With many of us still adjusting to life under lockdown, there’s perhaps never been a better time to put your excess energy into learning a language. These unprecedented times also offer a fantastic chance for children and adults to brush on language skills for school and future holidays, respectively. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best free apps for those looking to broaden their language horizons during the lockdown.
Babbel is perhaps best described as a language app that feels very much grounded in a pseudo-academic setting, making it an excellent choice for older schoolchildren, students, and young professionals alike. The German learning app offers users up to 14 languages and up to 40 classes without the need to upgrade your membership.
Each class takes a mere 15 minutes, making them easy to work into your day, even if you’re currently working from home. Lessons are made up of a series of pictures attached to new vocabulary, before progressing to use them in the context of a dialogue. The app also has speech recognition built-in so you can practice aloud, should you wish to.
For many, DuoLingo acts as the standard-bearer for app-based language learning. The famous green owl has become synonymous with honing your skills with fun daily challenges and “hot streaks” when you’ve successfully completed your daily tasks for an extended period. It’s universal appeal to those of all ages has seen it become the most downloaded language app worldwide, with over 100 million users.
The app was the first to crack the code of turning the process of learning a foreign language into a series of short, game-like challenges. In all, there are 87 courses available, including languages such as Klingon! You can choose to upgrade to a free ad-free experience if you wish, but otherwise, you are free to learn as many languages as you like, forever.
If you thought DuoLingo had made language learning fun through games, wait until you see Mindsacks. Aimed at younger audiences, many parents have found the unique learning style of Mindsnacks just as effective. The app is broader in nature than others and includes courses for subjects unrelated to languages. However, users still have the opportunity to learn: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Chinese, and Japanese.
“Courses” are delivered through a variety of eight or nine mini-games which put you on the clock as you make your way through vocabulary, grammar, and listening comprehension exercises. The basic version of the app is free, but the number of mini-games is restricted. You may find yourself so addicted that you decide to upgrade!
Perhaps the antithesis of Mindsnacks, Busuu is the best fit for those looking to take their language goals seriously. When you sign up for Busuu, you select the language you want to learn, and you take a few mini-tests to determine how advanced you are with it, before noting why you want to learn it, and to what level.
Busuu then uses that information to create a study plan based on your goals. For instance, you may have given yourself eight months to become fluent in a language, which translates to approximately three days a week of at least ten minutes’ practice. A lot of features are hidden behind a paid subscription; however, you can still gain access to native speakers to practice your skills as well as brush up on the basics with a “travel course” for each language.
This app is the Ronseal of the language app world because it does precisely what the name implies; it ensures your languages skills are up to scratch for your next trip. Perfect for those of you dreaming of some summer sun abroad after being cooped up for weeks on end. With TripLingo you get to brush up on the skills you’re most likely to need overseas when on holiday or a business trip.
The app focuses less on the grammar specifics and more on teaching you how to get yourself understood in a foreign country, which is great older adults or those of you looking for a more casual language learning experience. It has a neat feature dubbed the “Slang Slider” which allows you to tweak your phrases from their most formal to their least formal versions. The lessons are divided into handy sections such as “safety phrases” or “business phrases”, and you can upgrade to gain access to an audio translator for when you really get stuck.
MemRise provides a unique twist on learning languages by harnessing the power of memes. The different approach helps you keep you engaged for longer, rather than losing interest after monotonous repetition. Better yet, the memes actually aid retention since they provoke a reaction that helps new words to become committed to long-term memory.
Perhaps the best part about this specific app is that the free version of the app is much more extensive than competitors, with access retained to every available language to free users. And with over 200 languages available, there’s a good chance MemRise has the one you’ve been yearning to give a try.
Keep Yourself Entertained During the Lockdown by Improving Your Language Skills
While it’s tempting to lock into a binge-worthy box set for the foreseeable future, why not use this extra time spent indoors to work on yourself and broaden your skillset?
See how much you can learn before life returns to normal, and remember to keep practising when it does!
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