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The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

The best apps for language learning

When it comes to language learning, we are living in the best of times. With so many apps and websites out there to choose from, we look at some of the best and what they have to offer.

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Learning a language is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. A new language is great for both your career and life in general. Whether it opens up your options to move to an exciting new place or allows you to reconnect with family members abroad, there are so many practical reasons to learn one. 

 

Picking up a second language goes beyond just being practical. There are countless personal benefits to learning any language. That could be training your brain, opening yourself up to thousands of new movies/TV shows/books or simply for the sense of achievement. It’s difficult to find a reason not to learn a second language. 

 

It’s often said that the best way to learn a language is through immersion, and one of the best ways to do this, besides travelling to a country that speaks that language right away, is to get a tutor.  

 

However, what do you do if you want to learn the basics? Perhaps you want to learn more after your lessons or only have the time for a few minutes per day? 

 

Thankfully, with many language learning apps and websites at your disposal, picking up a second language doesn’t have to start and end in a classroom. While learning a language fluently is only possible through using many resources, these apps can give you a strong base of understanding to build on. Language apps can help you keep it up when regular in-person lessons aren’t a possibility.  

 

While each has its focus and aim, these language apps all have their perks and can be great tools for prospective language learners to have: 

 

Duolingo 

 

Duolingo story, the garden

Perhaps one of the most popular apps for language learning, Duolingo has been around since 2011 but has boomed in the last five years. With 37 languages to choose from for English speakers, Duolingo reaches out to all types of language learner.  

 

Whether you want to pick up some Spanish or Mandarin for work or make your Welsh or Danish grandmother very happy by picking up their mother tongue, learners are truly spoilt for choice. 

 

Duolingo views language learning as more than brushing up on the most popular languages. There are courses available in much smaller languages like Hawaiian, Irish and Navajo, and even constructed languages like Esperanto. 

 

The app takes a more traditional style of teaching a language. You’re taught words and sentences then eventually asked to translate them. Over time, sentences get increasingly more difficult as your understanding of the language grows. The app couples this style of learning with more interactive elements too. One of the most popular is the short stories that get more complex as they go on.  

 

Duolingo is great for beginners and has become well known for it. Language courses like Swedish are the most popular on Duolingo with people living in Sweden, as the app is recommended in many schools and workplaces for people who have recently moved there. 

 

Rosetta Stone 

 

Rosetta Stone French lesson one

The oldest on this list, Rosetta Stone, has come a long way from its original format. Now a popular app, Rosetta Stone is still going strong with its idea of immersion-only learning. 

 

Like Duolingo, the app introduces you to your chosen language, and the language and tasks get harder as you improve. However, Rosetta Stone differs by rarely providing translations for words, phrases, and sentences. Instead, it uses images and a trial-and-error method of vocabulary building that attempts to mimic how language learning works in person. 

 

With 25 languages to choose from, Rosetta Stone aims to teach its users the more popular languages found worldwide with only a few lesser spoken languages on offer, for example, Irish. 

 

Rosetta Stone offers some of its features for free but provides paying users a much smoother learning experience with more options available to them. 

 

Babbel 

 

Babbel Portuguese level one

Like Rosetta Stone, Babbel provides a comprehensive and guided language learning experience for paid users. However, it does offer some good features if you’re opting for the free version.  

 

Babbel’s approach to language learning is very focused on what you, as an individual, may need to know. With stricter categorisation than some other apps, Babbel is great for those who need focused learning aimed at conversation. It's also a great choice if you're starting to learn a language.  

 

This can be music to the ears of many language learners as they may feel frustrated having to learn the different names of animals. For example, you just need to know how to order food and arrange travel.  

On the other hand, if you want a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of a language, you may find that Babbel isn’t necessarily for you. 

 

Are you thinking of learning a language but don’t know which to choose? Find out the top reasons to learn sign language. 

 

Drops 

 

Drops Swedish

Drops is a unique app on this list as it’s one of the only apps that you can’t use as your sole source for picking up a chosen language. While it can be said that no app or website can truly bring you to fluency without using other resources alongside it, Drops will not teach you sentence structure or grammar like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone or Babbel. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it. Drops can be a great asset to have at your disposal on your language learning journey. Drops is just a vocabulary builder with images and translations for single words or the occasional phrase being repeated for ideal memorisation. 

 

Drops is the perfect app if you’ve already built a solid understanding of a language and are looking to grow your vocabulary with relevant categories and words you may have never thought you wanted to know. With 45 languages available, including the likes of Icelandic and Māori, the app aims to support you in learning your chosen second language alongside more conventional means. 

 

Deciding to learn a language can be very exciting. However, it’s often difficult to know where to start. While you may want to visit a country that speaks that language to practice or attend more structured lessons. But it’s great to know that there are apps out there to give you a great foundation to build upon. 

 

Are you considering learning a language at university? Find the perfect language course for you with our course matcher tool

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