A sea of resources

If your target language is widely spoken, it is likely that you will not have any problems finding learning resources on the Internet. Still, learning this language may often be challenging and even demotivating.

Why? What is missing? How might we be able to fill this gap? To answer these questions, we should first try to understand the broad landscape of resources that are currently available.

Let’s begin by distinguishing these services and materials between two categories: authentic resources and language-based resources.

Authentic resources


Materials that have a primary purpose other than helping people learn languages or providing any language assistance.


An English learner may watch Citizen Kane or read The New York Times to build up reading and listening skills. However, neither the film nor the newspaper was produced with the primary purpose of instructing language learners.


The realm of authentic resources for language learners is essentially endless. It ranges from all sorts of user-generated content (posts on a blog, Twitter page, or Facebook profile, comments, …) to corporate generated content (newspapers, media channels, company websites, …).

Language-based resources


Materials created with the primary purpose of helping people learn languages or providing any language assistance.


A workbook called “Learn English Now! - Beginner” might include several texts in English, but they would all be tailored to suit the expertise level of the learner. Vocabulary lists, explanations, assessment questions, and discussion prompts might follow these texts.


Language-based resources for language learners are extremely abundant on the Internet. To illustrate that, Table 1 offers a rough division of these resources, services, and products into functional categories.

Classic dictionaries Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, Dictionary.com
Crowdsourced dictionaries WordReference, Urban Dictionary
Translators Google Translate, Babylon
Forums & Social Media WordReference, Linguaholic
Blogs FluentU, Espresso English
Video Channels Rachel’s English, English For You
Alternative methods Mimic Method, Fluent in 3 months
Synchronous teaching iTalki, Verbling, Colingo
Asynchronous courses Rosetta-Stone, Duolingo, Livemocha
Language Exchange HelloTalk, My Language Exchange
Pronunciation Databases Forvo, howjsay.com, inogolo

Table 1 - Language-based services divided into functional categories

Due to many overlaps, such categories may look slightly arbitrary. For example, some blogs may also have YouTube channels, just like some products may offer more than one service.

It is important to state that this list is not exhaustive. Besides the few examples within parenthesis, it is likely that many other products could be added to almost all categories.

… so what?

After analyzing such an overwhelming availability of language-related resources, we should ask: how is all this information being used? When does one begin to actually learn a language?

These questions are usually taken for granted and, as a result, language learners may face challenges and/or dilemmas without any assistance. By informing people why they’re doing a certain thing they will be empowered to make decisions on what and how to use the services.

Choosing among resources

Image 2 illustrates the challenge of choosing one path among a sea of resources. As information gets more prominent and distributed, it becomes harder for individuals to make a informed decision.

Image 1 - So many tools out there! Image 2 - So many tools out there!

Using the chosen resources

Most of the listed services and resources are filled with information on languages, but do not offer clear instructions on how to build up language skills from that information.

Even the majority of language courses do not deliberately explain how to use the content they provide (see: Landscape Audit).

As a consequence, learners become responsible for structuring their own training or practice time, based on the language learning strategies they know and on the beliefs they hold.


This section has indicated that language learners who are relying on online resources need to constantly make decisions on how to structure and spend their practice time to learn languages.

Even though the amount and diversity of language learning resources on the Internet is vast, users are usually left alone to make these important decisions without any formal assistance.

Therefore, this section highlights a need for providing users with information to make informed decisions on how to use the available resources to learn languages in a more efficient way.