This is one of the best resources out there to help you practice your target language. italki is a community of teachers and tutors that are eager to teach and help you learn. The website is dual faceted: one model matches individuals looking to improve their language skills in a form of language exchange; the second is a pay per lesson system. Both have great advantages and can be extremely useful depending on your circumstance.
In the first model, individuals are matched together based on their native and target languages. If you speak fluent English and want to learn French, you may be matched with someone from France that wants to learn English. You can arrange a form of preferred communication, whether that be email, text, video or audio call. From there you will mutually help one another in a language exchange. This is a great way to challenge yourself and your language skills. Sometimes explaining a simple topic helps to create deeper understanding. Additionally, describing and explaining concepts in your target language will really help to reinforce your ability.
The second model is a paid lesson system. You purchase credits which can then be redeemed for lessons provided by professional teachers or community tutors. Often times tutors pricing will be significantly lower than that of a certified teacher but they may not have access to the same level of content. Professional teaches can charge slightly more but they also come with the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you improve the areas you want. Try a few lessons until you find someone that fits, this site is an amazing resource that gives you the flexibility to schedule lessons or exchanges whenever you want.
Duolingo has become very popular over the last few years. It remains one of the better cross-platform apps to help aid your studies. This app adds an aspect of “play” to language learning while still presenting relevant content. There are many languages available and many more on the way. Information is presented very gradually and lessons build off one another to allow you to progress through the language. You are able to practice reading, writing, listening and speaking which is a great way to keep your mind engaged. Recent updates have included new features such as stories and conversation bots which really add a dynamic change to the older lessons. One thing to keep in mind with this app is that although it does provide some grammar notes on the web version; it should not be used in isolation to learn a language. Duolingo is a great way to make language learning more habitual and to help solidify some of the grammar and vocabulary you are learning, but there isn’t enough detail to learning a language solely through the app.
Memrise is a fun flashcard application and website that is great for learning vocabulary. You can create your own list or choose from a plethora of community generated “decks”. The system is designed around spaced repetition and words will reappear for you to review or learn at varying intervals. This really helps to transfer vocabulary or concepts from short term memory into long term memory. Memrise can be used as a website or your mobile device which makes it really convenient to keep up with.
Tandem is a language exchange application for your mobile device. It is a great way to get in touch with native speakers for practice with reading, writing, and of course speaking. You select your native language and which languages you want to learn and are then matched with individuals. You can read through profiles and find a language buddy that shares similar interests or hobbies which helps to keep the conversations moving. If you are shy or have trouble thinking of subjects to talk about you can use one of their built in “ice breaker” games which are fun and interesting. If you choose to communicate mainly by messaging you can make and receive corrections within the application which is great for fixing common errors. Recent updates to this app have included a translator feature which allows you to quickly translate words and sentences you are unsure of without leaving the conversation. Tandem puts you in contact with hundreds of native speakers at any given time which means that even if you only have a few minutes a day to spare you can make the most of your language learning time.
Other Useful Websites
ThoughtCo. is a great website for articles and information on a wide array of topics including languages. In particular, there French section includes a really well laid out 6 month self-study guide. Each week is broken down into various topics with graduating difficulty. The guide also includes links to articles with explanations, sound files, and examples of the various topics. This is a really nice guide if you are looking for a structured self-study approach to kick off your French studies.
This is a great website for beginners. There are lots of mini lessons with examples and audio. The best part about this site are the stories. There are currently 4 short stories with French and English translation as well as a slow audio track to follow along. This is really helpful for reading this tough to pronounce words and boosting your comprehension.