Tough admission requirements and rising fees have made traditional education quite difficult for most students. In the last decade, the amount of student debt, as well as the price of attending a public university has risen to alarming levels. So much so, that people are wary of investing in expensive college courses for the fear of a lack of choices or limiting their potential or being underemployed.
The same goes for learning a language. A lot of people want to expand their horizons by learning a second, or third (or even fourth) language. And lately, there are several ways to how they can go about it. But more often than not, they are seen struggling with online translations and listening to pronunciations fruitlessly. Thankfully, the answer has presented itself in the form of courses offered by some premium massive open online courses (MOOC) such as Coursera and edX, which offer the best online language courses.
Not all courses are the same and naturally, some are better than others. While one platform may offer just a handful of languages, some others have dozens of languages to choose from. Let us look at how Coursera and edX fare when it comes to learning online language courses.
Best Online Language Courses Reviewed
These are the best online courses for language learners, all thoroughly reviewed to ensure that you find the perfect one for your needs and skill level.
Coursera Online Language Courses
Let’s start with the online language courses offered by the Coursera platform. Among MOOC providers, Coursera has emerged as the frontrunner. It offers courses that are detailed and are offered by renowned universities around the world. Coursera offers a wide variety of courses and has a major focus on professional training in every course they offer. Coursera takes pride in claiming that all courses are taught by the best institutes and universities and aims to teach learners new skills in 2-4 weeks. Coursera offers one of the best online language courses.
There are a number of languages that Coursera offers, primarily Chinese, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish, French, German and English, among others. Each course is designed separately and can take as many as 12 hours to complete and can be stretched to 5 weeks, though there is no set limit. All these courses are 100% online and you can set your own deadlines according to your schedule.
Most courses start with an introductory video and are followed by an introduction to the alphabet so that you will have a basic knowledge and its principal. All the segments are divided into video lessons and readings. Each segment is concluded by practice exercises and tests in the form of quizzes and questions.
Following the alphabet, the next natural course of action is learning to greet and introduce oneself. The candidate is then taught how to greet or ask someone’s nationality or job (for example) in that particular language. Once the course is completed, the candidate would be able to introduce themselves, greet someone and ask basic questions.
Their course structure changes with each language. For example, not all courses will start with an introduction to the alphabet. Some courses are simple elementary ones and will have a different approach to keep things interesting.
Coursera makes available discussion forums, videos and other reading material throughout the length of the course which can be very helpful.
Almost all courses are led by a top language professor from a respected university.
Enrolling to most courses is free. You can simply click on the “Enroll for Free” button and make a new account or sign up through your organization or your social media account such as Facebook.
When you purchase a certificate for a certain course (financial aid for which is available), you will get access to graded assignments and all course material. When you complete your course, an electronic certificate will be issued to you. This certificate can be either printed out or displayed on your Linkedin page.
You can audit or review the course for free if you do not wish to buy a certificate. But if you don’t, you may not have access to certain aspects of the course.
Prices vary with courses and specializations and according to Coursera, they may differ on the iOS app as well. They say this is because they keep adjusting their courses based on new findings and to keep the courses fresh. When you pay for a course, you also get access to graded assignments in some cases. If you do not want to pay for a course, you can choose the “audit” option. In some of the paid courses with a large number of participants, “peer assessment” is required. But be aware that in the case of courses that don’t have an adequate number of students, an assessment may take a while.
Once you are logged into the portal, you will see the prices clearly displayed next to a specific course. Coursera says that there are no hidden costs and you pay exactly what you see. In some cases though, sales tax might be added to the overall fee which can be viewed on the checkout page. Students can also apply for financial aid in case they cannot afford the fee for a specific course.
edX Online Language Courses
Like Coursera, edX also offers a wide variety of free courses, but these courses are in the non-profit and open-source zone but come in both free and paid courses. It was founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard and has now more than 20 million learners. They have roped in more than 100 universities including Zurich, Oxford and London. Learners can also utilize credits of certain courses towards a master’s degree if they wish to.
Learners are free to take language courses in a number of languages that include Mandarin, French, English, Spanish, Japanese and many offshoots of the Chinese and Mandarin languages. Most of these courses are designed to be from 6-8 weeks and require 4-5 hours of effort every week. The classes are both self-paced and timed. The courses do not require prerequisites and anyone can join the course at any given time. Compared with Coursera, some people have found navigating the former easier when it comes to discussion forums but it is a minor complaint. With time, anyone can get used to a certain format. Regardless, there is no doubt that the quality of content provided by edX is high quality.
Most of these language courses will have the basic skills, namely reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension, but will depend upon the course proficiency. As they learn, students can monitor their progress by undergoing performance tests from time to time before their final test. The course will use grammar explanations, cultural notes, reference materials and so on to provide the students with a basic understanding of the particular language if need be.
Some courses will also have videos of instructors giving lectures and students will sometimes also get “homework”. These video lectures are divided into 20-minute sections and are available on Youtube and can be downloaded for offline learning.
By the end of the course, students are expected to have basic conversation skills, scribing their nationality, family or likes and so on. They would also have a basic knowledge of basic conjugation and the alphabet and the numbers.
Depending on the course, students will be assigned to one or more than one professor or language expert from a reputed university. At the successful completion of a course, learners will receive a certificate that has been signed by the instructor(s) and with the institution’s logo to acknowledge your achievement and for better job prospects.
Like Coursera, enrollment to most courses is free but to get a verified certificate from the concerned university, you would need to pay a certain amount. edX says that this contribution is used to provide education for everyone and hence, have established a minimum fee. These funds also go towards creating more classes and improving the portal.
Financial assistance is provided to those who require it. Students can get up to 90% discount on their verified courses but they say some courses may not be eligible. Learners can seek approval up to 5 times during a 12-month period.
Those wanting financial assistance can fill in an application, whereupon it will be reviewed in 2-4 business days. If it is approved, the learner will receive an email with a pre-approved code for 90% off.
When you first select a course, you will be given a choice to create an account or to sign in with an existing social media account such as Google or Facebook. All verified certificates are available for a fee and they differ from course to course. You may also need to verify your identity before the verification deadline.
Payment for an edX course may vary from $50-$300, depending on the course. The payment process is simple and learners can do so via credit edit cards, Apple Pay or PayPal. Currently, they accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover. Like Coursera, courses are also available for free (when you don’t require a certificate) and can be accessed when you choose “Audit” while registering. This can be changed as per your convenience.
Of the two, we found that Coursera has more to offer in terms of courses and provides a solid online learning environment. Courses are easy to navigate and one can access material related to the courses easily. For users that are not new to online learning courses, navigating edX can be a little confusing, but nevertheless, there is no compromise on the quality of the study material. Both offer the best online language courses that are by far better compared with other online portals.
If you want to discover more learning opportunities, then be sure to take a look at our list of the best online courses. Thanks for reading and as always, have a great day!