Though you may not be able to teach yourself a foreign language entirely on your own, you certainly can supplement your classes and study plan with high quality mobile apps. Learning a language takes dedication and consistency, and you’ll see even faster progress when you incorporate the target language into your daily routine. In this day and age, when “daily routine” is synonymous with “on the go,” language learning apps for cell phones and tablets can be tremendous resources for ambitious language learners. To boost your vocabulary skills and grammar knowledge anytime, anywhere, we recommend you download these top language learning apps and get to work!
Duolingo is immensely popular among both casual and serious language learners, with over 100 million users and counting. The app currently supports 15 of the most commonly studied languages for native English speakers. It is completely free, with no advertisements or in-app purchases. And yes, it really does work: a study conducted by the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina showed that, on average, 34 hours of study using Duolingo is equivalent to a full semester’s worth of language classes at a university!
So, how does it work? When you download Duolingo, you have the choice of starting with the basics if you’re a beginner or taking a quick placement test to situate you at the appropriate level if you have any previous experience with the language. Duolingo’s learning model revolves around reinforcing vocabulary, and lessons progress from introductory pronouns and phrases through higher level verb tenses and grammatical concepts as users level up. Levels consist of five to ten short lessons that rarely take over fifteen minutes to complete, making Duolingo a great option for fast-paced learning and review while you’re standing in line, waiting for the subway, or taking a coffee break at the office.
Each Duolingo lesson consists of a variety of different types of activities. New vocabulary is typically introduced using matching exercises with images, making the process of learning an unfamiliar word simple and accessible. Translation activities take on several forms: users are prompted to translate words and sentences from their target language into their native tongue (or vice versa) by typing or using a word bank, and based either written or audio prompts. There are also fill-in-the-blank segments, word matching puzzles, and audio recording exercises that challenge the user to practice speaking the language. (Of course, with just a tap, users can skip over the speaking prompts if they’re squeezing in a study session in a public place.)
Its clean design, easy to use interface, and variation of activity earn Duolingo its place as the gold standard among language learning apps and the top spot on our list.
A reliable mobile dictionary is an essential app for language learners to have at their fingertips… which is why over 50 million users have downloaded the iTranslate app, which supports more than 90 world languages. iTranslate provides direct translations using both text and voice features, allowing users to input text for translation by typing, copying and pasting, or recording a word or phrase. The text-to-speech option is especially useful for travelers, who may need to hear a translated phrase spoken aloud before they can effectively use it in conversation.
Other neat features the iTranslate app boasts include advanced in-app swipe capabilities, the option of flagging repeat translations as favorites, and a top-rated interface for character translation.
Rounding out our collection of must-have language learning apps is Busuu: a learning tool and language exchange app that currently offers programs in 12 popular languages. Busuu has a strong community of over 50 million users around the world, and its learning method hinges on interactions within that community of language students.
With Busuu, users have the option of selecting specific activities to complete à la carte or following pre-designed courses available in the app. An integrated chat tool allows users to solicit feedback and ask questions of native speakers at any point in their study session.
As users complete comprehension and writing exercises and move along through progressively higher levels, they can likewise share their responses with native speakers for correction and feedback. The unique chat feature also allows Busuu users to discuss lesson content or the target culture and, in doing so, develop mutually beneficial relationships with other users who share their language pairs.
Busuu’s well-designed learning materials and standout messaging feature support useful connections between language exchange partners around the globe, making it one of our essential apps for language learning on the go.
Do you use language learning apps that aren’t featured on our list? Share your favorites in the comments!