How much does language learning cost?

Have you ever wondered how Duolingo makes money? They do have a premium option (called Duolingo Plus), which costs 7$ a month, but I’m pretty sure very few Duolingo users have chosen the Plus option. It also has ads, but they are so rare that their advertising earnings cannot be very high (compared to the number of users it has). Their primary way to make money is to sell translations made by users to companies like BuzzFeed or CNN. Yes, the translations you make are sold on to other companies.

My point is that, most of the time, when something is free, you, the user, are the commodity. This is often convenient for the user, but not many companies have a business model like Duolingo’s. Many companies prefer to offer monthly subscriptions rather than struggling to sell data to third parties. Paying for your language learning resources is natural, but at some point you may realize that they will take a heavy toll on your budget. How much does it actually cost? Let’s take a look:

1. Memrise is by far the most useful tool with the lowest price I’ve found. It costs about 50$ a year, which is very little, given the multitude of courses available and the very well done UI.

2. LanguagePod101 has three plans: Basic, Premium and Premium Plus. With Basic you can just listen to podcasts and download them in MP3 format, the Premium package also offers Word Bank (+ flashcard system), and Premium Plus also offers 1-to-1 instruction. Basic plans cost 8$ per month, Premium costs 25$ and Premium Plus costs 30$.

3. Glossika is one of the most expensive resources, but also among the best, in my opinion. It costs $ 30 dollars a month (or $ 300 a year), but if you are a student, you can get a 50% discount. There are also Black Friday discounts, also about 50%. You can see my review of Glossika here.

4. Pimsleur has some incredibly high prices on their website, for example 600$ for 5 levels of Spanish. Yes, 600 US dollars. But they have a monthly subscription, which costs between 20 and 25 dollars (depending on the country where you live), a subscription that seems much more convenient. Given that you can complete 5 levels of Spanish in 5 months, that means that instead of 600$ you spend only 100$.

5. Rosetta Stone has lowered its prices a lot in recent years. They offer a 12$ monthly subscription for all 25 languages they offer.

6. Mango Languages, a somewhat underrated player in this industry, offers a $ 8 per month subscription for a single foreign language, or a $ 18 subscription for all the foreign languages it offers. By the way, Mango also offers courses for endangered or very unknown languages, such as Igbo.

7. Babbel, an absolutely wonderful resource for learning a foreign language, offers subscriptions for only 10$ per month, a very low price compared to what it offers.

What alternatives do you have, however, if you do not want to spend absolutely any money to learn a foreign language? I warn you, however, that with free resources it may be a little harder to learn a foreign language.

  • Anki is a Spaced Repetition Software (SRS) system, an open-source flashcard program, very popular and important among the language learners community. Anki (暗記) is the Japanese word for memorization. You can see how to interpret the Anki statistics here.
  • FSI stands for Foreign Service Institute, the United States federal government’s primary training institution for employees of the US. Basically FSI trains simple officials, ambassadors and even spies. FSI now offers free audio courses, without copyright. But with a little mention: the courses that are on the Internet are old. Very old. They are from the 60s, and the ‘newest’ are from the 70s.
  • DLI stands for Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. The DLI agency is exactly like FSI, but for generals, soldiers and military personnel.
  • Living Language offers some freebies.
  • Glossika offers some freebies.

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