Updated: Jun 15, 2019
A buyer's guide to help you narrow down your options and optimize your learning journey.
Why having a research strategy makes such a big difference?
With so many learning options in today's digital world, feeling lost, overwhelmed and adrift is easier than ever. Implementing your own personal strategy will help you identify what you really need and the most efficient way to achieve it. An effective strategy will also help you identify products that might simply not work for you, and you will be saving precious time just by not focusing on them and moving on to what really matters faster.
Buyer's remorse is real and painful and it can take place not only when money is spent in a less efficient way but also when the product you purchased takes considerable amounts of time and yields little to non practical results. Luckily, spending money to learn a new language is not as complex as buying a house or buying a new car. But still the frustration and resentment produced by a bad decision, can have a long-lasting effect on your morale and will prevent you to reach your learning goals in a proper manner.
Truth be told, buying is a serious science that takes time and dedication. The good news is that you are not alone and plenty of other language lovers have made enough mistakes (thinking of myself) as to know what works and what doesn't. Keep on reading to have a better idea of what to look for and what to avoid, in order to find your perfect match faster.
Identify potential options and keep track of your findings
Ask your old friend, Google. The first step is as easy as opening your web browser, typing your search keywords and relying on Google's great algorithms to show you the most relevant content available at the time. In a matter of seconds, you will get thousands, if not millions of results, but don't be intimidated. Most likely, your best fit will be between the first and the third page.
Open Google Sheets or Excel and create a tracking sheet so that you can better compare all the software you find along with features, prices, and elements that matter to you in general. If you are really into it you can even color code the fields to have a better idea of the elements you are examining.
You can go as far as you want. From reviewing just a handful to including every single platform you find on your search. The more you look the likelier you will be to find your best match. Now, we know this step could be a bit tedious as it involves a lot of hunting for information that could be in different places, in different ways. But don't worry, we kind of did this for you already, to help you save some precious time! Head over to our fact sheet covering the most important language-learning software out there and see all these entries in just one place. Click here to see it now.
Is free always better?
Like pretty much everything in the market, there are price ranges based on personal needs, styles, and features. It's up to you to find the best product for the money you can afford. The options are varied and go from just using a free platform like Duolingo all the way to paying for a full language immersion experience in the country of your preference.
Just seeing the word "free" attached to a product makes any buyer salivate and run to take advantage of whatever it is it's being offered. We all react in that way and that's natural. Sometimes, there are really good deals at no cost to you, just because the seller on the other end has other gains and profits in different ways from interacting with you. Or sometimes the product is simply not good enough and ends up falling short.
Unfortunately the answer to that is not black and white. It all depends on what you are looking for, what your expectations are and what you are able to do at the time. This is another reason to just not go with the free options at first and to take your time reviewing as much as you can. Ultimately, the process of learning a new language is often an investment rather than an expenditure as you could end up benefiting financially from it.
Recurrent subscription vs. lifetime access
This is when being able to predict your future plans and needs becomes a crucial aspect of the language-learning software buying process. The more you are able to predict how seriously you will be taking this enterprise, how consistent you will be and for how long you envision you will be engaged in the learning process, the better use of your money you will be able to make.
Sure, $6 a month is, at face value, less expensive than $100 unlimited access subscription, but here's the tricky part. $100 divided by $6 equals 16.6. This is the amount of months, you will be paying for before the monthly subscription option stops making sense financially. In other words, taking these numbers as an example, if you think you will be studying a language for more than a year and 5 months, you will actually be saving money just going with the $100 unlimited access version.
Worship the free trial
We can't emphasize this enough. If you have the option to try something for free, go for it. Don't be afraid to create an account and start perusing every single feature they have on their websites, no strings attached. The more platforms you try, the likelier you will be to find something you hadn't even thought of that could benefit you immensely.
Even if a free trial is not available but they offer a money-back guarantee, no questions asked, go for it too. Funny enough, shopping around for a service or a product has a lot in common with making friends or even dating. You want to make sure the right chemistry exists before committing to anything more serious and the best way to allow this to happen is trial and test.
Will you be able to proof you have the skills you learned after you are done?
If you are studying a new language just because of how enjoyable and rewarding it is, then you shouldn't worry too much about this part. However, if you are studying a language because you need it professionally, then this is simply one of the most important aspects. The best way to proof you speak a language is, of course, communicating in that language. But sadly, many companies won't have the chance to speak with you directly before reviewing your certifications and determining whether you are the best fit for the job.
This is when showing off a well earned certificate goes a long way. When it comes to this, two aspects have a crucial importance. First, make sure that the language-learning software you are about to start using offers you a certificate after you are done. And last, but not least, make sure this certificate is widely recognized, especially by the industry or company you might have in mind.
The format is everything
If you have all the time you need to learn and you are always home, a software that you can access from your desktop computer could suffice. On the other hand, if time is a sensitive matter to you, then you might benefit from software that are multifaceted and can be accessed through different formats.
The secret to learning a new language when you have a very busy life is to combine multiple tasks and accomplish them at the same time, whenever possible. For instance, if you have a long commute to work every day, if you spend a lot of time at the gym, or even if you have to perform simple tasks around the house, you could be listening to language lessons at the same time and learning while your normal life goes on.
In that case, you might want to make sure the software you are buying is available in other formats like an Android or iOS app, a CD or even a podcast. Additionally, if you travel often to places with poor internet connection, for instance while hiking or camping, you also want to make sure that they offer downloadable material and that their services are available when you are offline.
Never settle for your first experience
Chances are you will fall deeply in love with the first software you try. The design is probably going to be exceptional and enjoyable. The features they offer could be very inviting and could make the learning process way easier, etc. This is all true. However, not all software are created equal. Always keep in the back of your head the idea that the software you haven't tried yet, that was at the end of the page in the search results, could be even better then the one you just saw. You probably don't want to miss that, so allow yourself plenty of time before saying yes, and see as many options as possible.
Don't follow the crowd
Having millions of followers on social media and an equally high amount of daily users doesn't certainly make a software better than other. Maybe their numbers are high because they spend more on ads and conduct more marketing strategies. Maybe they have been around longer and have had more time to increase their audience. Maybe even more people are looking for a service that is not necessarily what you are looking for.
The bottom line is that a high number of users does not mean adequacy or complete personal satisfaction. There are plenty of newer software that are offering better or equally good experiences than companies that have been around for a longer time. This is probably something you don't want to miss either. Once again, it all comes down to trying and seeing as much as possible before committing to anything.
These are the best steps to follow to make sure you find your best match in the most efficient way possible. Investing some time upfront making sure that you find the most suitable product makes an important difference in the long run. There's no better satisfaction than knowing you are using your time and money as efficiently as possible. We hope we were able to help you in your language-learning journey. Good luck!
Affiliate disclaimer: Even though a remuneration of any kind is not the main purpose of this website, we do occasionally get commissions for purchases made through the links on our site. This is how we fund the Fluent Zebra project and it helps us deliver convenient and meaningful content every day. We hope we can help you find your best fit. Happy research!