Hello. Bon Jour. Hola.
Let’s face it, learning another language is something we’d all like to do, but few of us actually pursue. The work it takes to practice, memorize, and speak or write a new language seems absolutely daunting. Honestly, who has the time?
Still, you don’t want to be one of these people who goes to a foreign country and asks, “Do you speak English?” It’s just kind of lame. The truth is, there are a number of apps that will help you learn a different language while you’re on the go. Some even claim to make you proficient with just 30 minutes of study a day. It’s not going to be easy, but all of these apps make learning fun, and best of all … they’re all free.
Users practice different skills on Duolingo until they become proficient in their selected language. (Photo: Duolingo)
How much does taking a foreign language in college cost — $300 a credit hour? And the course will probably last about 11 weeks, which really doesn’t fit into our busy lifestyles. What if you could learn that same language in 34 hours — for free? Duolingo is one of the most popular language apps out there, with more than 38 million users. And they’re getting results. According to an independent study conducted by the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina, an average of 34 hours of Duolingo is equivalent to a full university semester of language education. Sounds like a decent tradeoff! And Duolingo is pretty simple to use. You earn points for mastering different skills until you become proficient in your selected language. Oh, and did we mention that Duolingo was named Apple’s app of the year in 2013? Any app that beats out those addictive iphone games has to be legit.
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish.
Memrise uses photos and videos to help users commit what they learn to memory. (Photo: Memrise/Facebook)
The makers of Memrise claim to have learned the science behind learning quickly, and it looks like they’re onto something. The app uses what it calls “mems” to help you create vivid sensory memories. Mems can be mnemonics, etymologies, amusing videos, photos, example sentences — pretty much anything that helps connect what you’re learning and bring it to life. In other words, they help take what you learn and commit it to long-term memory. The community aspect of this app is also pretty appealing. Memrise collects all the effective ways that other people have found to remember information and shares them with all of its users. There are thousands of courses available at varying levels. So you can take general classes like “Beginner’s Spanish” or check out more specific courses, such as “French food!” There is even an offline mode so you can still get your learning on even without a reliable Internet connection.
Languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Chinese, and many more.
Flash cards get a tech makeover with the language app, Byki. (Photo: Byki)
Don’t need all the bells and whistles provided by some of those other language apps? Try Byki. Using a series of flash cards, the language-learning app is designed to expand your vocabulary and track your progress to ensure that you’re actually converting your new language to memory. Each language offers three vocabulary lists at no cost, but if you’d like to learn more, you can upgrade the app for $7.99.
Languages: More than 80 languages
Cost: Free, $7.99 for upgrade
The Rosetta Stone Travel App lets users learn language basics for free. (Photo: Rosetta Stone)
4. Rosetta Stone Travel App
Rosetta Stone has been synonymous with learning another language ever since the company started selling it at mall kiosks. The best part of the system is that it actually works. The worst is that it can be expensive. Getting the full lesson on Rosetta Stone can cost users up to $500, and we don’t know about you, but that sounds like mucho money. However, if you’re curious about Rosetta Stone, you can download its free travel app to learn some language basics. The app has a built-in phrase book and three free lessons to help you learn the basics needed while dining out or getting directions. The app even uses Rosetta Stone’s proprietary speech-recognition technology to help you accurately pronounce the words. So if you’re traveling around Latin America, you won’t sound like a gringo.
Languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian
Get quick translations on the spot with Google Translate. (Photo: Google Translate)
5. Google Translate
Sometimes the most basic app is all you need. Google Translate is a free online translation service that will translate words and simple phrases into more than 80 languages. You simply type or say the word you want translated, and the app will give you a typed and audible response, so you can try to say the response or just let Google Translate speak for you. It’s perfect if you’re traipsing around a new country and need on-the-spot help while trying to find your hotel, a restaurant, or the bathroom.
Languages: 80 languages
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