Web+Apps, No pronunciation scores, free, ★
They teach a little speaking, a lot of dictation, text, pictures, and translation.
They show a lot of text and spelling variations before having you speak. Then you speak just once before they go on to more text, so there is no chance to practice pronunciation. When you speak, they mark you correct even with very poor pronunciation. All the text they show can mislead you into pronouncing letters as they would be said in your own language, rather than in the language you are learning.
Therefore it does not help beginners learn good pronunciation. It also starts slowly, teaching 7 words in 10 minutes.
Its focus is on translation, to get free translations of web pages from more advanced learners. There is also dictation, where you type what you hear, and they check it. Dictation can be helpful to intermediate students, helping them learn what the language sounds like at full speed, There is also a turtle button to slow it down a little.
All the languages they teach are available in better programs, which are also free and which teach more, such as Book2, BBC, and FSI.
Other than those free programs, if you can spend $25-$30, try Transparent, or at least a month of Pronunciator. These listen when you speak into a headset or microphone, so they can score your pronunciation. Transparent has the best graphs of your pronunciation. Pronunciator lets beginners learn from pictures, with no distractions in your own language, and they have more vocabulary. Pronunciator conjugates 100 verbs, and it lets you choose topics which interest you. Transparent has some grammar, and you can keep using it without a monthly subscription.
Duolingo sponsored a study by Vesselinov and Grego of 196 Duolingo students learning Spanish. They tried to test students 2 months apart, using a written test (no listening or speaking) developed for college placement at Brigham Young university (WebCAPE).
- 108 students did not take the 2nd test, perhaps because they had dropped the course,
- 16 of the 88 students who took both tests were complete beginners, scoring zero on the first test. These were too few to study separately.
- The 88 who took both tests saw their test scores rise an average of 8 points per hour of study (on a scale of 0 to 956), though some students' scores fell.
- Based on the learning rate of all 88 students, the authors conclude a complete beginner would need 34 hours to learn as much written material as taught in the first semester of college study.
- Most actual beginners did not spend enough time to cover a semester. Indeed most lower level students dropped out of the study. Among the 157 initially scoring less than first semester competence, 57% did not take the second test.
- About half of higher level students dropped out.
- Most students who stayed with the project studied less than 20 hours during the 2 months.
- The average student was 34 years old. 69% had already graduated from college. More than a quarter already knew at least one foreign language.