Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language

We all know how much technology improved during the last decade. We can see any part of the world via Internet, talk with anyone, anywhere, anyhow. But is learning a foreign language without paying expensive classes or going to language schools also that simple? Today we bring you an overview of the five best rated apps for foreign language learning. We have tried to refresh our Italian, and you can tell us which languages you tried and if you were successful in them.

 

Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Duolingo

Whenever we talk about learning a foreign language, Duolingo is probably the first app everyone mentions, which isn’t surprising as it is highly rated on Google Play Store. It provides the option of a Placement test and places you at a level based on your score. The number of skipped lessons depends on the level you have been placed.

Before you start, you can choose how much time you want to spend learning a language on a daily basis (5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes). The app contains ads and purchase offers (both are short enough not to interfere with your learning process, and it is also pointed out that the ads help to keep the education free).

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To use this app, proficiency in English is key, because knowledge of spelling and grammar is highly important during the learning process, but also during the translation process from the language you are learning to English.

There is no daily limit of lessons you can complete. Also, all those questions you answered incorrectly will appear again at the end of the lesson. The lessons unlock gradually, in order to ensure you don’t skip too many lessons until you really learn the previous ones.

Every lesson has its levels arranged by their difficulty. Let’s take the FOOD lesson as an example. The first level contains the basics, the second is a bit harder and includes recognition, matching, identifying gender, etc., while the third level includes independent translation from Italian to English and writing of certain words, as well as use of the correct article (l/l’/le/i/gli in Italian). Also, the harder the levels, the more tasks they contain.

You can look up the meanings of underlined words in the sentence while you are in the middle of the task. Also, words appearing in Italian always contain the appropriate article, which is very important in the Italian language. You won’t see the word “la ragazza” written as only “ragazza”. The app also offers the option of pronouncing words on a microphone. The microphone can be turned off if you find yourself in an environment where you are unable to speak.

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There are also some bonus levels unlocked with gems, which you get after completing lessons.

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DUOLINGO PLUS is a feature that activates for a week if you invite one of your friends to Duolingo (they can choose any language, they are not obliged to learn the same language you are learning). If you invite two friends, the option will be active for two weeks. The feature works only if that person doesn’t have the app installed on their phone but installs it upon your invitation. This feature offers the option to download lessons for offline language learning, and automatic download when you are connected to Wi-Fi. While DUOLINGO PLUS is active, you get additional prizes without having to watch ads and you have the option to open two chests in order to get gems.

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Another cool feature Duolingo offers is Discussion during learning, in case a certain task or answer is not clear enough. You can enter the Discussion by pressing the speech balloon icon, right next to the flag icon. The users can comment on a certain lesson in that Discussion so you can get additional explanations, which is extremely useful in less familiar languages, Japanese for example. The following screenshots show you how that looks like in the app itself.

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Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Tinycards

Tinycards by Duolingo is an app with a rating of 4.1 on Google Play Store. Knowing the English language is necessary for this app as well. It is designed in the form of flashcards containing an expression (and sometimes a picture) in English on the one side, and an expression in the language you are learning on the other side. You have the option to hear the foreign language expression on the side that contains it. You can see the example below.

best free apps for learning a foreign languageAfter a certain number of pictures appear, a picture that needs to be matched with the correct expression comes up, while by the end of the lesson you have to independently translate expressions from English to the language you are learning and vice versa. So, the app doesn’t contain only flashcards, it also tests what you have learned right away.

The lessons are, just like in Duolingo, unlocked gradually. Additionally, they can be added into collections or shared via social networks.

Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Mondly

Mondly is an app rated 4.7 on Google Play Store. It doesn’t contain ads like the previous ones, but it encourages users to purchase it. This is the only app for which the knowledge of English is not important.

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As you are learning, new words are underlined, and you can see the translation. There is also the option to assemble a certain word with offered letters, which is extremely useful because it contributes to learning new words. If the unknown word is a verb, its whole conjugation will pop out in the past, the present, and the future.

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The articles before foreign words are not shown, even though the articles in Italian are almost as important as those in German.

While translating, it’s necessary to connect the offered words into a meaningful sentence. Since the first word in a sentence is always written with a capital letter, and there is always a period after the last word, it is questionable how much you can learn using this method and if that kind of translation process is even demanding enough.

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Mondly is the only app we tried that requires 15 minutes to pass between lessons. If you allow app notifications, it will remind you daily. This app offers Weekly and Monthly Challenges. You cannot participate in the Weekly Challenge if you don’t finish all seven Daily Lessons, and you cannot participate in the Monthly Challenge if you don’t complete all Weekly Challenges.

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Except for Hi, Daily Lesson and Chatbox bubbles, all subsequent lessons are locked behind a Premium membership. Chatbox requires the use of a microphone, which should definitively be pointed out as a good feature.

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Best Free Apps for Learning a Foreign Language: Busuu

Busuu is an app rated 4.5 on Google Play Store. It also encourages users to purchase it and it is essential to know English in order to use it.

Before you start learning, you have to complete the obligatory Placement test. The results said we belong on the A2 level and all previous lessons were unlocked.

As in other apps, all the questions you answer incorrectly are repeated at the end of the lesson.

The app doesn’t offer the option of speaking into a microphone, only the option of listening.

It is organized with flashcards, meaning that the first thing that appears are two or three pictures with audio recording and written text in Italian and English. After that, two out of those three expressions in Italian appear, and you need to decide whether the offered translation is correct or not. That cycle is repeated four times. Everything is followed by a short revision where you should choose the correct phrase, complete the sentence with a word that is missing or the one you hear on audio recording.

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In the very next lesson, there is dialogue that requires listening and contains a lot of unknown words for which the translation is not offered. After that, the same dialogue appears, this time with empty lines for the expressions that are offered. You are learning the phrases, while the rest of the text is a bit too difficult for beginners.

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In the entire fourth lesson of the A2 level, only five exercises were unlocked, while the other six remained locked because we don’t have Premium membership. So, we have managed to complete only 45% of that lesson.

Also, the lesson that is completely locked is the one concerning grammar, which deals with irregular nouns. Not even the lessons that were automatically completed because the A1 level was skipped are available. A Quiz after the lesson is not available without Premium membership.

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ADDITIONAL APP THAT HAS BEEN TRIED OUT, BUT DOES NOT EXACTLY FIT INTO THE CATEGORY OF FREE APPS: Memrise

Memrise is an app with a 4.7 rating on Google Play Store. It also contains ads and purchase offers. This app also requires the knowledge of the English language.

Firstly, the app doesn’t provide a Placement test at the beginning of the course. Just like Duolingo, it repeats the questions you answer incorrectly at the end of the lesson. The introduction of grammar rules after the vocabulary practice is a nice novelty. Also, after you complete a grammar lesson, you are shown its summary.

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As you solve your tasks, a small lamp in the bottom left corner shows the rule required to solve the current task.

Just like the previous ones, this app was listed in the top 10 best free apps. It is not clear why, since you cannot continue your learning process after lesson number two. The price of a membership is HRK 385 a year.

 

Have you tried some of these apps or any other apps for learning foreign languages? Were they useful and interesting? What features did they have? Is there an app that has everything you need to learn a foreign language?

 

 

Ana Mertz

Ana is a Master of English Language and Literature and Croatian Language and Literature Education. In Sinonim, she translates, edits and proofreads texts. She loves to read, enjoys travelling, doing puzzles and can watch the entire season of a TV show in one day.

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