9 best apps for learning a new language

Apr 18, 2020

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Stuck at home and fighting your travel wanderlust? Already watched all the travel movies, taken a points and miles inventory, virtually toured museums, organized your travel photos and started tentatively planning your next trip?

The next step is to learn a new language.

You can learn and practice at home and use your newly acquired language skills once you’re able to eventually travel again. Language apps are particularly useful, as you can simply grab your phone and practice whenever, wherever — at home, on a plane, in a new destination, on the subway and beyond. Learning a new skill will help you feel accomplished and proud, which are great emotions to have during this trying time of uncertainty and stress.

Here are some of the best apps to learn a new language — and make sure to check out our list of the best translation apps in case you aren’t bilingual just yet.

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1. Babbel

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

Babbel’s 10-to-15-minute lessons are easy to squeeze into your routine. Using conversation-based learning techniques including speech recognition, where you can actually have real-life conversations with native speakers, the app will have you chattering away in languages (it offers 14) like Spanish, French, Russian or Swedish in no time.

Download Babbel for free on App Store or Google Play to start with the basics. Subscribe for $84.99 per year, which includes unlimited lessons, conversational lessons and personalized courses with daily reviews. For a limited time only (through mid-June 2020) college or K-12 students can get free access for three months to premium Babbel services by applying through this link using their valid school email address.

2. Duolingo

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

With millions of four-and-five-star ratings, Duolingo might just be the most popular language-learning app out there. It also offers a large amount of content for free, ideal for those wanting to learn on a budget. With over 30 different language options from Hindi to German to Swahili to Vietnamese, users can select whether they’d like to be a casual user (5 minutes per day), a regular user (10 minutes per day), a serious user (15 minutes per day) or an intense user (20 minutes per day). Placement tests will help adapt the learning to your level, and courses are given in speaking, writing, listening and conversation.

Download Duolingo and use the basic version for free on App Store or Google Play. Earn rewards for free use and upgrade to Duolingo Plus, which includes additional courses, offline/ad-free usage and more for $6.99 per month (a 7-day free trial is offered).

3. Rosetta Stone

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

Rosetta Stone is for serious language learners, offering 24 languages to choose from. Start by picking your level (beginner, intermediate or proficient), then select a specific plan from options like travel, family, basics or work. For example, the travel plan for intermediate Italian is six weeks long, with 30 minutes of learning five days per week. The lessons are organized by week, starting with meeting people in week one and ending with directions, locations and staying in a hotel in week six. Lessons along the way include help with prices, payments, needs and wants and more. The app even allows you to choose your preferred voice for listening lessons (child, adult male or adult female).

Download Rosetta Stone for free on App Store or Google Play. You’ll get 30 minutes of content for free, but full access memberships include 250 hours of content, 20 units of immersive learning and downloadable lessons you can use offline. Full access costs $109.99 (a 7-day trial period is offered).

4. Drops

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

Learn a new language using games and visuals for just five minutes per day with Drops. Lessons are separated into sections, with useful travel options such as airport, car rental or travel essentials as well topics like computers, fashion, astronomy, plants, sports and other categories to help improve your general language skills. Create collections with your mastered vocabulary so you can continue to review what you’ve learned and play games with your newly acquired skills.

Download Drops for free on App Store or Google Play. Drops Premium includes unlimited sessions and access to all 159 topics in 37 different languages for $69.99 per year (a 7-day free trial is offered).

5. HelloTalk

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

For travelers constantly jetting off to a new far-flung destination, Hellotalk offers 150+ languages, meaning you can learn a little bit of vocabulary no matter where you’re headed. The app uses a different style of teaching — no in-depth daily lesson plans here. Instead, you’ll learn by chatting with native speakers (you can start by talking to a bot if you’re nervous). Each chat has special features allowing you to reply, correct, and translate whatever language you’re communicating in, and you may just make a friend to guide you around a new destination, too. Plus, you’ll give back by helping others learn English as you learn your new language.

Download Hellotalk for free on App Store or Google Play. Ad-free Pro membership costs $37.99 per year, and includes unlimited translations, chats with up to 25 users each day and the option to search by gender, nearby users and other chat preferences.

6. Mango

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

With over 70 languages to choose from, Mango is ideal for those wanting to learn specialized terms in a language, as it offers sections for medical, legal and business use. But travelers and casual users can also learn a lot from the app, which feels a bit like a book, with units and chapters offering lessons in writing, reading, speaking, conversation, vocabulary and grammar.

Download Mango for free on the App Store or Google Play and gain access to limited complimentary lessons. Single language subscriptions start at $7.99 per month, and all-language access starts at $17.99 per month, including five family profiles so everyone in your household can learn a new language (a 14-day free trial is offered).

7. Busuu

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

Named after an endangered language in Cameroon, Busuu focuses on quality not quantity, offering specialized instruction in 12 different languages. Once you take the placement test, you can select your language goal: feeling like a local when traveling; educational, cultural or professional development or communication with friends/family. Set the days, times and length of your lessons and a special study plan will be created just for you, including speaking and pronunciation exercises, grammar and listening work as well as written, dialogue, vocabulary and memory lessons.

Download Busuu for free on App Store or Google Play. Premium plans cost $89.99 per year (a 7-day free trial is offered) for more personalized and extended content that’s available ad-free and offline.

8. Beelinguapp

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

For something a little more fun, enjoy more creative-based learning methods with Beelinguapp, where you can listen to stories and music in 13 different languages. You can read (and say or sing) along in both the language you’re learning and your native language.

Download Beelinguapp for free on App Store or Google Play. Premium benefits include access to the entire story and music library, plus the ability to listen to news stories, use flashcards, see illustrations, have offline access to texts and enjoy an ad-free experience, all for $15.99 per year (you may be offered a special deal for $10.49 per year)

9. Memrise

(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)

With 20 language options available, Memrise shows users videos with handy phrases spoken by locals. Once you watch the videos, you’ll be able to practice and test yourself on the new vocabulary and sentence structure. Thanks to the hip locals in modern videos, this app works best for those opposed to traditional textbook learning and may appeal to youthful travelers. The app also records pronunciation so users can work on their speaking skills.

Download Memrise free on App Store or Google Play. Premium access costs $39.99 per year (a 7-day free trial is offered) and unlocks new lessons, more personalized lesson plans and more.

Featured photo by Westend61/Getty Images.

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