Spending hundreds of dollars on a software that doesn’t work is never a good feeling. For what I paid, I should be able to speak that language like a native can — but instead, I speak it backwards and use outdated terms that the real native speakers laugh at.
Before you shell out the big bucks, try these 10 apps for you to make things easier on your language journey, and on your wallet.
1. Mango Languages
Let’s start with my all-time favorite. Mango is phenomenal when it comes to instruction, but it’s really its incredible variety of courses that will catch your eye. It’s even taught me my own specific dialect of Arabic, which isn’t usually provided in universities. My favorite part is that it provides culture notes in each lesson. Imagine how hard I laughed at the truth when it told me that Arabs usually beg you to stay around three times before they let you go as a cultural courtesy.
Mango is actually fairly expensive, but you can get it for free if you have a library card with a library that offers Mango. Many universities also provide access. Check if yours does right here!
Babbel has a sort of similar approach to language-learning as Rosetta — minus the ridiculous price. There’s speech recognition, picture-word association, and some matching sections to help you along. And it never lets you forget about grammar.
It also offers more than what I call the “Usual Five” (English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian), boasting Indonesian, Swedish, Norwegian, and several others.
From the great innovators behind the website Lang-8, HiNative allows you to ask all those questions you have while learning another way to speak. Ever have those times where you’re burning to know “What’s the difference between ________ and ______?” or “How do I say I’m really into skiing?”
That’s what HiNative is for. You can ask native speakers anything, from seeing if something sounds natural or if your grammar is off.
I’ve been with MindSnacks since their previous mascot. They make learning a language fun, literally — all of their tools to help in the process are games. It doesn’t cost much per chapter, and it’s worth every penny to learn the vocabulary behind each language.
In case you’re hesitant, though, the first chapter is free. And fun.
Yes, you’ve heard all about this one. But it’s a go-to for a reason: it’s a proven way to certify your experience in a language. There’s a gamifying aspect as well, where you can add your friends and war off on who gets more points each day.
While their selection is mainly European, they’re growing rapidly and added a Turkish section.
If you love flashcards, Memrise is the way to go. From American Sign Language to Welsh, this app has you covered. The flashcards will also have audio attached to them, and tips and tricks to get the word lodged in your brain.
Sometimes it’ll make you type out the word or match it to its correct definition to add for bonus memorization. Funsies!
7. Lingo Labels
Sort of a companion to Mango, Lingo Labels gives you a tiny pocket dictionary for the current language you’re learning. The vocabulary you receive is for common items around the house.
If you want more labels, you just subscribe to their mailing list (don’t worry, it’s not a lot of spam) and they send you as many as your heart desires.
Innovative features “real lessons from real teachers.” It really helps for visual and auditory learners, who like the convenience of an app but also love having a person there in front of you to provide instruction.
Many of the lessons also feature conversations in addition to basic vocabulary, which I find help tie it all together.
9. AnkiApp Flashcards
AnkiApp lets you put words and phrases into flashcards. There are people out there who make flashcards that you can use too, or you can generate your own deck to better fit your own learning style.
It gives you stats to better show how you’re doing long-term and your “grade” overall.
Last but not least, Busuu is like HiNative in that it lets you talk to native speakers. Even with the “Usual Five,” it can be difficult to learn a language purely by yourself. Having a buddy, especially someone who’s spoken this their whole life, can improve your process immensely.