Everyone has a secret superpower, so what is yours? Mine is very interesting and unique. I can keep silent in 97 languages! Just kidding, of course. I am the sort who is always talking about stuff, just like my neighbour’s pet parakeet.
On a serious note, communication is very important, be it for business or for personal matters. Relationships break down due to a lack of communication. Ironically enough, as we have more and more ways to communicate, we find that human interaction is becoming somewhat mechanical. Chatting apps have got people using emojis and cryptic acronyms. The smarter the phone, the dumber the chat. Now don’t say IKR!
As we are already a global community, interaction with people from different parts of the world is much more common than ever. Barring the peak pandemic times, international travel for business and leisure is no big deal anymore. As is the norm, technology offers us tools that translate our words on the fly so we can communicate with people in a foreign language, but we all know that such machine-derived translations do not necessarily convey what we are trying to say.
The curious mind wants to learn new things, so why not explore new languages? Fortunately, we now have a bouquet of brilliant language-learning apps that help us use our phones productively and make us smarter. What’s more, some of these are even free. Since most of us always have our phones handy, we can keep learning and practising new languages at every small opportunity. Things like a boring long wait at the airport for the flight can easily be turned into a productive, rewarding experience.
Let’s peek at some of the leading apps that are helping millions learn new languages from the comfort of their homes.
Easily one of the most popular language-learning apps, Duolingo deserves praise for its ease of use, the number of languages it covers and the various tools and techniques it uses to teach us the languages. The app uses pictures, audio clips and text to impart knowledge of the language. It is structured into tasks that get more complex as we progress and even has the intelligence to tailor the level of difficulty based on how well we are completing the earlier tasks.
What’s more, we do not need to create any user accounts to access the app, however, creating one allows us to save and track our progress. The app is free and has a website as well, through which we can continue our linguistic journey.
Memrise has a very effective approach to teaching languages – by inserting words into sentences with similar sounding words of our preferred language. This helps establish a link for memorizing these words easily. In addition, the app uses flashcards along with interactive quizzes and exercises.
The basic app is free, but the paid subscription allows us to study offline alongside additional lessons and techniques. In my opinion, the free accessible content is more than sufficient for a beginner to make good progress with a new language.
As with Duolingo, Memrise can be accessed both via the web and mobile. Unlike Duolingo, we must make an account in order to use the app. The UI is comparatively complex, but this is offset by the unique teaching methods the app uses. Most popular languages are covered by Memrise.
If the travel bug has bitten you, Rosetta Stone is your best bet. While the premium (paid) version has much more functionality, the free version is geared to teach travellers useful phrases and words.
The app uses lots of pictures related to common phrases in the target language, these phrases are spoken out loud to the user and they must repeat the words back, thus helping to improve pronunciation. Rosetta Stone covers a lot of popular languages
Common travelling situations like hoteling, restaurants and local travel are managed with the help of a phrasebook with related words and phrases. Additional phrasebooks can be added for communication-related to money, emergencies and shopping etc., albeit at a cost.
As you probably guessed from the name, Quizlet relies on the questions-answers method to impart language skills. Essentially a flashcard app, the differentiator is its capability to handle audio uploads and diagrams. The range of languages covered is quite decent.
Users can create their own study sets and access study sets created by tutors or other users. The app offers a great variety of ways to learn and can tailor the courses according to the user’s progress.
Quizlet includes a feature for interactive quizzes as well. The free features however are somewhat limited as compared to the paid version. The UI is excellent as the app is very easy and intuitive. All in all, it is an app worth trying out.
It is not a secret that the best way to efficiently learn a language is use all methods – reading, writing and speaking. Busuu is an app that tries to digitally create this 360-degree experience. However, we must opt for the paid version of Bussu to use the whole capabilities of the app.
The free version of Bussu is limited to one language only and it is imparted using interactive flashcards. These cards contain pictures along with small dialogues, imparting context to the card. Audio clips of the words and example sentences are provided too. The free version also adds cultural facts that provide a new dimension to the words and the language.
The user can select the level of mastery one wishes to attain, and the app designs the course accordingly. The course can further be tailored according to the purpose of learning the new language, for instance, if you wish to learn a language due to upcoming travel or u need to learn a language for business communication. This is a very efficient approach to learning languages.
Apart from the above apps, there is a host of apps that merit honourable mention. You may want to check out Drops (aims to build vocabulary for over 40 languages), Innovative Language (free audiovisual content every week), 50Languages (basic vocab for over 50 languages – free version) and finally Google Translate – it is not classified as a learning app but it can be used to learn languages as well.