Is This the Best New Way to Learn a Language?


These apps beat carrying around a massive French textbook. Find the best one for you below!

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Duolingo

Languages Offered: 19

The Format: With a fun owl mascot in tow, Duolingo takes users through a range of activities involving repetition, listening, translating, writing, and (if you opt in for it) speaking.

The Best Part: Duolingo introduces simple sentences from the get-go, teaching users simple verbs and conjugations, as well as basic nouns, rather than just giving beginners a vocabulary dump.

The Bottom Line: This free, well-rounded, and beautifully designed app is user-friendly and honestly quite addictive. The only con? While Duolingo teaches non-Roman alphabet-based languages, it doesn't actually offer the means to learn those alphabets.

Tinycards

Languages Offered: Every language on Duolingo, and then some.

The Format: An offshoot of Duolingo, Tinycards offers flashcards that complement the former app's language courses. Plus, additional flashcard decks made by users help others to learn basic phrases, unique words, and even alphabets.

The Best Part: Anyone who's ever studied for a test of any kind knows that flashcards are a time-tested way to memorize information. Why fix what isn't broken? 

The Bottom Line: OK, you know how Duolingo doesn't have an alphabet feature? That's where Tinycards comes to the rescue! If you want to learn Russian or Vietnamese or many other non-Roman alphabet-based languages, the alphabet flashcards can make a big difference.

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Drops

Languages Offered: Five (including English)

The Format: Drops presents itself as a game first, and a language-learning app second. Timed to give users only five minutes of gameplay each day, it introduces just a handful of vocabulary words in a quick, fun way.

The Best Part: Everyone has five minutes a day they can spare to learn some new vocab.

The Bottom Line: Drops alone won't teach you a new language, but it can introduce you to a little more vocabulary each day—like how to say "the mushroom" in French. (It's le champignon, by the way.)

Memrise

Languages Offered: 76

The Format: Memrise is a learning app, not just focused on languages. But it does have the most language offerings of any app. Like Duolingo, it uses a combination of different activity types to help users learn effectively. Unlike Duolingo, it focuses first on introducing classic phrases and words before introducing unique vocabulary.

The Best Part: A few recordings of native speakers give free users the opportunity to hear vocabulary in different accents. For the price of the premium version ($60 per year), users gain increased access to more of these listening exercises.

The Bottom Line: The free version of Memrise is quite effective on its own, but if you're serious about learning a new language, the premium version is definitely worth it. Plus, the sheer number of available languages allows you to dabble in practically anything.

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Lingvist

Languages Offered: Two (French and English)

The Format: Swipeable flashcards introduce users to vocabulary. Lingvist also gives users the option to check their comprehension with listening and reading activities. With no rewards or fun gimmicks, this app is cut-and-dry, to the point.

The Best Part: A huge collection of audio clips gives users the chance to hear vocabulary in realistic conversations.

The Bottom Line: Lingvist might not be the most visually pleasing of the language apps, but it does have an excellent collection of grammar tips, making it worth the download for French students who want to take a more academic, rather than game-like, approach to language-learning.

Busuu

Languages Offered: 10 (including English)

The Format: Vocabulary and common phrases are introduced on flashcards, interspersed with general language tips, and followed by quizzes. The quizzes must be passed in order to move on.

The Best Part: Busuu gives users plenty of basic, realistic sentences to start their language-learning, rather than combining vocabulary into elementary sentences—because how often do you actually need to say "the apple is red" in another language?

The Bottom Line: The app presents its information in an accessible way, but since many of its more advanced lessons and functions are "locked," you won't get the most out of Busuu unless you pay for the premium version ($45 per year). However, the app does claim that spending 22.5 hours using the premium version is equivalent to a college semester of language study.  

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