10 Online Tech Tools to Learn Foreign Languages

By Rob Klindt

Gone are the days when students learning a foreign language had to listen to boring cassette tapes, memorize long vocabulary tables and page through dusty textbooks.

Technology, from mobile apps and automated flash cards to searchable bilingual dictionaries and downloadable audio, now makes learning another language easier and more fun.

For teachers, this technology makes it easier to engage students in lesson plans and let them study at their own pace. Foreign language teachers can choose from dozens of apps and websites to supplement their lesson plans. Here are 10 popular tools worth considering:

Translation and Pronunciation

Translator, text-to-speech and audio recording programs are essential study aids.

  • Translation2. This one-stop translator offers students a searchable language dictionary, instant-message translations and an automated text-to-speech translator, which helps students practice and hear word pronunciations. Free.
    Visit the site.
  • Croak.it. This simple online audio recording tool uses a student’s computer microphone to record 30-second sound bites for upload to the Web for playback. It’s useful for students learning a foreign language to record phrases and listen to their pronunciation. Free.
    Visit the site.

Vocabulary, Quizzes and Games

These websites and apps offer back-to-basics learning with a tech twist.

  • Duolingo. Developed at Carnegie Mellon University, this language-learning website uses repetition to teach basic words, phrases and grammar in selected languages. Free; also available as an iPhone or Android app.
    Visit the site
  • The Mind Snacks site helps children learn a foreign languageMindSnacks. For students who enjoy games, this fun language instruction app for iPhone and iPad provides essential vocabulary, phrases and quizzes in nine game formats. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Surface Languages. Using interactive flashcards, students can click through hundreds of words and phrases in dozens of languages. Online quizzes, mp3 audio clips and self-paced learning language games round out this site’s robust collection of tools. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Imendi. With click-and-drag word tiles, this simple website allows students to test their foreign language vocabulary in a series of multiple-choice quizzes. Quizzes increase in difficulty as a user progresses through the program. Free.
    Visit the site

Online Chat, Help Forums and Email

Intermediate and advanced students will likely enjoy conversing online with native speakers of the language they are studying.

  • Livemocha. This community language learning site lets students practice language skills with native speakers using instant-messages, email and audio files. Free; registration is required.
    Visit the site
  • SharedTalk. This live-chat website lets users do voice or instant-message chats in dozens of languages with users around the world. Students can also find a language partner for direct online chats. The site is operated by the Rosetta Stone language-learning software company. Free; registration is required. An enhanced version with more features is available for a fee.
    Visit the site
  • Freelang.net. Quick and easy, this language translator site provides searchable bilingual dictionaries and an online forum where users can ask others for language translation help. Free; registration is required to participate in the forum.
    Visit the site
  • Lang-8. Students using this language-exchange social network write a journal in the language they are learning and upload it to the site, where another user who is a native speaker of that language provides comments and makes corrections. In return, students do the same for other users who are learning their language. Free; registration is required.
    Visit the site

Thanks to online technology, classrooms are now portals to the world that allow students to experience firsthand new cultures and diversity. To fully appreciate that and to communicate with others, it’s important for students to learn new languages, and technology is making that happen.

 »