Updated: Nov 7
Author: Julia Bobowska
Date of Publication: 16/08/2022
What online language learning course should you choose?
It is no secret that online language learning services have been a big market for a while now. They provide varied interactive resources for learning languages that are accessible at your fingertips. You can choose a course based on what aspect of the language you are most interested in, whether it is writing, speaking, or listening. You can choose your course based on the amount of interaction you want to have with a tutor. There are courses that are based entirely on individual effort and practice, and others which are more like teacher-led classes. You can also make your decision based on the price of the course, your language level, or the user-friendliness of the website/app. In other words, looking for the right one for you might be an overwhelming task. So, we want to make this task a little less daunting for you. Therefore, the only way is to describe what the best online language courses should offer.
We realise that if you are looking to sign up for an online language course you want to take advantage of the flexibility it would offer in terms of times of lessons and content. Or maybe you need something that would keep you making some regular progress in your learning because you want to achieve a certain result by the end of the course. For example, you will be able to communicate while travelling in a foreign country. Or maybe still you are looking for a cheaper alternative for a face-to-face language course. We will consider all three of these factors to find the best online course out there for you. So our role is to suggest what we have found as the most worthy option.
What should you consider when choosing a course?
The first thing to consider when looking for the right online language course is the flexibility it offers. Firstly, in terms of time during the week that you want to sit down to learn, and the amount of time that you want to dedicate to it. Secondly, what do you want to learn? What kind of content would make learning more interesting for you? Maybe you would like to have some flexibility and guidance in terms of these two things. Research in the field of second language acquisition underlines the importance of repetition and regularity. This is because fluency comes from a memory bank of utterances we’ve spoken and heard in the past, not from abstract rules of grammar.
However, we realise that without some sort of structure it becomes easy to get demotivated and distracted. It is very beneficial to be able to follow a specific step-by-step program and see your progress tracked as you learn. A great way to introduce some regularity into your learning is also taking advantage of mobile apps and taking your lessons on the go. It might also make lessons feel more casual and entertaining.
2. Your goal
Why do you want to take up an online language course? Are you a beginner or are you just looking to polish your skills? The number of courses available and the material they offer is immense. Therefore, it’s good to narrow down what you’re looking for. To know what you want you should first know what you need. What is your level of proficiency in your target language? Some websites focus mainly on beginners in mind while others have lessons for all levels of proficiency. Moreover, it matters whether you want to focus on speaking and pronunciation or maybe writing and grammar. We are focusing on tutor-less courses assuming that you want your learning to be as flexible as possible and so you are considering an individual learning style. There are many courses to use speech recognition tools to practice your pronunciation without any interaction with a native speaker. This is a useful aspect to consider especially if you want to acquire or improve your language skills for a specific purpose. For example, you might want it for travelling abroad or working in a specific environment or field. Are you interested in the technicalities of the language at all? Is your aim simply clear and effective communication in daily situations? Or do you want to learn about the nuances of meaning or maybe even the etymology of words? These questions will help you find the best option in terms of the content of the course.
Lastly, how much are you willing to spend on your course? Do you prefer a subscription-based service or a “pay once and have access to everything” sort of situation? What do you want to be included in the price? Some websites also offer access to a mobile app once you buy a course to allow you a more flexible use and a more effective learning experience. You might also have more freedom if you sign up for classes with a tutor or maybe at the price of a lesser commitment to the learning.
What course would we recommend?
After taking all of the variables into consideration we have found a course that presents the best offer in terms of flexibility, expected result, and price.
We found that Rocket Languages is the best website offering online language courses, based on the criteria mentioned above. They offer courses in 14 of the most popular languages, each one at a beginner level and some also with 2 higher levels. There are websites that offer up to 70 different languages. However, it has to be said that Rocket Languages has a strong focus on the quality of their courses with each level having 60+ hours of material. When you complete one, you have a solid communicative base in your chosen language, and not just a range of vocabulary and basic phrases.
The design of their webpage is very user-friendly and inviting. There is a clear layout and the various textual, visual and audio materials make it engaging. The courses that Rocket Languages offer are made for individual learning which offers a lot of flexibility. You can choose how much you do in a given day. They do ask you, however, for your daily goal, which is a good way of mobilizing yourself. The content is very comprehensive for each difficulty level, but you can also tailor it to your needs by adding to your vocabulary list. If you want to learn on the go, Rocket Languages is also available as a mobile app. They have a lot of downloadable audio material, which makes it perfect for learning in natural way. Each audio is long enough to communicate information in an interesting way but short enough to keep your attention. They feature English-speaking hosts as well as native speakers. It can serve as a way to immerse yourself in the language, exposing yourself to it in addition to more comprehensive studying. However, you don’t need to worry about missing something important. You can always go back to the material you’ve already gone through to remember it better.
The whole course utilises various elements to keep you engaged and make it easier to absorb the information. The audio elements are reinforced with subtitles as well. They take you step-by-step through the lesson which entails vocabulary and grammar. However, the greatest focus is on your ability to reproduce the language in a real way. Here comes in voice-recognition software, which allows you to practice pronunciation with feedback without the need for a tutor.
Another strength of Rocket Languages is that they teach you real-life language, not textbook phrases. It is especially beneficial when you want to be equipped to use the language in real-life contexts. So, there is an emphasis on speaking skills. The interactive exercises help in getting you to actively use your target language as well as reinforce your memory. The steps are:
● Flashcards which you have to translate into your target language (you can choose the difficulty of the words)
● “Hear it! Say it!” where you have to reproduce a word recording it
● “Write it!” where you have to reproduce a word writing it
● “Know it!” where you have to record yourself repeating a given written word
● Quiz with multiple choice questions to test yourself
This method of memory reinforcement is excellent for making sure you keep up with the gradually increasing level of difficulty. In addition to the basic material there are also culture lessons. In fact, these focus on grammar and vocabulary and explain things in more detail at the end of a lesson.
Finally, we found that progress tracking is a really beneficial feature of Rocket Languages. You can see your position on the leaderboard compared to other students using the website. Moreover, the dashboard shows you the points you scored on a certain day and your streak of successive days you logged in. This is a little bonus that still is a nice way to keep you motivated.
It is noteworthy that one of the languages the website offers is the American Sign Language. This is something that we have not seen on any other platform designed in such a comprehensive way. Another point that has to be made here is that Rocket Languages doesn’t focus on English speakers solely. They also offer an English L2 course for Spanish speakers. The courses are a result of consultation with linguistic experts and polyglots. This is where the balance comes in the approach they have towards effective learning.
Rocket Languages has a wide range of materials, natural and casual approach to learning, and a structure that keeps you engaged, focused and on track. It’s a great program for beginners and intermediates who want to be able to start communicating confidently in their target language in a short time.
Rocket Languages is unique because once you pay the fixed price for a course of your choice you gain an unlimited lifetime access to it. You will not have to deal with subscription terms and consider whether they are worth it. Even the free trial doesn’t have a time limit.
Now here are some final words about the quality of the courses offered by Rocket Languages. The website has been up since 2005, so it is a veteran among online language courses. It has seen a multitude of programs come and goover the years, itself standing the test of time. In addition, it is a program designed for people who want to become conversational in their target language in a practical way. It focuses more on comprehension and speaking than reading and writing. However, as this is something that you can practice easily with materials, you can get elsewhere for free. We don't see that as a big deficiency. All in all, the courses offered by Rocket Languages are some of the best in the vast pool of online language courses. This is because they provide quality material in an engaging and effective way for a fair price.
Check them out here: https://www.rocketlanguages.com
● Noprival, N., Rafli, Z., Nuruddin, N., & De Felice, D. (2021). Indonesian polyglots: Lived experiences of adults learning languages online and beyond the classroom. The Qualitative Report, 26(2), 352-366. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2021.4555