Updated in March 2022
As a former EFL (English as a foreign language) teacher, I can only marvel at the incredible language learning possibilities offered by the Internet and more specifically mobile technology. I wish my students had these opportunities when they were learning English, things would have been much easier.
The power of mobile technology especially for us in education is that it unchained learning from any temporal and geographical boundaries making learning on the go accessible to anyone with access to an Internet-enhanced portable device. For language learners this means that they can learn a new language anywhere and anytime they want.
There is a wide variety of language learning apps in the both Android and Apple stores that allow anyone to start learning a new language with unprecedented ease. The collection below features some of the best language learning apps I curated especially for students and teachers.
Whether you want to learn a new language through video lessons, 1 on 1 tutoring with language teachers, immersion in the target language culture, interactive games and quizzes, discussion forums and video chats, the apps below have you covered. They provide you access to a huge collection of educational resources that will help you learn not only how to write and speak a new language correctly but also how to use it appropriately in real life and authentic contexts. For web resources, check out this list of the best language learning websites.
Babbel is a language learning app that helps learners speak a new language through the use of interactive lessons and courses. Lessons cover 14 languages including Italian, German, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Spanish, Dutch, English, Norwegian, among others.
There are over 5000 language courses that target various topics and skills such as listening, speaking, writing, grammar, and vocabulary. Babbel also offers an offline mode allowing users to access language lessons anywhere.
As a translator app, Google Translate is definitely a must have app for language learners. I have been recommending it for my EFL students for several years. Google Translate supports various types of translations including: text translation, camera translation (point your camera at text in an image to get it translated into 94 languages), and photo translation ( take or import photos for translation into 90 languages).
The app also supports handwriting enabling users to draw text character instead of typing. Users can translate whole conversations (71 languages) and can save their translated words and phrases into their phrasebook for future reference. Offline translation is supported for over 50 languages.
Beelinguapp is a language learning app that lets you learn new languages through bilingual audiobooks and stories. The way it works is simple: select the target language you want to learn, access stories and novels and start your reading journey. To better understand words and phrases in the story, you can switch to your native language at any time during your reading.
You can also use the karaoke-style scrolling text to keep up with the story in both languages. Using audiobooks, you get to immerse yourself fully in the target language. Beelinguapp offers various types of stories from ‘classics like Snow White and Sherlock Holmes, cultural guides to global cities, daily news articles and kids books with simplified sentences and illustrations’. Beelinguapp helps you learn various languages including: Spanish, French, English, German, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and more.
Memrise is another popular language learning app that lets users learn new languages through short lessons and video clips. Users do not simply learn the syntactic aspects of a language but more importantly the pragmatic aspects, that is, the way language is being used in authentic real-life situations through video clips depicting people speaking the target language in places such as coffee shops, local streets, karaoke bars, etc.
There are over 50.000 audio and video clips with ‘a variety of sounds, tone, rhythm, body language, gestures, and more.’ Memrise provides lessons covering different languages including English, French, Spanish, German, Italina, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Polish, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, and more.
HelloTalk is a language exchange community where language learners connect with native speakers of other languages. Users get to practice their new language through text, audio and video chat and through calls with native speakers from all around the world. Users can ask for help with any aspect of their language learning including cultural and social aspects.
The ability to record and share audio messages to the community allows users to get feedback on their pronunciation and speaking skills. HelloTalk’ s built-in grammar correction feature automatically detects grammatical errors and helps users identify and learn about potential grammatical problems in their writing. The app also provides native tutors with 1 on 1 language lessons. Languages supported by the app include: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French , and German.
Duolingo helps users learn over 35 languages through short lessons covering vocabulary, grammar, speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Some of the main features provided by this language learning app include: the ability to track one’s learning progress through insightful feedback; access to a growing community of over 300 million language learners worldwide, lessons include game-like features and fun challenges, engaging exercises to develop key language skills, and more.
Users can also take Duolingo English Test which is accepted around the world. Languages supported by Duolingo include English, French, German, Spanish, Italina, Dutch, Japanese, Greek, Dutch, Latin, and many more.
Busuu is another good language learning app which enables users to learn up to 13 languages (e.g., English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazilian), Polish, Russian, Arabic, Dutch and Turkish).
Some interesting features provided by Busuu include the Vocabulary Review which helps learners practice and revise newly learned words, Grammar Review (helps in learning grammatical concepts and structures), and Conversations feature (connects language learners to a growing community of over 120 million native speakers). Busuu’ s offline mode is especially ideal for downloading and accessing content in places where there is no Internet connection.
iTalki is a language learning app that provides learners with a platform where they can connect with tutors and English teachers from all around the globe. The way it works is simple and easy: users select their language teacher (e.g., by price, speciality, country of origin, etc), book their language lesson at the time and date that works for them, and finally they connect with their language teacher through video chat.
‘On italki, you pay per lesson. You can top up your italki Wallet and pay per lesson without any subscription, bookings fees, or contracts. Language teachers set their own fees starting at $8 for certified teachers and $4 for tutors. Trial lessons start from $1 to try out.’
LingQ helps users learn a new language through a wide variety of reading and listening materials. Users can either import their own content or browse the app’s library which contains numerous language resources including books, audiobooks, interviews, blog posts, podcasts, videos, and more.
Users use the app’s SRS review system to review unknown words (highlighted in blue) and through exercises and quizzes they test and consolidate their newly learned vocabulary. LingQ offers 1000s of lessons with audio and matching text. Its integrated dictionaries allow users to search for and access definitions in the dictionary of their choice.
Preply is a language learning app that helps users learn new languages through private 1 on 1 lessons with online tutors from all around the world. Here is how it works: First search a language tutor (use search filters to narrow down your search), schedule a time and book your lessons, connect with your tutor via chat.
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