Fulfill Your Language Learning App-etite: How to Find the Best Language Apps in 2022
It’s no secret that young people spend too much time on their phones, but you shouldn’t assume that all they do is chat with their friends and post selfies on Instagram. It is very likely that the kids you see looking at their screens are actually learning a new language.
From the popular Duolingo to newcomers like Lirica, the musical language-learning app, there have never been more resources to help you master a new language. In this article, I will tell you which are the best language apps for different learning styles.
Best for learning multiple languages: Duolingo
“Duo” means two, but this globally famous app actually comes in almost any existing language, and the best part is that it doesn’t restrict how many of them you can practice at the same time! Being the first language app I ever tried, I was a bit overenthusiastic myself and ended up trying to learn German, French and Italian all at the same time. However, I soon found that it is better to focus on no more than two languages at a time; otherwise, you start to mix them up!
Duolingo is known for its short, game-like exercises that teach you the basics of almost any language, and for its already iconic “streak” feature, a little fire icon that motivates you to keep going by bursting into flames every time you complete a new lesson. Its most recent addition, Duolingo Stories, consists of short audio tales that allow you to check your comprehension skills while recycling the vocabulary you’ve learnt along the way.
After using Duolingo for a month, I can tell you that it is a great resource to help you learn or revise basic grammar and key vocabulary before a trip, for example, how to order in a restaurant or buy a train ticket. However, if you’re looking for a language app that will help you master a language or achieve fluency, Duolingo is not the best choice. In fact, on their official Twitter account, they explain that their app will only take you to a Pre-Intermediate level and that they are currently working on the development of special features such as DuoPodcasts for more advanced learners.
Best for learning to speak casually in a new language: Memrise
The Memrise learning method is very simple: it is about repeating and repeating the words and phrases until you can’t take them out of your mind. Each word or phrase is symbolized by an empty pot. Every time a word has been learnt, you will see a fully grown flower where there was nothing before.
Like Duolingo, Memrise features simple exercises: listening and writing, choosing the correct word among different options, matching words and pictures, etc. The app’s best feature, however, can only be unlocked by going premium. By subscribing to a monthly plan of $8.49, you can access a vast collection of videos starring real natives and chat with bots that will help you get by in the language you want to learn. Imagine you are in a bar in Athens and someone sits next to you and starts to ask you questions like “Where are you from?” or “Can I buy you a drink?” in Greek*. With Memrise, you get to hear a native say the phrase you need to say, just as if you had a Greek friend whispering that right answer in your year!
*In case you’re wondering what these phrases look and sound like in Greek:
Where are you from – Από που είσαι? (Apó pou eísai?)
Can I buy you a drink? – Μπορώ να σε κεράσω ένα ποτό? (Boró na se keráso éna potó?)
What’s more, the app will periodically come up with written tests in which you will be able to revise the words that you have been learning, and audio tests in which you will have to decipher what the app is trying to communicate to you.
All in all, Memrise is a good platform to learn functional vocabulary from a relaxed, informal perspective. However, there is no opportunity to put into practice your conversational abilities, which is an essential part of language learning. This app may be a great learning companion if you want to complement a traditional course with a more casual approach, but when it comes to gaining fluency, it won’t do the trick.
Best for learning language musically: Lirica
Did you know that singing along to the hottest songs of the moment could be a learning opportunity? In this app, you will find Latin pop stars like Shakira and Enrique Iglesias, as well as English-language artists like Lady Gaga.
This is the perfect app for people who are very busy with their work or studies and want to have a bit of fun when it comes to learning a language. Besides singing along to your favourite songs, you can do rapid-fire exercises by answering questions like:
- Is Maluma being severe or sincere in this line?
- Is Thalia singing about a memory or about something she wants to do to in the future?
- Can you select the words that are connected to love and relationships?
The great thing about Lirica is that, for a platform that sounds like a lot of fun with just a bit of learning on top, it is surprisingly complete from an educational perspective. In fact, before you even begin, you have to select your current level, from Beginner to Intermediate, so you can track your progress as you progress every week.
As you can imagine, Lirica is the best language-learning app to use with friends. Though it won’t take you very far when it comes to developing communicative skills, it is the perfect resource to improve your pronunciation, learn idioms and informal vocabulary, and of course, have lots of musical fun.
Best for acoustic learners: Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is software designed to learn languages from an auditory perspective. Its name was devised after an inscribed stone of the same name that helped researchers decipher ancient Egyptian writing.
As soon as you enter your personal data into the application, a bot asks you to select a target language and a study plan based on your current level: beginner, intermediate or proficient. Then, it displays specialized units within each level which are based on common themes and communicational situations such as Travel, Work, Family, Relationships, and so on.
Imagine, for example, that you have a videoconference in Italian in a few days. Instead of fumbling aimlessly through your old Italian booklets, you can choose the Work section of your Italian plan, and practice Italian business phrases such as:
- È pronta la presentazione? (“Is the slideshow ready?”)
- Vorrei suggerire una modifica. (“I would like to suggest a change.”)
- Vorrei sentire la vostra opinione. (“I would like to hear your opinion.”)
- Possiamo darci del tu? (“Can we switch to informal you?”)
- Puoi condividere lo schermo? (“Can you share your screen?”)
- Sono d’accordo. / Non sono d’accordo. (“I agree.” / “I disagree.”)
- Ottimo lavoro (“Good job!”)
The great thing about Rosetta Stone is that it has a voice recognition system that, unlike other language-learning apps, allows you to practice pronunciation and gives you actual feedback on your performance, resulting in better absorption of what you are learning. And, by the way, the voice recognition of this app is truly great! As an English teacher, I can guarantee that pronunciation is something that we must pay close attention to when learning a language, so it’s very important that language-learning apps that assess pronunciation can do it effectively.
On the downside, Rosetta Stone could improve its grammar focus. Though its function-based lessons and pronunciation activities are more than welcome, without sufficient grammar focus your sentences will lack precision and might prevent you from achieving successful conversations.
Go beyond language-learning apps
As you can see, the language-learning apps above make useful, engaging, fun companion resources for learners of all ages. However, using a language app as your only learning strategy won’t take you very far. By the end of my research experience, although I was able to say a few business phrases in German, I was far from being able to speak it fluently or even know what real German people sound like when they talk to one another in a real context.
For this reason, if you want to know what any language sounds like when it’s spoken by actual people in a specific culture, the best thing you can do is take a few lessons with a native tutor. In my opinion, this is still the only method that will allow you to receive personalized feedback, learn a language from a cultural perspective, and more importantly, become a fluent speaker.
At Language Trainers, we work with experienced teachers that know how to adapt their lessons to fit the interests and learning goals of every student. If you want to know what an integral language-learning experience is like, send us a quick message now and we’ll pair you up with one of our teachers for a free trial lesson!