- Byki gives the most detailed graphs to show how well you pronounce. Each time you say a word or phrase, you can see an overall score, and graphs on how the vowels, consonants, pitch, etc. sounded in 76 languages.
- Passport to Languages / Learn to Speak has a simple pronunciation score in 6 languages, without detailed graphs, but they have more vocabulary than Byki. Any of these first programs costs $20-$40 for permanent ownership of courses and scoring.
- Pronunciator is $30 per month, has good scoring in 72 languages, and is easier to use than Byki, though its graphs are not as detailed as Byki's. It has at least as much vocabulary as Learn to Speak. It offers free samples of the pronunciation scoring, which most do not.
- Two more are expensive and hard to use, according to reviews: Tellmemore and Rosettastone. Tellmemore scores pronunciation generously. I got undeservedly high scores in Spanish. A graph shows volume and an extra line for pitch to help you learn intonation. This would be especially good for Mandarin, which is one of the languages they teach. Reviewers say that in sentences, you must speak each word separately to get a good score.
- Babbel gives you too little feedback about pronunciation and then moves on to reading and writing. It scores good pronunciation on a scale 50-100, but gives you no score or feedback on poor pronunciation and goes on to the next screen before you get the pronunciation right. They let you say each word just once each time through a lesson.
- Two others are free, but only teach intermediate English: EnglishCentral and GoEnglishMe.
- Berlitzonline is expensive, and no samples or reviews are available.
Several websites record you saying a word or sentence. Then they analyze it and give feedback in a score, and often a graph. The approach allows you to practice repeatedly and improve your accent. The programs work by comparing your recording to the model recording in the program, after adjusting for any basic difference in pitch.The programs vary widely in what they offer. Items 1-3 are excellent and worth getting.
Review of Byki.com, Transparent.com
Desktop+MP3+app, Pronunciation scored, Cheap, ★★★★★
Byki (Before You Know It) has several versions. Version 1 is highly recommended for beginners, because of its pronunciation scores and graphs:
Byki Versions 1 and 2 are excellent places to start, since they hear you and score your pronunciation while you learn. Beginners do well to take advantage of this pronunciation scoring, so you build good habits. Bad pronunciation is hard to fix later and is a barrier to people ever understanding you. The main competitor which has pronunciation scoring is Pronunciator ($30/month for 47 languages). It costs more than Byki, and has less detailed feedback on pronunciation, but it lets you start with very simple words like numbers, which are easier for learning good pronunciation than the complicated artificial conversations which Byki teaches. Try either or both.
Version 1 lets you learn individual words as well as phrases, and the feedback on your pronunciation is a great help, comparing your pronunciation to the native speaker. Its instructions are too cryptic, so try these:
Version 1 has 76 languages with pronunciation by native speakers, and another 25 with 750+ words each but not pronunciation, hence its title "101 Languages of the World." Our index shows the languages which lack pronunciation as "Byki silent." This package converts all spelling to the Roman alphabet. Amazon reviewers say it is a good introduction for people going to multiple countries, or who want to hear common words in some rarer languages.
By contrast with the thorough teaching from the low cost Version 1, the free Version 4 only has vocabulary flash cards. It shows spelling in English (optionally also in target language), and a native speaker says the word or phrase.
A problem with Version 4 is that even the first lesson is full of phrases which are too long for beginners. They range up to 5 syllables and average 3 syllables per word in the first lesson, in both English and Chinese. The turtle button lets you toggle between normal speed and slightly slower, but it is still very hard for total beginners to pick up the sounds of long phrases.
You could start instead with numbers. Version 4 shows zero through ten, in random order.
Byki does not teach business phone conversations. Version 4 is clearly aimed at travelers, with 30 long phrases on taxis, though no lessons to understand drivers' answers. Version 1 includes similar phrases on taxis along with a few possible answers. It also has conversations on changing money at banks, and checking into hotels.
Version 2 and perhaps others too, will display words/phrases which are hard for you, more often, until you learn them. In all versions you can click to repeat anything.
Only the MP3 files (Versions 2 and 3) let you learn alone in the car, since the apps make you look at the screen.
For intermediate students Byki has strengths and weaknesses. Byki does not conjugate verbs, and does not cover as much vocabulary as Pronunciator. However Byki covers grammar in a way Pronunciator does not. Byki's Version 1 (and probably 2) lets you click any word in the lesson on the Reading tab, and then shows you links to grammatical explanations for how that word is used. Version 1 is thus an inexpensive way to learn basic grammar if you cannot find a printed grammar for your target language. Pronunciator does not have these grammatical explanations, though Pronunciator conjugates 100 verbs in past, present and future tenses.
All versions are taught in English, except English itself which most versions teach in Spanish. Apps (version 5) teach English in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish.
Versions 2 and 5 have over 1,000 words/phrases according to reviews of the desktop and the app, or "thousands" according to the website, with some of these contributed by other learners.