Learning a Language Online

Does anyone have experience with the language websites such as Babbel, Rosetta, etc.

I’m thinking of subscribing to one and would like feedback on your experiences.


I’d be keen to hear about this too. I plan on moving to Germany in the next couple of years and using Duolingo, which is fine, but need to immerse myself in the language for a better experience (too soon to start speaking with Germans, I think! :wink: )

I was not very impressed with Rosetta. I took a look at it for someone studying Spanish and felt it was overpriced. I also found the way the material was presented lacking but I am not aware of the viable alternatives.

Duolingo is terrific for a beginner, for sure.

Bill, it is never too early to start speaking with some willing German people! That is one of the best ways to learn a foreign language. Usually the way a new language is handled, understanding is a lot harder than reading, writing or speaking.

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Danke! @Katie I need to put myself out there a bit more. I’ll have to find some willing victims, cough, participants! :wink:

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Take a look at this thread - some useful advice for general language learning and German-specific resources too. Good luck!

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Awesome, @tomtom! Danke schön! (okay I’ll stop with German words in this thread!)

Tchuss! :wink:

Yes! I love Duolingo. It might not get you to the level of mastery but it will give you a pretty solid proficiency in most of the languages they have courses for (some courses are better than others). If a gamified experience is helpful for you I highly recommend it. It is super helpful for me because I am committing to maintaining my daily streak (591 days now).


Pimsleur language learning methodology seems to me to be the best out there - and v. conducive to online / computer-based learning.

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I recommend the Michel Thomas method (https://www.michelthomas.com/). It’s not gamified like other apps but it is an audio course. They have an app: ‎Michel Thomas Language Library on the App Store

This helped me improve Spanish immensely and is available for many languages. It was my big breakthrough as it gave me lots of confidence.

I tried DuoLingo and liked it, but there’s nothing like an amazing professor. Michel was a genius teacher.

I’ve used Spanish Dulingo and my wife has used German Dulingo daily for years now. It’s a great way to learn words and some basic sentence constructs, but does not go into enough depth to allow us to do much more than order a meal in a Spanish- or German-speaking restaurant. We’ve recently purchased courses through The Great Courses and they are excellent. You just need to wait for a course to go on sale or look to bundle courses to get the best deals. As example, I believe when I bought Spanish I and Spanish II, they were around $345 for Spanish I and $45 (on sale) for Spanish II, but I was able to buy the two as a bundle for around $145 total.

It depends on the language. Duolingo is a great start but some of its languages are better than others. For English speakers, I think Spanish is the most fully featured language, with French and German close behind.

I find Kwiziq best for Spanish - it really gets to the heart of the language and despite its focus on grammar, you learn a lot of vocabulary with it. Unfortunately they don’t do German, and they charge separately for each language.

Lingvist seems to easily identify the German words I don’t know / can’t retain. Unfortunately, it does nothing to help me learn them.

There are YouTube sites that are really helpful for many languages, so search for any language you want to learn and use what you find in addition to Duolingo.

Apple and Kindle have foreign language versions of books you may have read in English.

Streaming TV foreign language TV shows with subtitles in the foreign language rather than English is also recommended by many.

As a long term Duolingo user, I completely recommend getting started on a language with it, but here’s my assessment of the downsides

  • The approach to grammar is scattershot in some languages
  • the lessons are in a strict order on the first pass through and you can’t prioritize.
  • doing level 1 of a lesson unlocks subsequent lessons, but there’s also time-consuming grinding up 5 levels of each section, which may be good for your learning but seems inefficient.
  • I subscribed to go ad free and to get course download for air travel. They then changed the download capability and all my downloaded courses got deleted. Now Duolingo decides what lessons get downloaded, meaning you can’t make any forward progress offline, only grind on previously studied material.
  • once subscribed, instead of ads there are a series of annoying dialogs after each lesson, many of them to do with streak freezes and streak preservation. I don’t give a monkeys about streak and don’t want to hear about it anymore.
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I just wanted to add that I read the title of this thread and thought “Oh! Well I’ve used some for learning python!” and then realized that was not the kind of language being discussed.



As one who took Fortran in college, it also crossed my mind as I wrote that subject line. :rofl:



Do you run across many native Fortran speakers these days? :slightly_smiling_face:


I use Rosetta and Rocket Languages together. I’m a visual learner, so I find the way Rosetta links images and language together powerful for me. (Also, I got a lifetime subscription for $99 …) However, I don’t find Rosetta particularly useful for mastering grammar, especially if you are learning a language with grammatical rules that you haven’t encountered before. For instance, I’m studying Russian, which is a highly inflected language when compared to English (it has six grammatical cases vs English’s three); has different expectations regarding word order; and has any number of treacherous things for a native English speaker like the infamous verbs of motion. If I didn’t already have a basic grasp of these things before I started using Rosetta, I’m certain I would never have wrapped my head around them using Rosetta alone.

Rocket Languages does explain grammar and usage in addition to the usual suite of interactive tools (e.g., flashcards, quizzes, “hear it / say it” exercises, etc.).

All that being said, I got off to a good start by studying with a native speaker in a small group setting where we were forced to use Russian as much as possible. It made learning on my own later much more straightforward. I highly recommend doing something like that if you can, and in the era of Zoom, that kind of learning is easier to arrange.

This tracks with my experience of Duolingo, too. The gamification drives me around the bend. I use it to keep myself out of Twitter when I’m waiting in a line somewhere.

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My language learning has focussed on reading and understanding, rather than writing or speaking.

That said, get television programs or films you love and know really really well, and listen to the dubbed versions and read the captions in the language you are learning.

For me, I used the original Star Trek shows, and the first three Star Wars movies. Watch them repeatedly, not just once or twice.


This is a great suggestion, thank you @Medievalist. When I was in Pachuca, Mexico, the family I was staying with took me to see Gladiator! It was in English but with Mexican Spanish subtitles and yes, I gained a lot from that one showing. So doing this a few times as you suggest would be beneficial! :smiley: