The Play Store is stuffed to the gills with language learning apps of varying quality and effectiveness. But all you really need to learn a new language is five core apps that will get you from A – Z with a minimum of fuss. Here's my pick of the essential apps to help you earn a foreign language.
No language student would be caught muertos without Duolingo, the absolute ideal of what language learning apps should be. Duolingo has a nice, clean interface, short manageable exercises, gamification, statistics and reminders to keep you on track and a social element that lets you compete with your friends. You simply work your way through the exercises and then top up your language skills regularly to ensure you stay on top of things.
I'm surprised that this app isn't front and center on everyone's home screen. Google Translate is a super fast, super helpful app that not only let's you translate words and phrases, but you can even download languages and use it offline too, meaning a data or Wi-Fi connection isn't going to get in the way of figuring out exactly what that sign you're blindly following is directing you towards. I've used it for everything, from translating on the fly when I'm trying to text in German to figuring out what Germans call cranberries at the supermarket.
Biscuit is a text based flashcard app that let's you set words based on what you find difficult to remember. You can have the app running all the time too, so whenever you come across a word you don't know in a text message, on a website or even in a photo, you can simply highlight the word for a definition and have it added to your word list. Biscuit can also hit you with flashcards throughout the day to help keep you practicing.
Unlock Your Brain
What if you had to do a little bit of language thinking every time you unlocked your phone? You know, the nine times an hour that the average smartphone user does. Unlock Your Brain takes the work out of language study by prompting you to answer a two-second definition every time you unlock your device. If you're in a hurry or non-thinking mode you can always skip it, or if you have a little more time or curiosity you can look further into the word and even get it read out to you. If you Unlock Your Brain every time you unlock your device, you'll see a dramatic improvement in your vocabulary without ever really sitting down to study at all.
Where would a language learning suite of apps be without a good old fashioned dictionary? As great as Google Translate is, it's a little light on traditional word forms and parts of speech. I'm a fan of the classic Oxford Dictionary series, but they do cost a couple of bucks so you can also opt for reliable free versions like the Collins Dictionary series. No matter which dictionary you opt for, you'll be surprised at just how fast your vocabulary grows when you regularly look up words you're unfamiliar with in a dictionary. Best of all? You'll need to know how to spell those words in the first place, and that's half the battle.
What are your essential language learning apps? Got any tricks to share with our readers?