There are a lot of reasons why learning a new language might be high on your to-do list.
Becoming fluent in a new language allows you to meet new people, travel more widely, and even move up the career ladder. These days, there are loads of free apps that can help you to acquire a new language. We’ve chosen 5 apps that cover every area of language acquisition– reading, listening, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary– so you can become a true polyglot.
Duolingo has become the staple of mobile language learning, and it’s where we’d recommend you start.
The app is set up for long-term use, beginning with the basics and building up more complex skills as you go. Many of the courses are created by native speakers– and moreover, for each language, there are specific courses for people whose first langue isn’t English. That means you can take Spanish for Chinese-speakers, English for Russian-speakers, and so on.
The app isn’t really just for grammar, of course. You learn vocabulary, grammar, and usage simultaneously, with illustrated flashcards and fill-in-the-blank exercises. The app again uses game-like elements to motivate you. You lose points for wrong answers and can gain them back by practicing rusty words.
Memrise is the app you want for expanding your vocabulary. The user-created courses cover any language you could hope to learn, including Esperanto and Klingon. There are standardized courses based on textbooks, lists of most frequently used words, and specialized dictionaries for things like business or medical terms.
The feature that sets Memrise apart and makes it an especially effective learning app is that way it uses mnemonics. The app allows you to create funny or interesting associations with the studied words in order to help you remember their meaning. Users are able to upload images and text to create these mnemonics, and doing so earns you points. You can see how many points you have compared to other users, and compete with your friends to see how much vocab you can study in a week!
Stream Foreign TV shows
One of the most effective ways to get an ear for the language you’re learning is to consume media in that language. Interested in Spanish? Watch some telenovelas (with the captions on, if needed). Trying to bulk up your French? Watch some classic French films– you’ll be entertained while learning to recognize the diction of native speakers.
Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to find media in another language. Some sites, like Netflix and Youtube, have geoblocking so that shows and videos are restricted by region. An easy way to get around that is to install a VPN. Set your region to the country whose language you’re trying to learn, and voila! You’ll be able to watch movies, TV shows, and videos made specifically for that region.
Having vocabulary memorized isn’t very useful if you can’t use it in conversation. HelloTalk is designed to facilitate speaking practice and eliminate the potential stress of real-time conversation. The app is set up like a standard messaging service, but you can use it specifically to find native speakers and chat with them over text and voice messages.
Moreover, HelloTalk has a built-in correction tool, which allows you to learn from your mistakes as you go. There’s also an integrated translator, so you can build on your existing vocab. The text-to-voice option will also help you learn how to pronounce the messages you receive.
You may have heard that play is one of the most effective ways to learn. Mindsnacks takes advantage of that by providing eight or nine games for the language you want to learn, designed to help with vocabulary, grammar, and listening. There are short, simple lessons that outline concepts, which you then practice in your games.
The games are engaging and often on a timer. Mindsnacks also assigns you quests, which makes it even more interesting. One advantage of Mindsnacks is that it makes practice fun and rewarding– a crucial part of language acquisition. You’ll go back and review old material because it’s fun to practice!