6 best Self-paced language platforms and teacher-led language schools?

If there’s one positive thing that’s come out of the global pandemic, it’s that it’s taught many of us to be more adaptable. This is particularly the case when it comes to how we learn or work; lockdowns have shown us that the move to virtual lessons and workplaces is not only possible, in some cases, it’s opened doors.


overview language courses - selfpaced

This is certainly true when it comes to English language training. The viability and benefits of online lessons have meant that more people are improving their language skills, no matter their location, time zone, schedule, or existing ability. Certainly, quarantine measures have been exhausting, but for many, it’s been a valuable moment for personal and professional development.

Although it’s an opportunity to seize, online language training options can be a little daunting to navigate. Since trailblazers like Duolingo brought language training to the palm of your hand, more and more contenders have entered the market. But which format is more effective? And which represents the best value for money? And what options are there for in-company language training? Here, we compare self-paced to instructor-led virtual lessons so you can pick a program that suits you.


Self-paced vs. instructor-led virtual lessons

Before exploring the options, we’ll lay out the key distinction between the various brands. On the one hand, there are self-paced language courses; these are mobile apps or software that allow you to learn by yourself. In contrast, instructor-led online lessons will be individual or group courses led by a teacher using a platform like Skype, Teams, Zoom or specific virtual classrooms.

Naturally, both have their pros and cons. Self-paced courses tend to be cheaper, and as suggested by the title, you can do them in your own time. Of course, this comes with its caveats; for many, motivation often relies on some accountability, so when left to your own devices, you can fall off the horse. Equally, these digital programs lack emphasis on one of the most important aspects of becoming a proficient speaker – speaking.

This is the key case for virtual lessons with an instructor. These classes will have a strong focus on speaking and building confidence, as well as acquainting you with native speech patterns, should the instructor be from an English-speaking country (or indeed, any other native speaker according to the course you’re taking). Plus, simulating a face-to-face learning experience boosts motivation and enjoyment. It takes commitment and some investment, but it pays off – especially if you’re learning for relocation or business.


Online language training options

Part of selecting the language course that’s right for you depends on weighing up your individual needs. Beyond the live teaching or self-led formats, there’s various companies and apps with their own unique approaches. To drill a bit deeper into the solutions available, we’ve put together this handy list of three of each of the best self- and instructor-led options. Read on for our top picks and quick reviews of each platform.


Live online language training


1. Berlitz

Berlitz is an international language school that, incredibly, has been around since the 19th century. They were built on the principle that conversation is the key to better language skills, with a focus on real-life situations. Therefore, with a Berlitz teacher, you can expect less explanation of grammar and form and more implicit learning through conversation.

2. Inlingua

Rather like Berlitz, Inlingua’s methods revolve around spoken language. Therefore, the ‘Inlingua method’ is to focus on oral skills primarily, followed by the other core language skills of reading, listening, and writing. This is supported by their in-house materials and teacher training, which have been adapted for virtual lessons.

3. BiCortex Languages

Of course, we had to give ourselves an honourable mention! BiCortex prides itself on only using native speakers for all our online language courses to ensure the most authentic, effective experience. Equally, our teachers are trained specifically for the BiCortex Languages, so they can exploit materials to the greatest effect, using our bespoke learning management system or other video calling platform – whichever suits you best.

BiCortex is also passionate about making ‘face-to-face’ virtual lessons accessible to all. For those who would otherwise be tempted by the self-paced app option, we offer affordable group classes online. This gives learners everywhere the opportunity to learn with a native-speaking teacher at a price they can afford.


Language training apps


1. Babbel

If you are going down the self-taught root, Babbel is our preferred platform. This is because we think their teaching phrases and daily class structures are the most engaging of the self-led options, keeping you on course. Plus, it’s fairly cheap if you’re uncertain about your commitment levels right now.

2. Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is somewhat of a household name when it comes to self-led language learning. Having transitioned from CD-ROMS to an app, the program offers classes that are a happy medium between daily practice and meaningful lessons. The downside is that compared to competitors, it’s on the pricey side – but you can choose monthly payments or a one-time license.

3. Duolingo

Over the last few years, Duolingo has risen up the ranks to become a serious competitor to Rosetta Stone. The service focusses on iOS or Android apps, with free versions bringing virtual lessons to the masses. Certainly, it’s good for practice, but the dominance of the gap-fill or multiple-choice format perhaps isn’t great for teaching spontaneity or meaningful vocabulary retention.


Choose the course that’s right for you

Hopefully, this brief guide has helped you to identify which format is most suitable for your circumstances and goals. Essentially, if you’re a hobbyist or a bit strapped for cash, self-paced learning might be right for you. However, if you’re preparing for relocation or looking for expatriates’ lessons, instructor-led classes are going to be more effective. Equally, for business learners, the cultural insights an instructor will bring will be invaluable. Either way, there’s a world of language-learning opportunities out there online – all that’s left to do is get started!


Online group language lessons have transformed how we study languages. They let students to learn from the comfort of their own homes, removing geographical constraints and frequently lowering prices. Because online platforms are interactive, they promote collaborative learning by allowing students to participate in real-time discussions, practice with peers, and receive immediate feedback. This dynamic setting has the potential to expedite language acquisition and improve cultural understanding.

Corporations, on the other hand, stand to profit greatly from company in-person and self-paced language courses. Face-to-face encounters encourage nuanced learning, team building, and guarantee that staff are on the same page, particularly when preparing for overseas tasks or working with global clients.

Language lessons are also essential for relocation assignees too. They not only help with successful communication in a new nation, but they also help with the adjustment by offering insights into local culture, customs, and etiquette. These seminars, when combined with relocation training for assignees, guarantee that assignees can adapt easily, both professionally and socially, into their new surroundings.

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