Web, No pronunciation scores, Free
Alison has different approaches for the 8 languages it teaches. All instructions are in English and embedded in graphics where a translation program, like the Chrome browser, cannot translate them. All lessons need to be watched online; you cannot download to practice away from a computer. Courses are free. Completion certificates cost €15 or more.
For Arabic ★★★ they have 13 video lessons from Dalarna University in Sweden. They teach the alphabet better than I have seen elsewhere, though the letters shown on the slides are small and fuzzy. Each lesson is a lecture with slides, but it gives few repetitions of the Arabic sounds and no time for the learner to speak. They include numbers 1-10; simple grammar, short sentences and pronunciation rules.
For Chinese ★★★ they have 7 courses in Mandarin, starting with basics in Pinyin. They introduce all the sounds first, with charts where you can repeat each letter as many times as needed. They say where the tongue is for each consonant. Memorizing all these sounds at the beginning, without context, is hard. The first context is provided by greetings, with a rather large vocabulary, also hard to learn. Learners may want to open 2 windows, so they can see these examples and the earlier explanations at the same time. It cries out for graphs of your and the teachers' pitch, as in Transparent, and slower enunciation, so you can learn the rising and falling tones. One confusion is that they say the letter "i" at the end of a syllable is pronounced "eee," and most examples sound like that, but examples of zi, ci, si, zhi, chi, shi, and ri sound like "u" as in "turn." The sounds seem correct, but Alison should not have given such an incorrect rule early in the course. It would also help to say whether other consonants change the sound of a vowel.
For teaching English ★ they have many intermediate lessons, most from the British Council, most without practice in speaking English. Click the loudspeaker to listen, without pauses. For listening and writing these give extensive free practice. Be aware some of the speakers (such as the Japanese woman in the first lesson) have foreign accents, so learn from the native speakers. Also the spoken and on-screen text differ by a few words in each lesson. This will not confuse intermediate learners. One course, "Introduction to Conversational English" starts with the alphabet, saying each letter twice and comparing similar sounds. The course then goes to other topics with no repetitions or explanation.
For French they have many video lessons from Joella Andriantsivohony ★★★★★. Even more lessons are at youlearnfrench.blogspot.com. She says each word or phrase twice, followed by long pauses, with French and English spelling on the screen, which you do not have to look at if you want to concentrate on the sound. She has an excellent accent, though she does not say if she is a native speaker. She gives several lessons on numbers, from 0 to 999 billion (milliards), prepositions, telling time, adjectives, adverbs, and many more. It is great that she has a lesson on the alphabet, though she picks very hard sample words for the letters (lots of r sounds).
They also have French lessons from the University of Texas at Austin ★. These are inaccurately excerpted from laits.utexas.edu/fi. For example the Alison version misspells français, géographie, littérature. Do not trust it. The version at utexas seems accurately spelled, but inaccurately spoken; not all are native speakers. The course also includes videos of Texas students speaking bad French to native speakers, and difficult songs, often recorded by foreigners. Recorded lessons have no repeats. They do say the alphabet, without any sample words. They start with difficult social conversations, and you cannot pick topics you need. A sample lesson shows a student needing help with "rencontrer", so the teacher says it twice quickly, has the class say it once and moves on.
For German ★ they have 11 lessons on colors, numbers, letters, times, verbs, clothes, and likes. The native speaker from Berlin has many more at DeutschMitJulia.wordpress.com. Phrases are repeated with brief pauses, not quite long enough to say the phrase. The lessons are for intermediate learners, though beginners can start with the lessons on colors and the alphabet. In other lessons the phrases are too long and full of new words to be good for beginners.
For Irish ★ they have 15 lessons on basic vocabulary, including numbers 1-1000, which are also on youtube.com/user/Dioluin. They do teach simple words, but very quickly, with no repetitions, interspersed with English translations. Perhaps you could memorize them by watching repeatedly.
For Spanish ★★★ they have 4 lessons on very basic vocabulary, including numbers 0-trillion, days, months and dates. You can play individual words as often as you need to. There are dialogues showing context, but without pauses to repeat.
For Swedish ★ they have 10 lessons on verbs, nouns, pronouns, and adjectives from Lund University. The male narrator says he is from Sweden; the woman says she is from Russia, though I cannot tell if she really is or is a native Swedish speaker. Each lesson is a lecture with slides, but few repetitions of the Swedish sounds and no time for the learner to speak.
Alison courses are not accredited. They do issue their own certificates in some fields: "The main standards we adhere to – which apply to over half our courses - are those instituted by the ECDL Foundation / Microsoft Corporation, (IT Literacy), the British Council (English Learning), and the Australian High School standards (maths courses, science courses, etc.). To keep the courses freely accessible online, we do not issue, and cannot issue, certifications directly from these particular institutions (as they would all involve fees which would have to be passed on to the learner). However, we do provide a Certificate of Completion to state that the individual has learned the same required knowledge/skill-set. Where ALISON has a distinct advantage on all institutional certification is that an ALISON graduate can be challenged to sit an ALISON test at anytime online to prove that they retain the standard of knowledge certified by the Certification of Completion." Anyone can also check for forged certificates.
Certificates, even for the simplest courses, can be €15 or more. The price is shown after you finish the course. Free certificates are not available for languages. Certificates from Alison are free for the following Microsoft and Irish Health and Safety Authority courses.
- Microsoft Digital Literacy - IT Basics, Internet & Productivity Programs
- Microsoft Office 2010 Training
- Updating Your Spreadsheet Skills with Microsoft Excel 2010
- Updating Your Word Processing Skills with Microsoft Word 2010
- Updating Your Database Processing Skills with Microsoft Access 2010
- Updating Your Presentation Skills with Microsoft PowerPoint 2010
- Improving Productivity Using Microsoft Outlook 2010
- Cloud Document Collaboration Using Microsoft SharePoint 2010
- Safety and Health in Construction
- An Introduction to Managing Safety and Health in Schools
- Safety and Health in the Science Laboratory for Teachers
- Get Safe - Work Safe - Safety and Health for Senior Cycle Students
- Safety and Health in the Technology Classroom for Teachers
- U.S. Citizenship Test Preparation
Alison displays advertising, which can be reduced for €30 per year and eliminated for €75 per year.