5 smartphone apps to improve your language learning experience
Published on September 15, 2015 / Updated on January 10, 2024
Read on, grab your phone and get ready to download new apps and improve your level of German, English, French or Spanish.
This app has been on everyone’s lips for a little while now, but if you haven’t downloaded it already don’t miss out any longer and do it now! This app is completely free and makes language learning fun by turning the process into an addictive game. The app even reminds you to keep practising to make sure you achieve the goals you set yourself when you first downloaded it.
It focuses heavily on translation but also incorporates some exercises which allow you to work on your listening and speaking skills. Each lesson is dedicated to a specific topic and teaches you essential vocabulary linked to that theme. After a while, you are encouraged to practice weak skills to make sure you don’t forget the words you learned a little while ago.
It makes total sense to use the app for only 10 to 20 minutes a day. Therefore, Duolingo is the perfect solution for you busy people!
As its name suggests, Memrise is an app that aims at helping you memorise things. It is based on flashcards that are augmented with mnemonics. The app is great to learn vocabulary and make sure you never forget these new words. It relies on fun, a community, and science, its creators being experts in using brain science to help people learn faster. Indeed, users are encouraged to contribute to developing the app by creating their own flashcards.
Memrise is free to use but works on a freemium model, which means that you can subscribe to the paid version to get additional features and learn more words each week.
Last but not least, note that you can learn no less than 200 languages with Memrise as well as take courses on a wide range of other topics such as history, maths, engineering and many many more.
Regardless of your current level in your target language, you will always keep stumbling upon words you have never seen or heard before. This is where having a good dictionary app is essential. We like Wordreference a lot but feel free to choose another one if you prefer. Wordreference is free and the app contains its dictionaries as well as three conjugation tools (for Spanish, French and Italian). You can also access Wordreference’s forums via the app, which is very helpful if the word you are looking for isn’t part of the dictionary yet. This happens often with slang terms or vocabulary related to pop culture. Forum discussions can also help you decide which variation of a word is your best option depending on context as it isn’t always easy to figure out the translation that best conveys the right idea.
Most newspapers or news outlets have apps nowadays. They allow you to stay informed throughout the day, access some of the newspaper’s content and send out push notifications when major events occur. Therefore, they are your best ally to stay up to date with current events with a focus on your target language’s countries. These apps are also a great way to pass the time during your daily commute to work, school or university, so why don’t you delete Candy Crush Saga and replace it with a news-related app?
If you are learning English, you can download the Guardian (UK) or New York Times (US) apps. For French, try Le Monde (left-wing) or Le Figaro (liberal conservatism). To improve your Spanish, get the El País (Spain) or Clarín (Argentina) apps. And if you are interested in learning German, we recommend Die Zeit or Süddeutsche Zeitung.
As you probably know, Google Translate is the most famous online translation tool. You can use it to translate whole sentences or sets of words instead of having to look them up one by one in the dictionary. This is quite convenient when trying to translate a newspaper headline, for example. Even if the translation isn’t always 100% accurate, it will usually provide you with enough information for you to understand the general idea behind a sentence’s meaning.
Moreover, did you know that the latest version of the mobile app lets you use your camera to translate text instantly? You can point your smartphone at any written text you see, for example road signs, and the app will immediately provide you with a translation. Note that the app also has a useful translate by speech feature!