Learn English by listening to lectures and music videos!
FluentU offers language learning activities that include reading and listening to real-world content like TEDx talks and music videos.
PROS: Users can choose content in their level and subject of interest, take quizzes and hover over difficult words to see translations.
CONS: As with most language learning sites, FluentU leaves out speaking skills. In addition, the product has many flaws – namely the leveling aspect – vocabulary words are often too easy or hard for the target level.
Read a more detailed academic review on ELTJam.
Learn English idioms through story-based play
IdiomLand meets a need for ESL learners that most language learning tools leave out: idioms!
PROS: The game’s design and features are a lot of fun. Lesson’s are thorough with quizzes at the end to ensure you remember the idioms.
CONS: The idioms used in the game are likely ones you’ve already heard before. And if you want to learn fast, this story-based game isn’t the quickest.
Note: As of 2015, The IdiomLand Game is out in favor of their flashcards.
Learn a language while browsing Facebook
With recent funding from 500 Startups, Culture Alley‘s come a long way from English for Indian Houswives.
PROS: Culture Alley takes vocabulary words directly from your Facebook page, and incorporates them into language learning games. You’ll learn words you use on a daily basis.
CONS: You can’t use it unless you have Facebook. So, if you’ve closed your Facebook account, this isn’t the language learning tool doesn’t work for you.
Currently offered in Spanish, Chinese Portuguese and English.
Learn English while virtually traveling around the world
Tripppin offers web-based English lessons via two brothers Tripp and Pin who take you on a voyage around the world.
PROS: Tripppin is gamified, free and you will definitely pick up some English. Along the way, you’ll do fill in the blank exercises (e.g., is that “in, at or on”) and improve your geography knowledge. Tripppin is easy and free, but the gimmicky, pun-inflicted teaching style gets old and annoying quickly.
CONS: After a few minutes of play, the jokes and cheesy get old.
Create and review English or Chinese flashcards from chats with friends
If you are studying Chinese/English and like learning vocabulary, check out Hiway.
PROS: Chat with native speakers nearby via text message. Tap unknown words for a definition and add it to your flashcard deck to grow your vocabulary.
CONS: Hiway is based in China, and being in California, the nearest person I could chat with was the Apple app reviewer. The rest were 6,000+ miles away in China. The UI is a bit cumbersome: I failed flashcard review because I didn’t know how it worked and there’s no how-to tutorial.
Social learning and video chat—gamified
naboomboo offers language exchange via video and text chat.
PROS: Search for language partners learning your target language and set up a time to chat and a topic to discuss. If you’re learning Italian this is the site for you. Being founded by an Italian team, nearly all of its 1,000 users are Italian. The video platform offers clear, uninterrupted communication, among the best in the language learning space.
CONS: This concept is not new. The gamification aspect (unnecessarily) limits chat time and makes it very difficult for new users to have extended conversations.
Quick edits to your English text via text message
Need an English text corrected immediately? Send your text to Chatting Cat!
PROS: The average wait time for text correction is 5 minutes or less. You can submit everything from papers to resumes to business emails for screening by native English speakers in the USA or UK. Chatting Cat is a good alternative to Lang-8 which is free, but can take a few hours.
CONS: Chatting Cat does little to vet its tutors who rake in $1.00 for 300 words or so of text, while students pay about double that for text edits.