Duolingo? Busuu? Babbel? Which language learning app do I use?!
Just like most of us have tried a language learning app at least once in our life, many of us have also used it for a short period of time due to losing interest, becoming frustrated by the non-user-friendly setup or “life just happens.” It’s important to keep in mind that face-to-face communication with a native speaker is the most effective way to gain language proficiency, but if you don’t have this opportunity you could use an app as a supplemental learning resource to go along with your English classes. These apps can be used on-the-go if you have limited time and you can proceed at your own pace. They also allow you to have fun while learning by using interactive games or connecting you to other language learners. Here’s some information on five of the top rated language learning apps.
About: Duolingo is one of the most well-known and most popular language learning apps. There are four exercises in this app: reading, listening, writing and speaking.
Pros: It’s fun! This app is great for vocabulary and is one big game. It allows you to level up and earn virtual currency as you increase your language learning skills. You can set daily reminders and customize your goals, which can be helpful to keep you motived to practice every day. Registering for Duolingo is fast (less than a minute) and very user-friendly.
Cons: As mentioned above, this app is great for vocabulary, but isn’t great for hearing comprehension because you’re not exposed to natural sounding conversations and phrases (unless you reach an advanced level). It also doesn’t offer explanations for grammar rules.
Cost: This app is free! Although, you can always pay $10 per month for Duolingo Plus, which stops advertisements from showing up on your screen up after you’ve completed a module.
About: This is a visual app that you can use to learn basic phrases. The learning is based on repetition, with support through flashcards and listening to the pronunciation of words by a native speaker. The lessons are split into topics (i.e. at school, my city, jobs, etc.) and they provide you with phrases you need to use in a variety of real-life situation.
Pros:. This app also has game features and it allows you to learn the foreign language as a whole. You can interact with others while using the app. There’s an option to talk to native speakers to enhance you language skills, get feedback from tasks you’ve done, and correct other people’s completed exercises.
Cons: Although you get to listen to conversations and the correct pronunciation of words, it doesn’t provide you with feedback on your own pronunciation. You have to pay a subscription fee to have access to all of the lessons.
Cost: It’s free! If you want to have more in depth lessons you do have to pay a monthly subscription fee ($9.99/ month or $69.99/year)
About: Each lesson is made up of a dialogue, new vocabulary words, grammar instruction and a review of what you’ve learned. Every lesson is about 10 to 15 minutes long and there’s a “review manager” that provides you with learned vocabulary words (which helps you commit the words to your long-term memory).
Pros: This app is interactive and it covers a variety of topics like business language, culture, basic language lessons, geography, extra words and phrases, and travel. Everything you learn is spoken out loud so you can improve your listening comprehension.
Cons: This is not as user-friendly as some apps. For example, when you first start using the app there isn’t any information about how it’s structured (i.e. number of questions, different tasks, etc.). There’s only access to one section for free, so if you want access to more tasks you have to pay.
Cost: It’s free! You can pay $6.95 to 12.95 per month if you want to have access to more tasks.
About: This app connects you to other language learners by having you complete a profile and apply for acceptance (it only takes about 5 minutes). This application process ensures that you’re truly interested in learning the language and are using the app to learn a new language (it helps prevent people from using it as a dating website).
Pros: You have real communication with a real person, which is by far the best way to becoming fluent in a language. It’s similar to a social media site in the sense that it allows you to “follow” other language learners. You have a feed that includes changes of topics, updates, and activities you’re following. This lets you and potential conversation partners choose someone that has similar interests. You can talk to others by using the chat option or the audio/video (the audio is helpful for those who are not quite ready to have a face-to-face conversation with their language learning partner).
Cons: You can filter out who sees your profile, but you can’t filter out which profiles you see (other than by interest and location). It can be challenging to keep the conversation going after a certain period of time (this may be one of the main reasons this app has such a low retention rate). There’s no built in translator and the profile approval process takes a while (some people may consider this a pro since this is how Tandem monitors its users).
Cost: Free! There’s a Pro membership option for $2.92 per month.
About: This app is good for beginners to quickly learn vocabulary. It’s a great study aid which helps with memorization of characters, phrases and vocabulary. Not only does it have flashcards, but it also has quizzes and questions.
Pros: It uses games to help you learn the language and focuses on growing your vocabulary. There’s also a foreign keyboard on the screen when needed so you don’t have to copy and paste characters. There are recorded videos of native English speakers to help with your listening comprehension. There’s an option that requires you to write the words, which is a helpful way to memorize words.
Cons: It doesn’t have much grammar content, which makes it difficult to really benefit from the app unless you already know some English. There’s very little context and the app is focused more on beginner level.
Cost: Free! If you want to pay $9 per month or $59 per you there is a Pro account option.
*Please note: If you’re looking for an app that is helpful for hearing how words are pronounced in the English Dictionary Offline app is very helpful.