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Check this out at the library.
While it's true that it can't be the only technique you use, it is very useful for building vocabulary and learning grammar if you do it right. I highly recommend this book which speaks specifically to how to use Anki correctly for language learning: https://www.amazon.com/Fluent-Forever-Learn-Language-Forget/dp/0385348118
Flash cards and anki are great for learning vocabulary, for some people. It is important to keep in mind when people on the internet give advice, it is always from their perspective and their opinion. I have a high opinion of flash cards and of anki.
But learning to use Anki can be hard. The book Fluent Forever is largely a Anki Tutorial. Plus there are many youtube videos that offer help.
Building anki flash cards used to be one of my favorite things.
When I get a new word I want to learn.
I look it up in a translating dictionary. Then I look it up in a target language dictionary. I read both definitions to see If I understand how it is used.
I read the IPA and syllabification to make sure I know how the word is pronounced. I include this on the card.
I look it up in context on reverso. If there is a good sentence I add it to a card.
I look up google image searches of the word. I pick and image or do a composite to represent it. I include that on the card(s).
I decide which definition I want to learn for that card. If there are many meanings I sometimes make multiple cards.
If it is a verb i make sure I know the past participle and if it is transitive or intransitive. I put that on its own card. (Studying Italian so those two are important.)
I build the card or cards with all these elements.
My opinion is that building the card is the most important part of learning the word. The card is just something that helps me remember all that research I did on that one word.
I want to suggest a different direction. Get the book Fluent Forever. It's the best, most up to date explanation I've come across of how a polyglot goes about methodically learning a language. I have a paperback copy, and I'm actually listening to the audiobook on Spotify on my commutes this week.
You'll use a grammar book (I think the Korean Grammar in Use series will work just fine, your own custom Anki deck (spend 30-60 minutes a day on this, this is your "full schedule, just like a real class"), and comprehensible input. Anything you can basically understand is meaningful input and can be turned into flash cards. Here a memorable line from a movie (Last weekend for me it was "이컸다!", "니가 가라 하와이!", and "고미헤라!" from my first time watching 친구), turn it into flash cards. Learn a new grammar rule, use it to write some sentences, post them on HelloTalk, get corrections from native speakers, and then turn them into flash cards. Have a conversation with a native speaker, write out what you heard them say or got from the conversation, and turn it into flash cards.
I've always had the problem you're describing, and arranging my study around my Anki deck has revolutionized my life. I just carry around a notebook, write down things I want to remember in it, once or twice a week turn them into a hundred or so flash cards, and then spend 30+ minutes a day on Anki reviewing them.
I’m sorry love; it totally sucks to be alone. I don’t even live in a foreign country and I have only made one “friend” in the last 14 years of living where I am (not where I’m from). And she turned out to be a mistake. I have really gotten more out of this Reddit alone than I thought was possible; I don’t know where any of you ladies live, but we all hold each other up when shit goes down and virtually high five each other when it goes right. Yes, I would love to have physical friends, and DH has suggested I try to find a knitting group or book club at the library or whatnot to potentially make a friend in person.
TBH, i never had to make friends before - I was born and grew up in the same place, had best buddies since kindergarten, etc. so making new friends is odd for me. It’s like I instantly want to be someone’s BFF, but I know that’s bizarre. So, I’m embracing all the ladies on here right now. If I get in-person friends, that’s awesome too. But I’m so so SO thankful I found this subreddit and all the awesome ladies here.
Don’t know where you are, but perhaps there is a military base nearby? Tons of families from all over, dropped in a foreign country too. Additionally, you could download Duolingo or a similar app and learn the language! If you decide to go that route, consider reading Fluent Forever — it’s an amazing book. I actually have a digital copy I can send you if you Wamt; just PM me.
This book was very helpful for me for making the language learning process faster and easier: Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It https://www.amazon.com/dp/0385348118/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_2C3BAbXHM7ABN
Another piece of advice... There's different skills involved with language. It's often the case that you can understand like 90% of written language in your target language, but then if someone says the same thing, you only understand like 30% or less of what they said.
Treat learning through text, learning to listen, and learning to speak and pronounce as different skills, and practice each daily. For me listening is always the most difficult.
Finally, check out the app HelloTalk. It's a free language exchange app which connects you with native speakers of your target language who are also looking to learn your language.
Spanish (though as a teenager I've tried self-learning French and Modern Greek as well, but didn't commit due to other activities) primarily because it's easy and is second-most common in the US. That second factor helps me practically since I plan to go into the medical field. I'm already fluent in two other South Asian languages, so I'm hoping that doesn't interfere too much lol. Also, for anyone looking to start learning a new language, I recommend going through Gabriel Wyner's <em>Fluent Forever</em>.
Polyglot Gabriel Wyner (http://www.amazon.com/Fluent-Forever-Learn-Language-Forget/dp/0385348118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436933497&sr=8-1&keywords=gabriel+wyner) recommends this method to create Anki cards, to search for images in context (with the text below), regarding the specific culture/language that you're learning. There are words that the engine will attribute to your language of choice automatically, but perhaps other words are going to be confused between several languages. As with everything, it's just another resource that can be useful to some people.
I won't study frequency lists of vocabulary until I can form sentences on my own by studying the grammar and example sentences. Then, if I want, I am open to memorizing a thematic dictionary, preferably the ones with pictures. Even then, I will be selective about the themes I choose to study.
This book probably interests you.
I moved to Norway for a potential job (but oddly ended up in Aberdeen instead) from the US.
1) almost everyone speaks English. I was actually pretty shocked initially. So that will help easy the transition. And aside a few quirks they are culturally not that different from the Northeastern US. Though do however go out of their way to not sit next to people on buses and trams and are a bit standoff ish if you are a stranger. But had them a drink and it’s all good.
2) Norwegian is pretty easy to learn as it a Germanic language like English. So the grammar is pretty similar. I got to a B2 level (the beginning of fluency in about 3 months) but I also made an effort not to speak English.
I would recommend the Fluent Forever method of learning. Which is based on the idea that if you know about 2000-2500 words you know roughly 85% of the most commonly used words. Also, like the book suggests I used a flash card app called Anki. It has a bit of an initially learning curve, but it is worth it as you can do a lot of things with it. Plus you can find pre made decks. Though the Fluent forever book and YouTube page will help you build more effective cards. If you can also take a two week intensive class I would recommend that as well. I will be based around the book på vei. If you want to learn yourself I suggest Colloquial Norwegian and The mystery of Nils for reading practice. Pimsleur is also a good resource when pair with other resources.
The added bonus of learning Norwegian is you also will be generally able to understand some Swedish and and read some danish.
Also and I can’t stress this enough make friends with Norwegian ( you will accomplish this through work and at the bar. Norwegians get super chatty when they have been drinking) They are a wonderful and warm people and probably own a cabin in the woods if that is your thing.
Lastly Trondheim is beautiful. But I would recommend Oslo as there is more going on and you will get more daylight during the winter months.
Do you have ANY intentions of becoming a permanent resident and/or citizen of France? If so, you may be better off becoming a European Union (EU) citizen, at least at first, starting off. I know that may not make any sense to you and you may be thinking "noooooooo!", but being an EU citizen actually is the great equalizer when you are in an EU country like France. This is because EU citizens have Freedom of Movement rights to live/work/retire anywhere in the European Union Countries (27 Countries), plus the European Economic Area (Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway--but Lichtenstein is allowed a person quota) and Switzerland (which is not part of the EU or EEA, but has treaties with the EU). However, in the case of retirement (being a pensioner/retiree/disabled), you have to show that you have "sufficient funds" to be able to support yourself.
But, as a US citizen (and in this case as a EU citizen too) with a software engineering degree with decent pay, this shouldn't be a big deal, as you will be paying US taxes for Medicare and Social Security (although if you make below US $104,000? you get a tax credit to where you basically effectively do not have to pay US taxes). You would also likely be eligible for a pension in the country you worked in Europe too. You would likely have enough income to live in anywhere in Europe (besides the city-states and perhaps Switzerland) with your US social security alone (again, as a full time software engineer with a degree from a US university).
What I am saying is that there are more booming places for software engineering, such as Ireland, which also pay better. You would be better off working there, getting Irish and EU citizenship (dual citizenship is permitted in Ireland), while learning French and brushing up on your skills there. Then you can move on to France and continue with your plans there, whether you want to become a permanent resident (which is much, much easier as an EU citizen, as it's not tied to your job at all, especially considering the unemployment in France is atrocious) or more.
Regardless, this particular old post will be useful for you. Basically, knowing languages (being a polyglot) and having a masters degree in Software Engineering likely will be super useful in increasing your prospects for long-term success. [The OP does get some flak because "immigrating to the EU has become harder 'since then'" but the information is still valuable, especially to somebody just starting out.]
As for language learning, I personally took this course, and I am now confident that I can learn even very difficult to learn languages. But, I want to point out that you definitely do not need to go overseas and do a "language immersion program" in a foreign country to become fluent in a language. Also, outside of the Anglosphere (English-speaking countries) it is very common to be able to fluently speak a second language, so learning a second language is definitely not "mission impossible"--even for native English speakers. You may find this recent thread useful. You also might find r/LanguageLearning and Language Learners' Forum to be useful too.
What really makes a big difference is having a very good language teacher (such as via Skype). For example, I am learning a difficult Slavic language. My teacher runs a ___________ Language School in the UK and has many years experience teaching at both _______________ Slavic language schools and French language schools. She is fluent in ___________ Slavic language and French and English. Anyways, for a 50 minute session via Skype it costs about USD $25, and it's definitely worth it as she's worth her weight in gold.
To practice speaking in French you would want to do a "virtual language immersion" via iTalki.com. Basically, you pay a native French speaker about $10-20/hour (depending on their rate) to speak with them the whole hour--with you not speaking a word of English. You can do this for even 4-6 hours a day, with different speakers, for your "language immersion program" to help you become fluent. But you do not want to use iTalki as a primary source for tutoring, as having a great language teacher really goes a far ways. iTalki basically exists because a lot of people are underemployed in the "Gig economy" and so they are just trying to get paid, rather than trying to bring out the best in you.
Glossika.com is highly useful in making you become conversational too.
You should also get the book "Fluent Forever", which was written by an engineer polyglot. Anyways, engineers (at least in the formal disciplines--I am saying this as an electrical engineering student) are highly efficient at devising quick learning methods and are also highly efficient in their work and skills too.
But, for getting started, this is what I would do.:
It should be noted that the happiness of immigrants very closely mirrored the happiness of natives in the World Happiness Report.
You should also make a notebook in Microsoft OneNote (or something similar) and have subsections for each "prospective country" that you may want to emigrate to. You can add various posts that you find valuable to each of the subsections so it's all easy to search and find.
OP, I would recommend the following assuming he will have access to a computer and the Internet and is somewhat comfortable using those things:
Duolingo is a good starting point. It is free and easy to use and will provide some early confidence.
Have him write down the reasons he wants to learn English and what would be the common settings for its use. This is important for motivation purposes to remind him down the line but it also lets you adjust his training to vocabulary in those settings.
Have him buy a small journal which he can take with him where he can write down all his thoughts during the day. For example, what words and phrases he wants to know in English or a new word he learned that he wants to add to his vocabulary lists. This is also a place where he can put together common scripts for the scenarios he wants to be able to converse in. For example, checking in at a hotel, going to a restaurant, talking to a client about business, etc.
Early on, I suggest avoid focusing on grammar. He can always learn grammar later and it is IMO the most tedious form. You want to get him some early wins in his language learning so he will be motivated to keep going. If you must talk about grammar, just focus on the present tense and the very basics early on.
Instead, focus his attention on vocabulary building that will require flash cards and spaced repetition. There are a number of different ways you can do this. One way is to use a tool like memrise but another is to simply find a list of the most common words used and the ones he wants to learn and put those into an anki deck. If he is old school, and wants to physically write flash cards that is fine too but you will want to give him some information on how to use spaced repitition with physical flash cards. For making flash cards, I would look at books like Fluent Forever (https://www.amazon.com/Fluent-Forever-Learn-Language-Forget/dp/0385348118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517635406&sr=8-1&keywords=fluent+forever) for advice on how to make flash cards. But basically they should be created by adding in pronounciation, sound files, pictures and word phrases to trigger your memory.
He needs to start reading in English. I like dual language books where they have the English on one side of the page and Spanish on the other. These are great because you can take them with you to the barbershop, on the train, flights, etc. and doesn't require you to have to look anything up on a computer as all the words are translated for you. I like the Stories from... books. They are easy to read and have stories about folklore and history from various countries. I have seen ones from Spain, Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Mexico. Also, a few of these have audio files online where you can get access to listen to these stories with audio as well.
Here, is a link to a couple of them:
Once he gets beyond these books, I would have him look at a service like LingQ. This is great for working on reading and listening skills. One challenge I find is it is hard to find content that has the language in audio and written form together and this is a great solution for this problem. I have started using this service a couple of weeks ago and really like it. It basically has written stories on various topics in the foreign language. These stories also have a recording of the story being read so you can listen to the story while reading it. Plus, you can click on any words in the story and it will bring up a defintion and then you can add that word to your vocabulary list. They have a feature where you can then be quizzed on these vocabulary words in close sentence form but I recommend taking the extra step of adding these words to your anki file or other vocabulary flash cards. The only downside is it costs about $10 USD a month for this service. But they do offer a free trial for a week or so and you can get a little cheaper rate by ordering for a year. When you consider the cost of buying a bunch of dual language books and the time spent trying to find them, this is a small cost.
He needs to start talking in English too with a teacher. Until he has an intermediate level, I would not recommend a language exchange partner. Instead, you will need to have sessions with him or get him a teacher on a service like Italki.com or something similar. There may also be some offline options in your area that others can recommend. He may prefer a group/classroom setting initially but as he progresses he should opt for 1 on 1 teaching instead.
After a couple of months, he can start doing some writing as well. One resource that I like for this is lang-8.com. It works where you write a submission in your target language and people will give corrections to you. In return, you correct their submissions. So it is free but costs you a little time.
Whatever you do, you just want to make sure he is spending some time consistently on the big four: reading, talking, listening and writing. Obviously, a lot of time will also be spent on building his vocabulary as well.
Highly recommend Fluent Forever
Highly recommend you pick up the book Fluent Forever, I spun my wheels on grammar for my whole life and finally started making progress with this. Seriously, if this is important to you, it's the best $15 you will ever spend.
The human mind internalizes the grammar of any new language by receiving comprehensible input. Sure, you can consciously learn the rules of grammar (which is a great starting point), but your internal "language machine" will only spontaneously generate correct output once it has taken enough input to learn the rules. And even then, it will only learn the rules IN A SPECIFIC ORDER WITHOUT SKIPPING ANY STEPS. So you can drill grammar exercises all day, but it will never actually make a difference to your writing/speech until you have progressed through ALL the necessary prerequisite steps.
The approach from the book is simple enough: use your conscious knowledge of grammar to create new sentences, give them to someone to correct as necessary (italki.com or hinative.com), and then use them to make Anki flash cards. Grammar comes down to three basic things: add new words, change the order of the words, or change the form of the word - that last one being the difficult part of Greek for native English speakers. As you continually see correct phrases and sentences and test yourself on those three things, your mind will internalize the grammar rules behind them, in whatever order it needs to.
This would be a great place to start. Fluent Forever
I'd recommend Fluent Forever (the app and website). Personally I've found it's the most natural way to learn a new language. If you're interested in the techniques used, there's also a book written by the creator: https://www.amazon.com/Fluent-Forever-Learn-Language-Forget/dp/0385348118
Hope this helps :)
This approach isn't for everyone, but Gabe Wyner of Fluent Forever argues that learning a language requires you to first internalize its specific sounds and accent nuances. The Michel Thomas Method, Pimsleur, and Seedlang seem to advocate a similar philosophy.
I will write my suggestions based on my experience of learning German language. German is very hard language to learn, but still easier than Slavic languages like Croatian. I want to say on the beginning that watching TV and listening music want help. It works maybe for English, but for Croatian it wont work.
I would recommend before starting anything to read some book about language learning, like this one. It will help you to understand process of language learning.
Based on this book, I would recommend to find 500 most used words in Croatian and learn them. This will help you to build some base and you will be able to create some simple sentences.
Based on my experience, its best to find teacher from start. If you can find someone whose mother language its not Croatian, that would be even better. Invest some money from the start. You want be able to focus so hard on your own and you will abandon whole idea very soon.
Learning once a week wont help much, at least 2, but ideally 3 times per week.
Forget about hard math that you calculated, motivation WILL GO AWAY. You have to learn to enjoy the process. Find some way to measure your process(like record you self every month) so when you are down, and you think you are not moving forward that you can remind yourself how far you have gone.
Take a break every 2-3 months, this will help you a lot. First you will get some well deserved rest, and you will give your brain time to process all stuff that you learned, and when you continue learning, you will see the progress.
Firstly, I disagree with the claim that the first goal is unreasonable. You should absolutely be able to speak at a B1-ish level with 3 months of study, and being able to watch the news and get most of it at 6 months is achievable but might be difficult.
I would highly recommend the methods in the book Fluent Forever.
The tl;dr version is this:
Grab a vocabulary list from a frequency dictionary, starting with the most used words and going down. Gonna make some high quality flash cards (I promise this is better than downloading a stack)
go to google image search in the target language (in this case www.google.co.il) and search for a given word. Download an image that makes sense to you for that word. Example.
Download audio of a native speaker saying the word from forvo
make a flashcard in Anki (free program for your computer with a $25 iOS app or a free Android app) with one side being the written word + audio recording and the other side be the image. Then make the same card in reverse, so you can practice it going from image to word or word to image.The idea is not to have English so you don't develop a dependence on translating to English as an intermediate.
Practice the deck every day! Anki uses a spaced repetition system to determine how frequently words come up, with words you remember more easily coming up less. Also, repeat the words right after you hear them, even if it's just muttering them to yourself.
Keep adding to the deck every week. I found 10-20 cards a week was pretty easy to manage when I did this. It's time consuming, but the process of making it yourself helps create a stronger memory associated with the word that is reinforced every time you see the card.
You can do this with phrases as well, but it's a bit trickier. The book has some tips for that. If you need recordings for phrases try Rhinospike or ask someone here to record it for you.
If you go with vocab based on a frequency dictionary you can get very functional very fast. Every language has a subset of words that are used extremely frequently and you get an outsized benefit from focusing on that. Hebrew presents some challenges in that infinitives of verbs aren't clearly indicative of how their conjugated forms will be, so you might have to include an infinitive card and (ideally one) conjugated card for each. You'll also really need the audio since the text itself can't always unambiguously identify a word independent of context.
The phrase cards really help, too, but for those go for phrases related to things you do regularly or that demonstrate a piece of grammar well. Having useful phrases (e.g. "how do you say 'x' in Hebrew?" or "where's the bathroom?") you can effortlessly whip out from muscle memory is extremely helpful in conversation early on.
Also try to learn some set phrases. Simple little conversational units that commonly appear together and generally have a unique, consistent meaning together that may not make sense from the literal meaning of the constituent words (e.g. מזל טוב או כל הכבוד). Sorry if the parenthetical renders weird. Mixing Hebrew and English doesn't work so great on Reddit.
This works extremely well for me. Everyone learns differently though, so you might not get the same results.
For spoken fluency I like shadowing.
Read this: https://www.amazon.com/Fluent-Forever-Learn-Language-Forget/dp/0385348118
Hey, thanks! Glad you found it useful.
I'd say that the foundation of my method is to take note of how children acquire their native language, and then attempt not to copy exactly how they do so but apply the same principles. Adults are different than children, but not in a way that makes it neurologically impossible to acquire language with a categorically identical outcome; we as adults must implement the same subconscious methods children implement, but through manual choice rather than natural propensity. It's a delicate balancing act, for it's a matter of conscious implementation of the conditions which lead to subconscious language acquisition.
Many people advocate immersion because it's the more "natural" method for learning a language, but the problem is that it's unnatural to be an adult learning a language from scratch. By analogy, many people who advocate alternative medicine explain that anything "unnatural" is bad, but issue is that civilization itself is unnatural; a lot of the unnatural things that we do are techniques for compensating for certain unnatural situations in society. For example, taking a supplement pill is unnatural, but doing so is in many situations an unnatural solution to an unnatural problem: soil depletion leading to low nutrient density of farmed foods, grain-based diets causing mineral deficiency, etc.
My objective is to return to the natural (the immersive way that children acquire their native language), but include unnatural tools insofar as they're necessary to compensate for the unnatural character of learning a new language as an adult. For instance, babies spend their first several months listening to the sounds around them and learning to perceive the phonemes properly. Adults don't automatically do this simply by playing audio for their target language, but they can implement the same principles manually through techniques like minimal-pair testing.
If you want a concrete overview about how to learn foreign languages, I would highly recommend Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner. He has a deep understanding of the process of foreign-language acquisition while also being an excellent communicator of practical information. He lays it out step-by-step.
And if you want to delve into more theory, I think the following articles of mine are important:
A Psychological Basis for the Critical Period of Language Acquisition
In Search of the Sponge Effect
The Trial-and-Error System of Grammatical Acquisition
>And how on earth do you think that saves you time?
It would save me time because I would be learning only comprehension, while not spending any time focusing on developing the ability to speak. You disagree that ignoring the speaking component of language acquisition would be an effective way to save time, but that's of course the fundamental issue that we're talking about here. It doesn't help to repeat your position without any support, as if it's a new point you're making.
Iterating the process I mentioned for several years sounds like a large time investment, but there's no getting around that when trying to learn a language to a standard that I personally would find useful in my life. If not learning how to speak would cut the nevertheless lengthy process to about half of what it would have otherwise been, that would be useful to me. I'm basically trying to solve the problem of, "How could I learn French to a decently high standard for the specific objectives I have, namely gaining a reasonably deep understanding of the politics, science, and literature of the modern and historical French-speaking world, while cutting every other corner as much as possible, since my time is limited?" Learning to comprehend without practicing speaking seemed like a possibility, since I've heard of plenty of people who can understand a language without being able to speak it.
>If you spent the very small amount of time time just learning how to speak French - the FSI Phonology Course is a very good base, takes 10 hours - you'd understand what I'm talking about. You can finish that in 2 weeks rather than spending years of iteration.
I don't think you understand what my goals are here. It will take years of iteration no matter what to learn what I want to learn. I'm trying to be efficient, not spend a small amount of time as if it's going to just be a hobby that I play around with here and there.
>In German you half the time you have spaces between words in writing and the other half you don't, and whether you get a space in speech will depend on whether the word starts with a vowel or not. That's not particularly straightforward either, it's just different.
Why did you say that learning to understand without learning how to speak would possibly be doable in German, and that French in particular is the issue here? The only way I'm able to make sense of that claim is to assume that it's easier to take knowledge of the written language in German and translate it into listening comprehension, than it is in French.
When you were having trouble with listening comprehension in French, were you at a level where you could understand a lot more in writing than in speech? If so, was that because you spent a while memorizing vocabulary and grammar in writing? The main difficulty I'm having with your claims is that everything you're saying could be explained by something I've seen an almost endless supply of: language learners picking up a lot of vocabulary and grammar in writing, and then having trouble translating it into listening comprehension. Methods like what's explained in this book solve that problem entirely, and I can't tell why French couldn't be addressed with similar methods, though tailored to its peculiarities.
I see that you're native in English and Swiss German, and that you're C1 in German. That sounds like a result of your upbringing. It also seems that you're A2 in French, which I imagine is a language you've intentionally decided to study as an adult. Are there any other languages that you've studied as an adult to a decent level?
>No. There aren't a huge number of speakers who are literally native in more than one language regardless of the pair. It's fairly uncommon. Especially so with French - you won't even find it that often in Quebec.
It's incredible the degree to which you just seem to want to quibble. Look, there's not going to be an issue finding people who know about French politics who would be happy to speak in English. Some of them will be individuals who are native in both languages (since such people surely exist in high enough numbers that I could readily meet them), and some of them will be people from other backgrounds.
I don't have as much first-hand data on this topic as you, so it's easy for you to quibble with my relatively imprecise statements. But my goal here isn't to see who's able to be more technically correct within the realm of interpretation strained for the purpose of tribal argumentation. My goal is to figure out what may or may not be a good idea to pursue, and you're giving me little confidence that your statements are optimized for that purpose; you seem above all concerned with winning arguments.
I'm finding the book Fluent Forever to be a goldmine of useful techniques. The companion website also has language-specific resources, e.g. Chinese.
This is a pretty great book that outlines how to use free internet resources to learn a language of your choosing. It relies heavily on google images and the spaced repetition program called Anki.
Start here. I wish I would have read it...
Before anything read Fluent Forever
Start first by reading this book
Here is a post I saved when I asked myself the same thing a while back. http://fluent-forever.com/ is the poster's website now and here is his book.
Whatever you do, make sure you sign up for "language hours" or something similar at your university - where you can practice speaking ASL, Arabic, or Spanish casually with others learning the language and those who speak it native. Often times, universities will fund lunch for these types of programs so they have a consistent turn out.
The First 20 Hours basically says that it takes 20 hours of focused effort to get to a "competent" level. In other other words, it takes 20 hours of focused mindset to get to a level where YOU can correct your own mistakes and you can understand when you're doing something wrong. That's all, only 20 hours. It will take more time to become a master, but less time to be pretty good. But it's the first 20 hours where you get a "feel" for whatever skill you're trying to get.
Here's a Ted Talk by the author of the book. He summarizes the book, though the book gives you a more detailed examination:
Applying this to language learning can be tricky, since it can be tough to know where you really are on language learning. For language learning, I would specifically suggest a couple of things:
Learn what you like. Sometimes language books teach you stuff that may never come up in a casual conversation, like all the countries of Europe. While that's informative, you may NEVER end up talking about England while traveling through Spanish-speaking Mexico. Thus, learn what YOU want, and as time goes on, you'll learn more about what you have to in specific situations, but the core of the language will be there. If you hear "England" in another language, you'll be ABLE to ask, "What does that word mean?" And it'll create conversation that is memorable.
There will be some parts that you have to grind through because they are necessary. Try to make them as likeable as possible. Some parts of language are super necessary and common, but can be slightly boring. Things like, "This, That, You, Me, Us, Them, Eat, Walk, Happy, Sad, Please, Thank You. etc." Some words are WORTH KNOWING MORE THAN OTHERS. So don't give all words/verbs the same value. Try to focus more on HIGHER frequency/value words. There's no sense in learning "pumpkin seeds" in places that grows beans, instead--learn beans. You can google for "frequency words/chart" for any given language on google. The frequency may vary, so try to compare a couple of them.
Learn the sounds of your language. This can REALLY be a drag, but will cut your accent off a HUGE portion. You can google "phonemes" for your language. If it gets too complicated, then just understand this: learn to listen MORE than you speak. And you should be speaking A LOT! Your ear will learn the sounds more and more as time goes along, YOUR job is to repeat the sounds. Even if you only perfect one sound a week, you'll get better.
All of these tips came from the book "Fluency."
I've read MANY books on language learning and this one is the one that has helped the most. It also has many internet resources inside of it.
there's a subreddit for learning japanese I'm sure you've already found, their faq is here. It's been a long time since I've spent much time with japanese (someday I'll have to go back and get up to speed with it again... with a new FF7 coming out next year, maybe I'll have to do that sooner than later) but it looks like the genki textbook series is what's recommended. Is there a reason you're looking for software instead of a textbook?
In my view, there's a few different stages to learning a language... the intro stage feels like the most daunting, but it's actually the easiest, with the fastest visible progress, and the most tools hand-made to help you along your way. The first stage in a langauge starts to end when you know all the basic grammar, and have enough vocabulary that you can start reading/watching low-level native materials. At that point there's a whole lot less hand-holding and courses available that'll help, but it's a lot more fun (in my view anyway) since you can start actually using the language instead of just 'studying'.
So.. what I'm meaning to say I guess, don't worry about the best course, just find something that's usable enough that you'll stick with it over the first few months to a year, which is about how long it'll likely take you to break through the beginner phase. If spending $300~$600 will motivate you and force you to study, then it might be a good pick... but if you'll use other materials, you can pretty easily teach yourself the basics for free.
Honestly, if you're new to learning a language on your own, you should think about picking up a copy of this book. I don't follow even half of what he suggested there, but he had a lot of good ideas that would have saved me a ton of time had I started with it while learning Japanese back in the day.
For what it's worth... I love learning using graded readers. Using a basic textbook for learning grammar while reading a bunch of graded readers (to keep the flow of new vocab low while reinforcing what you already know in a way that's not too painful) keeps me a lot more motivated than a gamified piece of software with levels ups and experience points.
The author of the book Fluent Forever found some research that pointed at minimal pairs as an excellent way to train your ear. Minimal pairs are pairs of words that sound similar to an untrained ear, e.g. ces/sais, vos/vo and deux/du in French. You can find the words and their correct pronunciation yourself and create an immediate feedback system to learn to distinguish the sounds, or you can buy the English->French pronunciation trainers the author created for Anki (spaced repetition/flash card software). (I'm not affiliated in any way)