Charlemagne once proclaimed, "To have another language is to possess a second soul."
The King of the Franks knows what's up, oui monsieur. Language learning is one of those things that just about all of us have on our to-do lists, but never seem to get around to doing.
The thing about successfully picking up a language is that it's just like investing pennies in your piggy bank. Little by little does the trick. Invest just a couple minutes of time each day in Japanese and you'll be spouting off "気にしないで" in no time flat.
The easiest way to remember to do your daily practice is, obviously, in the palm of your hand. Here are the five best language learning apps for iPhone. There's no clear winner here; it really depends on how you prefer to pick up a new language. Take a gander at the pros and cons of each, then just pick one and start - today.
What would a language learning list be without Duolingo? It's definitely the slickest, most gameified language acquisition app out there. It leads you through studying the building blocks of a language from the very basics on upwards in a way that makes logical sense, encouraging you to build meaningful sentences from the very beginning.
The interface is professional and fun. If you're a social learning type, there's a healthy community on Duolingo to connect language learners the world over. I especially appreciate how it balances grammar studies with practical usage, spread evenly across writing, reading, listening, and speaking.
Small downside: there are somewhat fewer languages available on Duolingo than on competing apps on this list, mainly because the learning system is so well-developed for each of its offerings. These things take time, people.
Memrise feels like a smashed-up combo of the techniques used in both AnkiDroid (only available on desktop and Android, sorry iFolks) and Duolingo. Its visualized, gameified flashcards help you pick up a language in no time, and the intelligent cycling system brings words back around to you just before you forget them.
There are zillions of languages available on Memrise, up to and including Klingon. Much of the content is user-generated, which means the database grows all the time. A big plus: Memrise can be used totally offline.
The one thing about user-generated content: use a dab of caution in terms of the reliability of the study materials. There's a slight quality issue with some of the packs.
Babbel is one of the only paid options on this list, but included because it's a good'un. The initial download is free, and then for $12.95/month, you get access to professional courses spanning 13 languages, including in-depth reading, writing, speaking, and listening exercises.
If you're heavy into the grammar behind the words, Babbel is a good choice for you; any time you get stuck or don't understand a phrase, the app offers detailed explanations as to why it's said in this way. Because these courses are developed by pros, the quality is through the roof.
The downside is obviously that it'll hit you in the pocketbook. But hey, maybe that'll be enough incentive to study diligently like a good student should.
The big plus of Busuu is its emphasis on connecting you with native speakers of the language you want to study. Get your exercises reviewed by natives and do the same in return for students of your own mother tongue. The grammar and vocab lessons are thorough and professional, but the native speakers make much of the practice feel like interacting in the real live world.
The focus with Busuu on "real-life" learning means its units are grouped based on usage and themes rather than grammar units. It's a great choice if you've never been much for memorizing complicated syntax rules.
A negative: if you're studying a less popular language, it will likely take longer to get your work reviewed by a native.
Linqapp is an oddball in this list. If you're a more advanced language learner, particularly one currently immersed in your language of choice, it's inevitable that you'll sometimes get stumped. You can study all the pinyin you like, but when it comes time to actually read that menu, how do you make sure you get the duck feet you're craving?
Enter Linqapp. Just snap a photo, record an audio clip, or manually enter text, and you'll be linked up with a real live native user of the app. Not only can you get direct language help, but you should feel free to ask anything else that might get lost in translation - synonyms, social niceties, and so forth.
Because the app relies on the availability of natives, however, learners of less common languages will find Linqapp less useful.