on the site – so you can virtually learn 12 different languages altogether. The community there is great and very active. Social media accounts and mobile apps are available.
I set up a free account on Livemocha and then I ran away after half an hour. There is no fixed structure and you have to choose your lesson from a list that’s given you. I tried to start a beginner’s course, but somehow it seemed I didn’t have enough points. From what I understood, you can earn points by completing language activities and helping other people. If you want, you can buy beans, which give you access to further materials. Moreover, the site is highly based on community and, immediately after signing up, you get a thousand connection requests. Way too confusing and time consuming in my humble opinion, I prefer something more structured and clear.
So what? What should you choose?
First of all, it depends on what kind of learner you are. For example, I am kinda old school, so I prefer structured courses, with a clear scheme and a personal touch. This is why I chose a Udemy course for my French language learning needs. The course was described very well, the overview of the lessons was clear, there was a teacher to interact with and that was all I needed.
If you are more creative or like connecting with people, then you can choose one of the free resources offered by either Busuu or Duolingo – I can’t say anything about Livemocha, I found it way too confusing. Those resources are great if you are an absolute beginner and want to “get a feeling” of the language. Regarding Babbel, the first free lesson was not interesting enough for me to go on and pay for a subscription, so I can’t say much about it. But give it a try, first lessons are for free for each course, so you can try all of them!
But now tell me, have you tried some of these resources yourself? What is the story of your Italian language learning, if you have one? I’m dying to know!
If you are interested in improving your Italian language skills, I’d suggest you check Chiacchieriamo, your way of chatting with an Italian without moving from home.
Chiacchieriamo is a Skype chat which helps you practice and improve your Italian with a native speaker. If you want to give it a try, you can request a 30-minute free chat, so that we can meet each other and see if you like the service.