Learning new languages is a passion, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Lots of us are curios to learn about other languages, while some of us need to learn other languages for professional or academic purposes. And there are those who love to learn about the language of a country they’re traveling to.
In any case, learning a new language can cost time, effort and money, especially if you take courses that overload your already filled-up schedule. But recently, with all the technology, smartphones, and the internet used by people all around the world, learning a new language has become much easier.
So, if you are hoping to learn one or more new languages, but you can’t afford – or don’t have the time – to take courses, you can use one of the language learning apps that are dedicated to help you learn any language, wherever and whenever you want. Actually, why stop at one? You can use as many of these apps as you want on your language learning adventure. They cover complementary aspects of language learning, from vocabulary to conversation.
Courses are brought to you, so you can go through the learning process at your own pace. Here are my top five apps for learning languages.
Top 5 apps to learn a new language
Memrise is a fun vocabulary practice tool right in your hands. Memrise has great courses on nearly every language you can think of, in addition to some courses devoted to constructed languages which are created by the users. The courses are standardized according to popular textbooks or lists of vocabulary frequency, in addition to a collection of less expected vocabulary.
Memrise follows a fun learning method that is based on using the studied words for creating funny or bizarre associations. Usually, there are memes in the courses aiming to help remember the vocabulary in a playful way. All users can add their own memes! Memrise also uses memes to help users to get more points and compete with each other. Each course has its ranking so the users know their level and how good they’re doing.
Duolingo is probably the best app in the world, and probably the most famous of all language learning apps. If you want to know how good other apps are, you naturally compare it to Duolingo. With a huge number of languages, and more than 100 million users, Duolingo uses games with learning to make the process more effective and fun.
Duolingo has a unique feature, which is that it’s aimed at speakers of many languages. There are certain courses that are dedicated to those with different first languages for each language course.
This app is aimed to practice speaking with real people. The idea is to make it easier, and minimize the stress of real face-to-face conversation. Language learners using HelloTalk can find native speakers and have conversations with them using a chat similar to WhatsApp, with voice and text messages to make it more effective and fun. The best part is when two users of two different mother tongues come across each other, and each one of them wants to learn the other’s language. HelloTalk makes this easy by matching you with compatible language learners: native speakers of the language you want to learn, who in turn want to learn English!
A built-in correction tool allows users to correct each other’s errors within the chat, in addition to an integrated translation system that can save the moment when a user has any difficulty understanding any part of the speech. There’s no shame in that – it’s all part of the learning process.
Mindsnacks takes learning with games to a completely different level. Seven languages are taught, each comes with eight or nine little games that are designed to help the users learn vocab, grammar, and practice their listening. There are concepts of the language that are outlined in short, simple lessons that then get practiced and tested using the games. Mindsnacks monitors the user’s progress so they can see very clearly how much more learning proficiency they need to achieve in every language skill, without feeling boredom.
The Mindsnacks app has a very enjoyable, cheerful and charming design that really helps users to stay engaged with the learning progress. The app is basically free, but to unlock more games, the user needs to pay for them.
Busuu has full courses for 12 languages. It is free of charge, but most of the features and course materials are locked, and the user has to pay $17 a month to unlock them. The progress Busuu uses with its users is to go through learning individual words within simple dialogues. It asks questions about the dialogues, including audio where the user can listen to the correct native pronunciation.
The lessons are organized by themes according to topics where users learn task-connected skills and expressions. Also, each one of the courses has its own mini travel course, which provides some quick help for those who are traveling and need a quick lesson on the basics.
Busuu also engages native speakers in the process of the user’s personal learning. Every Busuu learner can contribute their own native language skills, and that is done by correcting texts of the ones who are learning their language. Real time chats with native speakers are available in the desktop version of Busuu. Both learning and teaching contribution to the platform allows users to collect points (berries), and students are ranked by the points they get depending on their activity.
A note on using language learning apps…
Language learning apps based on gamification are a fun and effective way to help you reach your goals, but there’s a catch. They only work if you use them. These top five apps are interesting enough that you probably won’t need much arm-twisting to get your study time in. But a common trap that language students fall into is taking on too many new things at once. They get overwhelmed and end up not doing anything at all. So my recommendation is to add just one app at a time, turn it into a habit, and then you can start looking for a new app to put into your program.