But that said, language learning apps can make a huge difference. They can give you an essential understanding of a new language on a conversational level, and they can help you to brush up on your skills between lessons.
But a great deal of willpower’s required if you’re to get anything out of these language apps. You have to be extremely disciplined – which can be easier said than done when you’re on your smartphone, where Facebook is always a single click away. These are no substitute for a comprehensive language course.
Yet although language apps like this will never offer a superior learning experience to a structured series of lessons, they can certainly help.
We’re presenting the apps in alphabetical order. The first thing you’ll learn is that language apps have pretty strange names.
Babbel is actually a collection of apps, each of which is designed to help you to learn in a different setting. Your progress is synchronised across multiple devices, which means you can start a lesson on your smartphone during your commute, before continuing it online when you get home.
Brainscape’s unique because it can be used to learn almost anything. Beyond the languages, there are courses on history, music theory, chemistry, psychology, and even driver safety. In fact, because users are allowed to build their own lessons, there’s apparently over a million courses to choose from.
All courses use a system of adaptive flashcards to help you to learn. These are techniques based on decades of cognitive science research and over 800 academic studies. It’s a system that’s playfully described as “flashcards on steroids”.
This is the “social network for learning languages” used by over 50 million people across the world. It offers lessons based on 150 everyday topics, and the real draw is the ability to receive instant feedback from native speakers of your chosen language.
Duolingo’s fantastic. It’s free, and it can help you learn around 17 languages. It’s fun, colourful, and it effectively transforms the learning experience into a game. You can even go head to head with your friends, to see who can learn the fastest.
One of the most endearing features of Duolingo is the outright bizarre phrases it sometimes asks you to translate. It’s an effective means of helping you learn how to conjugate, and it certainly makes for some unforgettable vocabulary lessons.
Memrise describes itself as “learning made joyful”. It can help you to brush up on over 200 languages, and some courses – including French, German, and Spanish – are free.
It’s a good tool for visual learners, as it makes use of visual cues and puns to help the vocab sink in.
This one contains over 800 commonly used words and phrases in a number of languages, including French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
Rather than offering a structured and cohesive course, Phrasebook appears to be designed to meet the needs of travellers, and those facing everyday situations while overseas. It’s therefore the perfect complement to a more formal business language course!
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