The U.S. is another story entirely. While most high schools and universities have some language requirements, but they vary wildly in their scope. By the time we’re a few years out of school, most Americans lose any momentum we may have picked up in learning a language.
Having at least conversational fluency in another language is not only helpful when traveling and interacting with immigrants in your community, it’s also a great skill to put on a resume. If you’re interviewing with a company that does a lot of business in Asia, knowing Japanese or Mandarin can give you a competitive edge.
The most effective way to learn a new language (besides just moving to a place where it’s spoken) is to make it a habit. Thanks to the magic of technology, that’s easier now than ever. While you’re never going to become fluent in any language with technology alone, there’s tons of software and apps out there that attempt to make learning a language as fun and engaging as possible so that you’ll be motivated to keep at it.
Here are our favorite language-learning tools that will help you out, whether you’re starting from nothing or just trying to remember everything you forgot from your Sophomore Spanish class.
You’ve probably heard of Rosetta Stone already but if you’re not familiar, it’s the mother of all language-learning software with almost 30 languages offered. They started out with CD-ROMs, but since no one really has a CD drive anymore they’ve moved everything online. (You can still purchase a downloadable software, but it doesn’t have as much content.)
Rosetta Stone is the PCMag Editor’s Choice in paid language software because of its intuitive interface and immersive approach. There are literally no instructions in English — you have to figure everything out with context clues like you would if you were visiting a foreign country.
Rosetta Stone uses a subscription model, with tiered pricing for different subscription lengths. A 3-month subscription is $49 ($16/month) while a 24-month subscription (the longest they offer) is $149, or $6.21/month. Plus, students get 10% off everything with code UNiDAYS.
This Rosetta Stone competitor is a similar idea with a slightly different approach. Rocket Languages is another online language learning system. Unlike Rosetta Stone, the lessons aren’t completely immersive. This is the software that feels most like a college language course so if those worked for you, Rocket Languages should too. It’s divided into three levels, which mirrors the beginner, intermediate, and advanced course structure found at most schools.
Another thing that sets Rocket Languages apart from Rosetta Stone is the lifetime access. Rather than pay by length of subscription, you pay by level. $179.94 gets you lifetime access to all three levels in the language of your choice.
You can sign up at the Rocket Languages website, or grab one of these bundles from The Mashable Shop. You’ll get lifetime access to levels one and two of Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian, German or Chinese for $49. That’s $70 off the Rocket Languages price of $119.96.
If you prefer learning from an instructor and interacting with fellow classmates, Udemy offers tons of language courses for all levels of learners. From Chinese pronunciation to American Sign Language, the options are (almost) endless. Udemy also offers lifetime access to the courses you purchase, including access to a student forum where you can interact with others taking the same courses.
The free app Duolingo is the most fun I’ve ever had learning a language. It works like a mobile game, offering in-game currency when you complete lessons and visualizing your progress. It’s been consistently at the top of app store charts and has a glowing 4.7 stars on iTunes.