speak like a local with these handy apps
You’ll always get a thumbs up from a country’s native if you have a go at speaking in their language. Whether you pronounce the words appallingly bad or string a sentence together that has absolutely no meaning, you get a tick of approval and ten points for trying in any native’s books. I believe it’s the ultimate in showing a local that you’re interested in their country and culture when you’re willing to try their language.
So globetrotters, we have five of the BEST language learning apps as reviewed by us and its users. Side-note: when I was learning to speak Spanish and Swahili there weren’t any of these handy pocket apps available. Yep, it was old school listening to CD’s and reading books and bumbling my way through adverbs, conjugation and past and present tense. Now, you have these language learning apps in your pocket so that when you get stuck at a bus station or in a taxi you’ll be able to communicate through your phone – pure genius!
best language learning apps
Duolingo takes a different approach to learning a new language than just memorising words and phrases. Duolingo allows you to learn a new language while translating sites on the web. Duolingo has language learning programs and lessons for its users, and as you take the lessons, you’ll find yourself translating the web as you browse—effectively learning to read and speak the language you’re interested in by looking at and hearing what native speakers are writing and saying.
Of course, as with most programs you’ll spend most of your time translating, seeing the language visually, and dictating. There are some speech exercises too though, although they’re not the primary focus. Duolingo has courses in a handful of languages right now, which is a bit smaller than some of the other contenders, but the courses in those languages are incredibly complete. The courses are structured in a way like games as well—you earn skill points as you complete lessons, and if you make mistakes you lose “lives.” If you lose too many, you’ll have to re-take the lesson.
One of the coolest features about Duolingo is that it checks your progress as you go forward. It learns from where you make mistakes and which types of questions you have trouble with, and goes from there. It’s completely free, available on the web, Android, and iOS, and it’s earned a lot of praise.
Babbel offers a series of different apps that let you learn many different languages including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, and more. Much like Duolingo, Babbel uses a combination of repetition, completing phrases, and repeating back phrases. You can set custom learning goals as well so you can stay on track. All your progress will also be synced between iPhone, iPad, and on the web so you can pick up where you left off from anywhere. To use Babbel to its full potential, you’ll need a subscription which starts at around $11 a month for each language.
Living Language offers many apps covering oodles of languages spanning from Italian and English to Hindi and Korean. All courses have the same interface and the priority lies in completing sentences, learning new words, and testing your skills periodically. What users love about the Living Language series is that you can purchase a full course or individual sections. This is fantastic for those who know the basics of a language you can bypass introductory courses.
If you’re just brushing up on a language or want more control over what you’re paying for, the Living Language series of apps is a great choice.
Memrise currently supports Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish completely for free. Yep, that’s right for FREE! For those that are visual learners, Memrise will be music to your ears as it uses visual cues and puns to help you learn phrases and words. Each word or phrase is paired with memorable cartoons, sentences or phrases that will assist you in remembering what that particular phrase means. Typically each word has multiple images so you can choose the one that sticks in your mind the best. Every time you’ve learned a few new words, Memrise then quizzes you on what you’ve covered to keep everything fresh in your mind.
Memrise is an excellent option for anyone who learns better through visual cues.
Oh and if time isn’t on your side, don’t think you need to study the entire language, even if you wrap your head around the basics, you’ll always receive a smile of appreciation. If you have these key words/phrases down pat when you land, it’s better than being completely ignorant: thank you, sorry, please, hello, good bye, how are you?, yes/no
I’m curious to know what your experience is with any of these language learning apps. What languages do you speak? Have you had any crazy language faux pas in your travels?