Humans seem to have five limbs these days: two arms, two legs and a smartphone! It’s no exaggeration to say that our pocket-based supercomputers have become an indispensable part of our everyday lives. While some see that as a problematic, distracting and time-wasting phenomenon, others see more potential in these devices. One such stream of potential comes in helping us to learn languages.

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💰 Free Apps – A Language Learner’s Dream

Anyone who remembers lugging a bag full of textbooks and notebooks around will know all too keenly the joy of having so much knowledge wrapped in a single glorious metal and plastic package in our pockets. What’s more, many of the apps we can download and use for our own language learning are free! In today’s piece, we’ll look at three in particular and their advantages for different types of learners.

App 1: Duolingo

In its current form, Duolingo currently (as of 2021) offers 98 language courses in 38 different languages, and is enjoyed by more than 300 million users around the world. While all these language apps carry the “convenience” feature, Duolingo has a number of interesting features that make it great for learners. One such feature is their volunteer-based “Incubator” in which members apply and then freely upload courses to be published on the platform. This creates a rich experience and an environment in which innovative language-learning practices are valued.

Content on the app is made more engaging by emulating video games. Users complete activities and acquire a special currency known as “lingots.” These can be spent to open up other features of the app. There’s also a competition element with leaderboards, skill levels and achievement badges.

If you’re the competitive type who likes to turn activities like listening to pronunciation, sentence reading, voice recording, phrase formation and more into a game against friends, then this might just be the app that keeps you coming back to learn more.

App 2: Quizlet

First created 15 years ago in 2005 by Andrew Sutherland as a way to help him in his French classes, the app was made public in 2007 and now services 130 countries worldwide. Though no longer a dedicated language platform, it remains a great place to brush up on all kinds of linguistic skills through various media:

  • Flashcards
  • Gravity – An Asteroids-like game in which players type terms to match asteroid-shaped definitions hurtling toward the ground. They must type in the word before the asteroid hits.
  • Write – Formerly known as “Learn,” this allows users to see words and write the definitions in for themselves.
  • Speller – Users hear a word spoken aloud and must type in the correct spelling
  • ...and more!

For those seeking a content-rich modern twist on more traditional learning ideas, Quizlet is a great choice of app. It’s also available via website, www.quizlet.com

App 3: Memrise

If you’re looking for something a bit simpler, a bit “old-school” but in smartphone form, then Memrise is a good choice. This British platform makes use of the spaced repetition flashcard method as its core center of learning. Over time, however, the platform has developed significantly, especially with the addition of user-generated content, now offering many courses in 16 different languages. It’s enjoyed by some 35 million users.

The academic credentials behind the app are impressive, with one of its founders, Ed Cooke, being a “Grand Master of Memory.” The other founder, Greg Detre, is a neuroscientist from Princeton University.

Users looking for more content can access more languages on the website www.memrise.com. The app, while more limited, is a solid, user-friendly experience that suits those looking for an uncomplicated platform on which to practice fundamental linguistic skills.

💪 Empower Yourself with Apps

Smartphone apps may not be a full substitute for a real teacher-student experience or classroom experience (WE can help with that...!) but they are a fantastic and convenient resource to give yourself support in your language-learning journey. The very fact that you can whip out your phone anywhere, even when just standing in line for coffee, and practice some language learning is brilliant. You couldn’t say the same for the classic bag full of textbooks!


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