We are all eternal learners and we always keep our eyes open for new apps, platforms, and methods of learning a new language. I thought I’d make the search easier for anybody willing to learn a language by compiling a list of language learning mobile apps. Some of them you are probably familiar with, but you may also find some new gems!
When you try to describe any other learning app how often have you heard the question “is it like Duolingo?” There is no list of best apps that doesn’t mention it. Luis von Ahn successfully merged gamification and having addictive people to learn a new language and producing an app with over 100 million users. The app has become a staple example of mobile language learning.
Many Duolingo courses are created by native speakers themselves which empowers communities and language passionates to get involved and gave rise to perhaps less expected courses such as Guarani or Klingon. Another feature that makes Duolingo special to me is that it is not aimed solely at an English native speaker. For each language, there are specific courses that aim at those with different first languages.
Memrise is your go-to place for fun vocabulary practice. There is no shortage of courses on almost every language you can imagine—or invent, as there are also several devoted to constructed languages—created by the vibrant community of users. You can find standardized courses based on popular textbooks or vocabulary frequency lists as well as less expected vocabulary collections such as “Japanese naughty words” or words from the Japanese translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The fun of Memrise lies in two things: memes and gamification. The app follows a learning method that relies on creating funny or bizarre associations with the studied words. Courses are often coupled with memes designed to playfully help remember the vocabulary. The memes are created by the community and everyone can add their own! Both earning, revising and creating memes is a source of points that help you advance in the Memrise hierarchy of users (from Membryo to Overlord).
The power of Memrise also lies in two things: spaced repetition and mnemonics. The spaced repetition algorithm calculates when and how often you should review each word and the app will send you reminders when it’s time to review. The addition of memes is really helpful in memorizing the vocabulary, if you’re new to it, it may take some time to adjust to, but after that, you’ll quickly start coming up with your own creative combinations.
This is a language app that is geared more towards serious learners who want a complete language program with the guidance of a tutor. Yes, they have a good app, but it’s the extra help from the professional teachers that make the difference.
The tutors are available to answer any questions you might have. They can help with grammar, suggest extra resources, and will even assign and correct homework for those interested.
The app itself, is great for a beginner or intermediate, with clear grammar explanations, vocabulary & script learning tools, and a lot of cool cultural insights that you don’t get with most language programs. And of course, the professional tutors that know the material.
Your subscription includes their Language Learning Secrets book and your customized study plan called, A Road Map to Fluency. To receive a road map, you first fill out a questionnaire, telling their tutors about your goals, study habits, daily schedule, etc. The tutors then take this information and create your road map. It guides you every step of the way of learning a new language. Showing you the most effective study routines, telling you what additional resources to use, how much material to cover, and what stage in your language learning to use each resource. You just follow the map!
The courses are broken down into small 10 to 15-minute sections to keep things interesting and to ensure you have enough time to study a little every day. They also use an algorithm that tracks your progress through the course, so your review topics are geared specifically to your needs.
Also unique to LinguaLift, they give you access to ALL their languages with your subscription. They currently offer Japanese, Russian and Hebrew language courses, with French, Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin) courses coming later this year. If your language of choice is not on this list, you should still check out their recently released e-book entitled Language Learning Secrets. This is a must-have for any language learner
If you are serious about learning a new language, LinguaLift offers a complete program that’s definitely worth checking out. But if you have even the slightest interest in languages, be sure to get a copy of their Language Learning Secrets book.
Did I say Duolingo gamified language learning? Mindsnacks takes gamification of learning a new language to a whole different level.
Each out of seven languages they teach comes with eight or nine tiny games are designed to help you learn vocabulary, grammar, practice your listening. There are short simple lessons outlining concepts that then get practiced or tested in the games before they achieve the status of being mastered. Mindsnacks monitors your progress so you can clearly see how much more learning you need to achieve proficiency in every skill. It’s such a fun app though, that even if you do master a skill it is still fun to go back and play more games to practice it!
The design is very enjoyable, cheerful and charming, which really helps to stay involved with the learning. Being timed the games keep you engaged and often at the edge of your seat and on top of that MindSnacks also assigns you quests so you can really feel like a language explorer.
The basic download is free, but it comes only with a restricted number of games. If you pay a little bit you can access more lessons and widen your game options.
Busuu offers full courses in 12 languages. The app is free but to unlock most of the features and course materials you have to invest $17 a month. The app takes you through learning individual words to simple dialogues and questions about the dialogues all of which include audio where you can listen to native pronunciation.
The lessons are organized in topical themes where we learn skills and expressions connected to tasks. Each course also comes with a separate mini “travel course” for those who need to quickly get the basics before a trip abroad—pretty handy!
The special aspect of Busuu is that you can engage native speakers in your personal learning process. Busuu learners contribute their native speaking skills to the platform by correcting texts created by those who study their language. The desktop version even allows you to chat with native speakers in real-time. Both studying and contributing to the platform as a teacher allows you to collect “berries”, points used to rank students based on their activity. So if you’re one of the points and badges addicts, it’s a good place for you to learn a new language!