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Finally ready to take that much-postponed international trip … but not sure your Spanish (or French, or Korean) is up to par? One of the easiest ways to learn a new language is to use an app. But there are so many apps to choose from, how are you supposed to know which one will suit you best?
We have a list with a load of apps that gamify learning, use flashcards and help users virtually learn among native-language speakers. We’ve looked through the best language learning apps and picked these with first-language learners in mind—take a look and pick the app that would suit your style.
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1. Rosetta Stone
When we tested Rosetta Stone, we liked that the app offered 25 languages to choose from and that it listens to your pronunciation to help nail your skills (important for being understood overseas!). While we thought it had an an outdated interface and lacked images, our tester said she learned language foundations faster with Rosetta Stone than with ou’ll rarely get the same exercise twice while you’re learning, which we liked too..
Once you pay for Rosetta Stone, you’ll choose from four plans: Travel, for meeting people, directions and dining out; Family, for family relationships, special occasions and compliments; Work, to learn manners in a business setting and money; and Basics and Beyond, for daily routines, everyday items, colors and more. Rosetta Stone starts at $35.97 for 3 months, but has additional plans of different lengths, including a.a lifetime membership for $199.
Mondly focuses on gamifying the language-learning experience so you won’t even think about how much you’re learning. It has a very similar interface as Duolingo, but gives you games that can be completed in two minutes. The premium subscription comes with an augmented reality that helps you learn the language of your choice. You can get started on Mondly for free and upgrade to a subscription service, ranging between $9.99 and $479.90. Our tester found Mondly was good to get the basics of the language, but said it might be difficult to get an advanced grasp of a language you have no experience in.
Duolingo, famous for its owl that will admonish you if you don’t keep on track with your lessons, might be one of the best-known apps around. The best part of this app is it’s completely free, although you have the option to upgrade if you’d like to avoid the ads. The upgraded plan is $12.99 a month, and with 34 languages to learn, it’s the easiest app by far to get started with.
While this app won’t make you proficient in a language, it’ll certainly prepare you for your trip to Barcelona. Duolingo has a very structured regiment for learning, including modules for you to advance in. Most of the learning for Duolingo is translation-based, which means you’ll translate the word or sentence to ensure you have the correct answer. There are also comprehension tests for listening and reading. You’ll listen to a story, then answer questions to see how much you comprehended from the story. (It’s very similar to Spanish class in school!)
4. Mango Language App
While many of the apps on this list focus on gamifying and making the learning experience addictive, Mango goes in the other direction, focusing on detailed instruction. A single language will cost you $7.99 a month, or $17.99 for access to all of available languages (that’s 70 languages at your disposal). Mango has longer lessons, which average at about 12 minutes per lesson. These lessons are very detailed, and Mango emphasizes conversation-based methodology to get you toward being fluent.
When we tested Pimsleur’s Spanish lessons, we thought it was the best audio-focused app. This is great for those who want to do chores while doing their lessons or listen to them in the car. That doesn’t mean this app is like the old learn-a-language cassette tapes, though: Pimsleur is very interactive, and will ask you to speak the language when prompted. If you have difficulty memorizing language just from looking at words on the page, this app could be for you. Pimsleur costs $14.95 per month, or you can purchase all the lessons in one language for $550. If you’re unsure about the program, you can try it for free for a week.
If you’re trying to brush up on a language you already have familiarity with, Memrise might be the perfect in-between app. Memrise focuses on flashcard and vocabulary learning, with app vocabulary beginning at an elementary level and becoming more advanced as you answer. Native speakers on video will pronounce the wods on the flashcards, which helps users learn the language authentically. Memrise costs $9 per month, $59 per year or $129.99 for a lifetime membership, and is available on Android, Apple and computer desktop.
Babbel prioritizes adjusting the course based on who you are: You’ll choose your mother tongue, interests and skill level, and words are introduced through six memory stages that will help you store what you learn in long-term memory (otherwise known as the Babbel Method). We found this app to be very practical in its approach and that the information was easy to maintain, despite the lessons being longer than most programs. The quizzes are very similar in style, but you’ll never find yourself learning information you wouldn’t use for your first time in Paris. Babel starts at $13.95 a month.
This app favors a simple, clean interface, and tries to encourage a natural way of learning through translation. The app will present different sentences and ask the user to translate certain words. It also looks very game-like, and presents scores and points for those who continue to use it. It might take a bit more effort than others since there isn’t as much incentive to continue doing it each day—except for the fact that the app is entirely free! Clozemaster has 60-plus languages to choose from, so its sure to have the language you’d like to practice before your vacay.
Sometimes, you’ll get as far as you can with learning a language only for it to fizzle out because you aren’t immersed or talking to native speakers. HelloTalk is a language exchange app that allows you to connect with native speakers to practice the language you’re learning. You’ll make a profile and match up with others to chat with in the language you’ve chosen. There are no lessons, and it’s a very informal way of learning a language—it might be best to pair this app with another one on our list if this is your first time with the language. There is a free version of the app with ads, or you can start with their $6.99 per month subscription.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan or Korea, check out this app: LingoDeer originally focused exclusively on Asian languages, but has since expanded to include Chinese, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. For $12.99 per month, you’ll get access to the desktop and app version of LingoDeer, which teaches through quizzes and grammar notes and keeps tabs on your progress. LingoDeer claims to take you to an intermediate level of language fluency.
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