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TOOLS FOR LEARNING - Reaching Out to the World: Foreign Language (and ESL) Technologies

By Victor Rivero - Posted Mar 1, 2017
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We are fascinating creatures, you must admit. We utter symbolic chunks of sound through the same orifice through which we take in food. Depending on what group of people we were surrounded by in our childhood, and sometimes later on, we pick up sets of repeatable sounds and cues and attach significances to objects in our physical environment. We take this further and exchange chains of ideas with this system, and we call it “language.” What a wonderful world we live in!

There are several main languages that most of the planet speaks. And myriad more! And there are myriad tools to learn languages (whether your first, second, or otherwise), which we explore right here! Read on!

Rosetta Stone. Founder Allen Stoltzfus learned German living in Germany, but found learning Russian in a classroom a more difficult experience. So he created a software product he named after that famous rock synonymous with unlocking language learning. Now, for $149 (sale price) you get a 24-month subscription, and learning a language has become a game, a fun challenge, and you don’t need to go to school, or to Germany, to do so.

Flipgrid. A “grid” is where students go to view topics, record responses, and reply to their classmates. A video-based social learning tool somehow is perfect for a lot of things, especially learning language. It draws a class into an open discussion, and gets people talking. The best way to understand it is to experience it for yourself.

Duolingo. Here’s something so fun it’s addictive. Learners earn points, race against the clock, and ascend to that ever-present next level. Lessons are bite-sized and thus extremely effective. It’s like having your own private language tutor.

Languagenut. Here’s a professional language support tool that helps create interactive and engaging lessons. There are games, songs, and stories, and all of this contributes to better listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Mango Languages. This company focuses on not only easily learning conversational language skills, but culture as well. Mango provides movie clips and even teaches the obscure but potentially useful language of “Pirate.”

Babbel. The high- quality, self-paced courses provided through Babbel help a student truly learn and practice every day. Like other language-learning companies, Babbel offers plenty of tools available through iTunes and Google Play.

busuu. One of the world’s largest social networks for language learning, the courses are high quality, you can practice with native speakers; it’s free, or you can subscribe to a premium membership. In Cameroon, Busuu is a near-extinct language, but like other languages, this company has brought it back to life.

GamesforLanguage. This Boston-based company knows how to make learning relevant, fun, and engaging. Travel story courses, easy games, and podcasts that simulate a travel experience are provided. Worth the trip!

Middlebury Interactive Languages. A leader in K–12 language learning, these courses use principles of immersive pedagogy and methods used at Middlebury College’s famous Language Schools.

Verbling. Five-star teachers over video chat: What more could you want? This is an online platform where you can take a lesson from a pro. For $15 per hour, you’re getting immersive, real-conversation learning.

Voxy. “We give learners what they need in order to be able to do the tasks that are important to them,” is how Katie Nielson, CEO at Voxy, describes this language platform. With thematic units, lessons with activities, trained English teachers, and more, this company knows how to teach English.

WeSpeke. Using audio, text, and/or video, you can learn a language with a native speaker and practice how you want to. If you need further guidance or more structure, you can choose from affordable lessons in the WeSpeke Shop.

Wibbu. Video games to learn languages? Absolutely! This group of game developers, linguists, and language teachers has modernized foreign-language learning and made learning something to love. Wibbu has ranked No. 1 in the App Store Education category, and by the looks of it, is very determined to stay there.

Transparent Language. Quickly and easily master a new language with research-based and experience-driven methodology. This resource is trusted by the U.S. military, corporations, and schools. And here’s a fascinating fact: Transparent Language is involved in 7,000 Languages, a nonprofit helping the world’s “other” (lesser-known and under-resourced) languages.



Learning a language in an age of collaborative technologies, such as are now available with video-based and other interactive, adaptive, and personalized learning platforms, has made for a different experience! If you grew up sitting in a high school language class, try some of these out and you’ll see: Vive la difference!! (But I just gotta say: For that sense of connection, only possible through human interaction, well, some things never change.)

Contact Victor at .


Here are some of the other excellent language-learning resources available:

English Attack





Istation Español

Learning Games Studios

Lingo Jingo

Living Language






Language Facts

Did you know? According to Babbel, these are the 10 most-spoken
languages in the world:

1. Chinese

2. Spanish

3. English

4. Hindi

5. Arabic

6. Portuguese

7. Bengali

8. Russian

9. Japanese

10. Punjabi

Lingua Franca. English may be considered the lingua franca of earth, but what does “lingua franca” mean, anyway? “A language adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different” is the Google answer. It’s taken from late 17th-century Italian, and literally means “Frankish tongue.”

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