7 Apps for Learning a Language

One of the best things about our mobile devices is that we can use them for on-the-go education, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to learning a language. Whether we are walking the dog, working out at the gym, or enjoying a little quiet time at home, the ability to grab a smartphone and a pair of headphones and work on our linguistic skills is truly one of the great benefits of the digital age.

Some apps – like the Rosetta Stone series – mostly take a traditional approach to learning a language. Others – like Duolingo – take advantage of all that the Web and mobile content have to offer and utilize those tools in interesting and often compelling ways. Whatever your preferred approach, there is sure to be an app that will suit your learning style. Here are 7 of our favorites:

  • Duolingo

    duolingoDuolingo is a free language learning app, which encourages you to translate real content from blogs and web sites. The idea is that you are learning a language and helping to translate the Web at the same time. Other people rate your translation and provide additional feedback. Voted one of Apple’s 2013 Apps of the Year, Duolingo learns your strengths and weaknesses, and will take you back through various tasks until you demonstrate you are ready to move on.

    Cost: Free
    Platform: iOS, Android
  • Babbel

    babbelMore of a traditional learning app, Babbel offers vocabulary training in 13 mostly European languages. Words are divided into useful categories, so you can learn about food or travel essentials, and the interactive courses quickly improve sentence construction, grammar and pronunciation. Although the various apps are free to download, they all require in-app purchases, which can vary from $10.99 to $37.99 depending on the rigor of the program.

    Cost: Free download but in-app purchases required
    Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
  • Busuu

    busuuWith Busuu, you learn the basics through a variety of activities, including vocabulary and grammar lessons, audio dialogues, and more. You can then submit practice exercises to Busuu’s huge community of native speakers, who will help you perfect your skills. There are also a series of quizzes to see how much you have learned. Much of the basic content is free but you can purchase additional graduated learning programs for up to $16.99 each.

    Cost: Free to download with the opportunity for in-app purchases
    Platform: iOS, Android
  • Memrise

    memriseMemrise is a completely free and fun educational app, which turns the task of learning a language into a game. The flashcard-style learning process focuses largely on memory and repetition, using imaginative and humorous situations to make things easier to recall. Memrise awards points for getting words and phrases right and offers you the opportunity to test your progress by competing against others.

    Cost: Free
    Platform: iOS, Android
  • Byki Mobile

    bykiAnother traditional memory and repetition-based learning system, Byki Mobile is now available for over 80 different languages. Over 1,000 critical words are arranged into 70 different lists and you master the meaning and proper pronunciation through Byki’s SlowSound technology. There are multiple quizzes to test your knowledge and track your progress, and you can use refresh mode to make sure older words don’t get “stale.”

    Cost: Free app download but each language set requires in-app purchase of $7.99
    Platform: iOS, Android
  • The Pimsleur Method

    pimsleurThe “30 minutes a day” old-school method of language learning has gone mobile with the Pimsleur Course Manager app, which effectively allows you to download your Pimsleur software to your smartphone or tablet for an on-the-go learning experience. Gradual learning, meaningful context and positive reinforcement all have their place in this tried and trusted approach to learning a new language.

    Cost: Free download of Course manager app but full course software starts at $450
    Platform: iOS, Android
  • Rosetta Stone

    rosettaAnd no list would be complete without the world’s leading language-learning software. Again, the Rosetta Course app is a “manager app”, allowing you access to Rosetta Stone speech-recognition technology and lessons anywhere there is an Internet connection. Over 30 different language lessons are available and each package costs $324. Rosetta Stone recently acquired the interactive language tool LiveMocha but has yet to release a mobile app for that particular learning experience.

    Cost: Free download of course manager app but requires course software priced at $324 for each language.
    Platform: iOS, Android

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