8 great iOS (and Android) apps to help learn languages fast

Your mobile devices are language teachers you can always have with you

Apple, iOS, apps, mobile apps, iPHone, iPad, Android

It’s amazing to reflect on how much more powerful your smartphone has become in contrast to this early Apple computer.

Credit: Steve Jurvetson

These great iOS apps are designed to help you learn a new language fast, so next time you travel you’ll be able to make an effort to communicate rather than feeling foreign and foolish. Even better news for some of my readers, in most cases apps for both iOS and Android exist.

Duolingo

Duolingo uses gamification to help you stay motivated and teaches through a series of exercises designed to build your understanding of vocabulary, sentence and word construction, gender, spelling and speech. Tests, exercises, revision sessions and an in-game currency (Lingots) help you learn -- you’ll be surprised at how fast you'll pick things up. The website provides a range of additional learning resources.

Duolingo. Free. 10 languages available.

Busuu

Busuu begins with more traditional tools including vocabulary and grammar lessons, audio dialogues and tests to help you learn learn the basics. As you become more advanced you can interact with native speakers using practice exercises. Additional tools include writing exercises, and audio recordings, with grammar lessons, video, and printable PDFs available to paid members. Lessons teach you words, show you how they are used and then practice them.

Busuu, Basic lessons free, in-app purchases, 11 languages.

MindSnacks

Using a combination of brain games, gamification, and professionally-created lesson plans, MindSnacks aims to make language learning both effective and fun. Aimed at learners of any age the company offers seven languages at time of writing. It uses proven learning techniques to teach 1,000 words and phrases within 50 real-world lessons and games. The system is also smart -- algorithms selectively repeat content you’ve struggled with until you become more fluent.

MindSnacks, Free, 7 languages.

Living Language

From respected publisher, Random House, Living Language seeks to immerse you in the culture of the country that speaks your chosen language. Using a combination of games, puzzles, tutoring and flash cards it helps you learn and understand your chosen language while also training you to handle real world situations. Each language is presented through 46 lessons across three levels, with comprehensive grammar notes, tests and more.

Living Language, Free starting lessons, $9.99 per language pack, $3.99 advanced, four languages.

HiNative

Of course, learning a language is more than simply repeating phrases, you pick things up much faster when interacting with people in that language, and that’s what HiNative delivers. This describes itself as a “global Q&A community for language learners and people that are curious about the world”, and lets you ask your own questions and learn about languages by looking through the question database. For me one of the most useful things about HiNative is the capacity to upload words and phrases to make sure you’re getting the pronunciation right. Use this in conjunction with any of this collection of apps to help you sound better abroad.

HiNative. Free, premium subscription, 120 languages.

Memrise

This engaging app offers a wide range of tools to help you learn new languages at basic and advanced levels. During lessons you’ll be shown fifteen words, told their English definition and be taught how they are used and pronounced. Games, video and other tools aim to boost your learning to an impressive 44 words per hour! The service also offers user-generated lessons and study collections, such as selections of useful words or focused packages to help you learn particular skills, such as how to order food when you eat out. Memrise has also developers algorithms that try to track your learning style and performance in order to maximize your learning achievements.

Memrise. Free, over 200 languages.

Babbel

Babbel’s another great service to help you pick up languages fast. Supported by the European Regional Development Fund, it offers both basic and advanced language lessons designed to help build your vocabulary while empowering your pronunciation. Tests help you write and use words with a scoring system to help build a sense of achievement. These are high-quality self-paced courses designed to help you learn (and retain) useful words and phrases fast. While lessons are free you need to pay a fee in order to access the full learning materials for a language.

Bebbel, Free (and fee), 14 languages.

FluentU

Finally (well, at least for the purposes of this short collection), FluentU is a brilliant solution that uses entertaining real world video content in the language you wish to learn, adding translations, quizzes, and other learning tools to help you quickly develop your language skills. What’s neat about FluentU is its use of engaging and sometimes challenging materials – it makes the lessons both fun and memorable and seems to help build vocabulary fast.

FluentU, Free trial, from $15/month, 7 languages.

I hope these apps help you impress on your next vacation.

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