10 Apps That Will Help You Learn a Foreign Language
Is your high-school French getting a little rusty? Or perhaps you travel frequently for work and would like to learn how to say more than just “hello”, “please” and “thank you” to clients and business colleagues.
Language classes can be a big commitment, not to mention the cost. Thankfully, there’s an abundance of specialist foreign language apps out there that can help you to brush up your vocab on the go.
Best of all, most are either free or available for a pretty cheap subscription. You’ll be fluent in Portuguese, Punjabi or Persian in no time. Or at least you’ll be able to ask for directions and order a meal.
Here are the best language learning apps to download now.
Rosetta Stone is the grand-mommy of them all. The internationally famed courses are based on the principle that we all have the natural ability to learn foreign languages (even if it doesn’t always feel that way when your struggling to conjugate your verbs). The app version uses the same immersive method of repetition, intuitive learning and feedback based on speech recognition.
The Busuu app matches you with study pals in a sort of knowledge exchange. So, if you’re learning Japanese, a fellow student over in Tokyo might evaluate your speaking exercises for accuracy, grammar and pronunciation—in return for you offering the same. The next best thing to learning in situ.
Learning by listening is all well and good, but what about perfecting your pronunciation? Babbel, offered as a subscription service, gives you the chance to have interactive “conversations” with native speakers, which are then assessed using speech-recognition technology. The bite-size learning format, with lessons lasting 10-15 minutes, means it’s easy to slot into busy lives.
This app isn’t just for native English speakers—the broad range of on-the-go courses are also tailored to those with a different first language. It’s also a great choice if you’re looking to learn beyond the most obvious languages, with Navajo, Hawaiian and Welsh all on the list.
A pioneer in accessible language learning, Michel Thomas’ method is about sitting back and letting the words wash over you. The trickiest thing is to stop trying to memorize each phrase. The app version adds graphics, animations and flash cards to the audio.
This super-cute app looks more like a Pokémon game than a foreign language program, and it’s almost as fun as seeking out Pikachu. But for anyone who hasn’t picked up an English-Spanish dictionary for eons—and anyone who just likes playing games—it’s a great way to start learning, with tests and challenges getting progressively harder as you go.
OK, so maybe you had grand ambitions to be fluent in Mandarin when you booked your trip a year ago. But now there’s just a week to go until you fly and, well... TripLingo is less about fluency and more about boning up on a few key phrases, plus cultural etiquette, to make your travels more fun and memorable.
The Memrise app was developed by brainy science-types who worked out the best methods for getting languages to stick in our memories. It’s all about evoking various senses and peppering learning with short tests. And because it uses games and colorful visuals, it’s far more fun than a traditional text book.
Mondly is another free foreign language app that just gets it—learning is so much easier when it’s enjoyable. It twins language skills with the latest technology, so you can brush up your lingo using voice recognition and virtual reality (VR).
There are no excuses with this one. The Drops app claims it only needs five minutes of your time every day to teach you a new language. With “lessons” disguised as games, like matching pictures to translations or unscrambling letters, you’ll probably end up spending longer anyway.