Learning a language is one of the most rewarding things you can do. There are a lot of ways you can learn or improve your skills in a particular language, from attending classes to teaching yourself through traditional methods such as reading and practice. But have you realized that you can also put that smartphone of yours to really good use for learning languages?
Whether you’re starting from scratch or just want to improve your English, here are 10 free mobile apps for both Android and iOS that will help you do just that. Most of these apps take advantage of the interactivity that smartphones can provide in order to create gamified learning environments that will definitely be a lot more interesting than what you can find in language books.
One of the biggest draws of Duolingo is its gamified learning system: instead of the usual progression through lessons, Duolingo structures your lessons as a skill tree, with "skill points" being awarded for completing lessons, achievements for tracking your progress as well as a lives system that encourages you to answer each question correctly. You can then use your knowledge to translate real-world content, which is then rated by other users.
Memrise offers a large variety of courses for a lot of different languages, including English, all for free. These courses are actually constructed by other members of the Memrise community, making Memrise something of a crowd-sourced learning platform. The app integrates with your main Memrise.com account, but also offers an offline mode so that you can continue learning even when you’re without an Internet connection. Memrise, also has some elements of gamified learning, including a points system.
Lingua.ly is a language learning and vocabulary tool that tries to turn web content into language-learning opportunities. Lingua.ly uses a propietary language-processing method that makes it able to recommend real texts to you, based on vocabulary tests and your interests. This means that you’re not limited to texts written specifically for learners and can read real text in whichever language you’re learning, particularly useful if you really want to improve your command of a language.
LearnEnglish Grammar, developed by the British Council, is an interactive app that’s designed to help improve your grammar, especially your grammar accuracy. Both the UK and US English editions offer four levels of questions, starting at the Beginner level and going all the way up to Advanced level. Each difficulty covers 12 grammar topics, with 20 activities per topic. Both editions also have easy-to-access in-app help so that you’ll never get stuck trying to solve any of the interactive tasks.
Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge is a fun little quiz application that tests your spelling, grammar and vocabulary, by having you solve as many questions as possible within 60 seconds. There are three difficulty levels, easy, medium and hard, and 10 different question topics including Food & Restaurants, Small Talk and Hobbies. You can earn and share badges as you progress through the questions, and you can even compete with other users on a global leaderboard.
SpeakingPal English Tutor is a highly interactive app that helps you improve English by using your device’s voice-recognition technology to simulate a voice call with a native English speaker. This will help improve your spoken English and pronunciation. To this end, SpeakingPal English Tutor provides more than 100 levels and a lot of different dialogs, sentences and vocabulary items. However, you will have to pay for most of these, as the free version offers only 16 levels.
MyWordBook 2 is an interactive vocabulary notebook app. With MyWordBook 2, you can learn important English words through interactive flashcards that contain pictures, sounds and sentences to help you remember these words. All words and word data are sourced from Cambridge University Press’ learner dictionaries. MyWordBook 2 also has a number of extra activities, a quick word review feature as well as the ability to create your own flashcards.
Busuu is actually something like a social network for learning languages, with complementary Android and iOS apps to help you learn while on the go. Busuu’s lessons are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), so the quality of Busuu’s reading, writing and speaking practice and lessons are guaranteed. Lessons range from beginner to advanced, and Busuu offers more than 150 topics with more than 3,000 words and phrases. The free version, however, only offers 20 units.
Fun Easy Learn English is a vocabulary app with more than 6,000 words in its database. You can improve your vocabulary through illustrations, recorded pronounciations and native translations, and the app also includes seven different games that should further help your efforts to learn English. The app also has a Spin Categories function that chooses a random topic, subtopic and game for you, to keep you on your toes. The app doesn’t require an Internet connection.
Unlike the other apps on this list, Phrasalstein is targeted at improving one specific element of your English grammar, namely phrasal verbs. These can be tricky, so it’s quite a useful app for brushing up this aspect of your English grammar. The app is designed like a classic horror movie, and has 100 phrasal verbs that it will teach you through humorous animations. The app will provide meanings and example sentences, as well as translations in Spanish, German, Italian, Russian and French.