So you’d like to learn a language? There are a number of apps out there offering their services to beginners or veteran language learners. So many, in fact, that it can hard to decide which to use, or in what combination. Just follow our guide and you’ll know your jabón from your jamón in no time!
The best apps to learn a new language
Let’s face it: learning a new language can be hard. Most of us don’t have the time or discipline to nail it. That’s why Mondly is such a great option. The app helps you “gamify” the learning experience.
Mondly offers chatbots to help you have a conversation in your new language, a focus on phrases over words, and possibly the coolest feature in a language app: augmented reality. Watch this:
Mondly also offers a virtual reality verison and a separate app for kids. And, impressively, the app is available in 33 different languages, so even if you’re not a native English speaker, the app will be a perfect fit.
Right now, Mondly is offering 20% off their normal price for Softonic readers. Just click here for the discount. It would make a great gift for any member of your family who might want to learn something new for the holidays.
Duolingo quickly rose in popularity as one of the best free language-learning applications. At this time, it offers a great number of languages from Spanish to Japanese, with even a few languages from fictional realms: Klingon (Star Trek) and High Valyrian (Game of Thrones).
To begin learning with Duolingo, download the app or open the mobile site. Then, create an account and the initial setup is finished.
At this point, you’ll be able to choose your language. On mobile it will look something like this:
Once you find your language (try here to see what courses are offered), you will be given the option to start at the beginning or take a test for advanced placement. If you already know a good amount of your language, this may be a helpful tool.
Duolingo’s learning routines start with a simple question/answer format, then move on to creating, typing answers, and picture matching. The user interface is clean and refreshingly minimalist: (Japanese course introduction shown)
Outside of the lessons, Duolingo has a few other perks. There is a reward system that allows you to track your study streaks. Spending “lingots” will change the appearance of the program’s mascot, an owl. Also, the app provides a “group” function that connects you with other users over language-learning challenges. Finally, there is a practice section that allows you to go over past material.
Overall, the app works well and helps make learning fun. When your attention is being demanded by other games, it’s nice to have something education that can compete.
(Duolingo includes ads: the paid, premium account takes these away)
Ah, the wizened master. Rosetta Stone.
Don’t expect to go very far without paying a price: Rosetta Stone costs about $175-$300 depending on the product. Also, be careful what you buy: activation codes give you access to the program for a limited time only. Make sure to get one of their offers with a lifetime download so you can use the materials and come back later if the time expires. If, of course, you want to really challenge yourself to learn quickly, the activation code may be best. Just choose carefully.
Like Duolingo, the program starts by giving you sections to start learning from, each tier earned by finishing the last:
Unlike Duolingo, however, Rosetta Stone requires the user to speak into a microphone while matching scenes:
The voice recognition, combined with the familiar matching, typing, and visual comparison helps to learn on many levels. The realistic photos can be confusing sometimes since they are not as specific as designed graphics, but they do help create a mental picture for objects and phrases.
If you’re looking for an elite program and aren’t worried about the cost, this may be for you.
Still, keep in mind with both Duolingo and Rosetta Stone: they are lacking in a few areas.
What the Apps Miss
Most language apps work through a process of induction. Your mind makes connections with words, pictures, letters, and sounds as it goes along. The same process makes learning language easier in a classroom or in another country: when surrounded by new information, the human mind picks up contextual clues and creates a mental map of information discovered.
However, this isn’t always perfect for reading, writing, and speaking another languages: knowing phrases to say and letters to read can only get you so far. To really thrive (and improve how fast you learn), you may want to gain some foundational knowledge.
Still not sold? Trust us, the foundations are important. For example, in English an adjective goes before a noun: “the red dog”. In Spanish, the adjective comes after: “el perro (dog) rojo (red)”. New language learners may be surprised by changes like this, which aren’t often mentioned in inductive courses.
What Else You’ll Want
So, if you want to find more, consider a few of these options:
- A class. The classroom setting gives you access to teacher feedback, understanding of facial expressions, language learning buddies, and much more. Check out a university nearby and see if they have courses!
- Textbooks. If you don’t want to pay for the full tuition and can stomach a textbook, this may be a cheaper option to gain a solid understanding of grammar rules for the new language.
- Other apps. Many apps specialize in teaching your language more in-depth. Take a while to look around online, there’s sure to be something there.
- Grab a dictionary. Once you have grammatical understanding, you may simply want to look up the words to string together new phrases. Just remember to keep testing your ability without assistance; there will come a time when you don’t need help anymore.
- Meet people. Face-to-face interaction combines many levels of learning, with the additional bonus that most people you speak with are glad to provide advice. So whether this involves travel to another country or meeting friends nearby, we can’t recommend practicing with others enough.
We hope these suggestions help your language study!