Friday Sound-Off: What Tool is Best for Learning a Language?


For today’s Friday Sound-Off I would like to get your opinion on something that should be of interest to most travel enthusiasts.  That topic is learning another language, and which tools that are available are the most successful.  There are a variety of tools that are available for purchase or for free, and all have their share of supporters and detractors.

Like your average American, I have had some language training in junior high, high school, and college, but I only know enough to not be completely lost when listening to others speak.  When I try and speak Spanish, it takes me a bit of time to articulate my thoughts and I often make mistakes in my word use and pronunciation.

With an upcoming trip to Peru and Ecuador this fall, I would really like to brush up on my Spanish.  I think this is a perfect opportunity to hone a skill that I have been meaning to improve for years, but have never found the time for.  I am sure there are plenty of other people out there would are in the same boat as me, so I thought this would be a great topic of discussion.

PC Reviews does an outstanding job of reviewing each of these providers, which I have listed below.  If you have any thoughts or opinions on any of these tools, I would really love to hear from you.  I am sure you would be doing plenty of others who are reading a great service as well.

  • Rosetta Stone – $169.99 for 12 Months Online Subscription
  • Simon & Schuster Pimsleur Comprehensive – $99.95 for 30 MP3 Audio Lessons Plus Cultural Notes
  • Rocket Languages – $99 for Level 1-2 Online Access; Approx. 66 Lessons
  • Fluenz – Request quote for Levels 1 and 2, Plus 2 Years Online Access
  • Living Language Platinum – Request quote for 12 Months Online Access, 12 Live E-Tutoring Sessions, 3 books, and 9 Audio CDs
  • Babbel – $12.95 for 12 Months Online Access
  • Yabla – $9.95 for 1 Month Online Access
  • Duolingo – No charge for Online Access to All Language Programs
  • Transparent Language Online – $199.95 for 12 Months Online Access



About Josh Hewitt

Avid traveler and photographer who loves to see new places, meet new people, and experience new things. There is so much this world can teach us, we just need to explore!
This entry was posted in Friday Sound-Offs, Languages, Recommendations, Travel Tools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Friday Sound-Off: What Tool is Best for Learning a Language?

  1. Phase_Blog says:

    I’ve been using Duolingo since the beginning of the year now, and maybe it’s just me (as I knew almost no Spanish before!), but it’s so easy to just use the app and go through the motions without actually practising using the words – some of the activities feel just like games. I lived in Spain for a season a couple of years ago and began picking up Spanish so quickly because a lot of people where I worked just didn’t speak English. For me, that’s the best way I could learn a language, by being forced to use it haha! It depends I suppose, on your learning style. If you’re like me, then Duolingo might be a fun, cheap tool to use for a bit, but won’t actually make a huge difference, but if you’ve got a good memory and things like that just seem to sink in, then it’ll probably work for you. Worth looking at in the interim, as it’s free I suppose 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Vietnam Travel & Trade Portal and commented:
    To learn Spanish for you upcoming trip, the best option is a free course offered by the BBC online. You can take the complete course and get a certificate.

    When I started to study Spanish, I got a high school textbook for a Spanish student learning English and worked through the book backwards. That was a great help but the BBC course can’t be beat.

    For French I used the JE French Course, which I purchased online. It is absolutely the best course I found. I also used Rosetta stone and it is helpful because their is no translation involved.

    I also used Rosetta Stone when I started learning Vietnamese and then went on to some Vietnamese courses.

    Unfortunately, most all of the courses you mention are of little value because they all translate from English to the other language. When one wants to learn a foreign language pick a course where there is no translation involved at all.

    My wife and I speak a total of five languages. Out two year old twins speak only English and Vietnamese right now. We plan to start teaching then Spanish in the near future.

    I don’t like any of the other courses you mentioned and would not recommend them to anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Friday Sound-Off: What Tool is Best for Learning a Language? — Wanderlust Travel & Photos Blog – Vietnam Travel & Trade Portal

  4. Brother Dave says:

    The best tool is youth! My kids picked up Tagalog in short order when we first visited the Philippines for a mere 3 months. I returned here 25 years later and after 7 years of being in country I still cannot construct complete sentences. I know enough words to be polite, but I am lacking in conversational skills. As you get older your mind is continually filled with all that has gone before and that leaves little room for a new language.

    In my youth, I took Spanish in high school. It seemed easy to learn back then. In fact, today I know more Spanish than Tagalog.

    I salute all those you have the ability to learn a new a language.

    I wish you the best as you embark on your journey.


  5. Yes I’ve been using Duolingo to learn Spanish for almost 2 months now. I find I am getting better at reading and when the words are in front of me I can put them together correctly most of the time. I started writing done each word I was learning in a separate book and it’s translation so I could have that extra input into my brain. I also started watching shows that have Spanish in them so I can practice listening and I find I can get the idea of what they are saying just by knowing the few words that I know. I go to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands at the end of June for a month so I’m just happy to know the words for animals so I won’t accidentally eat one as I’m vegetarian haha


  6. jasonlikestotravel says:

    I started learning German with Babbel which I found to be great and it had a lot of content on there. I find Duolingo great too but I think actually paying for it motivated me to get my money’s worth, whereas Duolingo is a little more casual.

    I guess it depends what your intentions are. If it’s just a case of refreshing the Spanish you already know I’d probably go with Duolingo but I think if you’re aiming for more fluency Duolingo will only get you so far.

    I’d also recommend listening to music in another language, watching tv shows or films in another language or even reading books in another language. Even better if it’s a tv show, film or book you’re already familiar with! I started reading Harry Potter in German and it’s amazing how much you can understand when it’s a story you know well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. LuAnn says:

    We took several Spanish lessons when we lived in Mexico for a year and kept all our materials so we just reviewed them before coming to Patagonia. I have heard good things about Babbel and Duolingo. I will be interested to hear more from your readers.

    Liked by 1 person

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