FULL LANGUAGE COURSES
Arguably one of the most popular apps out there when it comes to learning languages, most of Duolingo’s features are free of charge. Those willing to pay a little bit extra can unlock the ‘Plus’ service to remove ads and use the platform offline. But with interactive vocab training, progress quizzes and the chance to be tested on pronunciation, it’s easily one of the best all-rounders out there.
Suited to all levels of ability, it’s estimated that 92% of Babbel users improve their language skills in just two months. There are options to just learn the basics or focus on more specialist topics like travel, culture, and business. We particularly like the dialogue feature, which generates a two-sided conversation on real-life topics to give you the confidence to use the language in everyday situations.
Popular app Busuu currently supports learning across 12 different languages, with lessons available in ten-minute bite-sized sessions – perfect for those looking to squeeze in a bit of learning during their commute. There’s no internet connection required either, which makes it even better on the go, with users able to choose from a range of features across grammar, vocabulary and listening exercises.
Prepare for business trips, family holidays or study abroad with Mango’s practical, conversation-based language lessons – the first of which is free. Offering thorough, linguist-approved courses in more than 70 languages, Mango is one of the most comprehensive apps out there. You can tap every single word which appears on screen for help with pronunciation or try one of the interactive reading and listening exercises to measure your progress.
One of the longest-serving language courses, Rosetta Stone now comes in an app version for better learning on the move. With 24 language courses on offer, the app is free to download and uses the company’s own speech recognition technology to ensure you see results quickly. If you’re willing to upgrade to the online subscription, the team reckons it only takes between 40 and 50 hours to master a new language.
The Pimsleur Method is designed to get you real results in just 30-minute sessions. With a focus on conversational skills, it promises not to force users to match pictures with words in order to make progress. Instead, the conversational lessons are designed to get you talking – and are compatible with at-home Amazon Alexa systems. If more confident speakers fancy giving it a go, the app and first lesson are free to download.
BEST FOR: SOMETHING FUN
The interactive technology behind Flash Academy is the modern update on lengthy grammar drills and boring vocab sheets: the app takes its name from the flash cards built with native speaker audio and video. Of its many features, we love the option to point your phone at any object and have it translated into any one of the 14 languages currently supported by the platform. Lessons can also be as quick as five minutes.
For something a bit different, give this free read-along audiobook app a go. Users can pick books in 14 languages, and listen to or read the text in two languages side by side by scrolling though karaoke style. By picking your favourite children’s books, short stories or novels, it’s an easy way to make language learning feel like less of a chore.
This app consistently earns rave reviews for its gaming-style approach to learning vocabulary. Described as a great ‘post-Duolingo’ platform, users select the missing word in the sentence to score points. Sentences are grouped by difficulty, with dozens of languages to choose from, including French, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese. The best news? It’s free to download, sign up and play.
Designed for any level of ability, Mindsnacks is determined to make learning fun through its addictive games, and to develop vocab and conversation skills quickly. You can download the first lesson for free, although it’s worth knowing all Mindsnack apps are designed per language, so be sure to pick out your preferred language first.
BEST FOR: SOCIAL CONVERSATION
Tandem’s aim is for users to master a language by practicing real conversations with actual native speakers. Named one of Apple’s best educational apps in 2015, Tandem is now the largest language exchange community out there. Simply download and log on to find your native speaking partner and develop your skills with a digital pen pal.
Another connection app, HelloTalk matches users to exchange conversations for free. Just search for other people whose needs match yours, and practice with native speakers via text or audio message. There’s even the option to make free audio and video calls to better practice your listening and speaking skills. Finally, taking cues from social media, it’s possible to share moments with other members and get likes and comments in return.
HiNative describes itself as a global Q&A community for language learners, with native speakers from more than 170 different countries. Want to check your pronunciation? Curious about a certain region’s accent? Need some handy phrases for your upcoming trip? Just record a question and ask the app community. The platform also comes with handy question templates if you’re not sure how to get started.
If face time with a native-speaking teacher is something you’re looking for, Memrise offers users the chance to let real native speakers teach you their language from the streets of their hometown through the ‘Learn with Locals’ video clips. There are currently 15 languages supported – including niche options such as Danish and Polish – and the first lesson is completely free of charge.
BEST FOR: ON THE GO
If you find yourself on the road – whether for business or pleasure – TripLingo is the ultimate tool for learning local phrases on the go. There are four different levels of slang included, to ensure you fit right in, while the instant translation feature allows you to talk into your phone for immediate help. Get a crash course on the local culture in the app once named ‘Business Travel Innovation of the Year’ by Fast Company.
(How to) Pronounce
For proper language comprehension, pronunciation is equally, if not more, important than grammar and vocabulary. Supporting a range of languages, including options for Hindi, Arabic and Turkish, this app is ideal for learning words which are commonly mispronounced. To learn the proper intonation, the app allows you to adjust the speed at which the word is spoken, so you can fully hear the details of each sound.
Nothing new here, but no one can deny how useful installing the Google Translate app on your phone prior to a trip abroad can be. Whether it’s figuring out local signs and directions, or communicating with native speaking hotel and restaurant staff, it covers all the bases in a flash.