Five Free Apps to Help You Learn A Foreign Language

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Whether you’re gearing up to go on your summer holidays, studying for exams, or just want to expand your mind, it’s always a great time to learn a foreign language.

You can stock up on books, spend hours listening to CDs or use Chrome’s Language Immersion – but these five iOS and Android apps are an easy way to integrate learning with your day-to-day routines. And they’re free!

Duolingo – Want to Learn On A Casual Basis?

With a bright and easy to use interface, Duolingo lets you naturally progress in your own time. You start with simple phrases and gradually move to more complex things. There’s help every step of the way as Duolingo points out mistakes and praises your efforts.

Duolingo 3

You can test yourself whenever and set goals – or brush up on your skills when you’ve got two minutes alone.

With more than 25 million users, Duolingo addresses reading, writing and pronunciation by challenging you with a fun range of activities. Occasional emails are sent to encourage you and it’s amazing how quickly you can pick up the basics without even realising it. Thankfully if you forget anything, it’s easy to revisit any lessons and work at your weaknesses.

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Duolingo is available online, for iOS or (recently-launched) for Android.

Memrise – Do Visual Prompts Help?

A large number of students use flashcards to help them through their exams and Memrise takes a similar approach.

It starts off slowly – to learn Russian, for instance, you’re guided through the Cyrillic alphabet – but that’s by no means a bad thing. There’s something quaint and inviting about its simplistic visual aids, as if a friend is showing you tips to remember each lesson, and a follow-up email from the Memrise team ensures there’s a support network behind you.

On Android and iOS, Memrise’s friendly aesthetics encourage you to ‘grow your mind.’ Best of all, you can download each course to practise offline, so no matter where you are, you can freshen up on what you’ve learnt.

Not ideal

The only downside is that the interface doesn’t flip with the screen!

(How to) Pronounce – Struggling With Pronunciation?

You say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ar-to. Instead of calling the whole thing off, (How to) Pronounce can settle the score quickly and simply. All you have to do is select the language and type in either a word or sentence.

Its limitations are obvious: it doesn’t teach you phrases, but instead acts as a great supplement for other apps. If you struggle to get the right emphasis, or can’t quite get the hang of skipping that silent ‘h’, (How to) Pronounce can slow things down for you. Some fun can be had when, for example, you type an English sentence and it’s read back to you in a French accent!

Pronounce 1

The array of languages initially available is quite limited, but a wider range is achievable by going into Setting > General > Speak Selection > Voices. Once you download the voice using Enhanced Quality, restart the app and that language will be added to the list.

Though made solely for iOS devices, similar apps, like pronunciation tool Listen & Speak, are available for Android.

Busuu – Want To Lend A Helping Hand?

Boasting over 35 million users worldwide, the best thing about Busuu is its interactivity. By entering its ‘writing’ capacity, you can stay in touch with the service’s community and really help out by correcting others’ mistakes.

Busuu 1

Many just want to brush up on their basic skills ready for a trip to Versailles or Naples, and whilst Busuu accommodates them, it excels in offering courses for those who really want to learn a language inside-out. There’s a slight catch: it’ll cost you.

The core of eleven languages – including German, Portuguese, Polish and Japanese – is covered for free using flashcards and facile tests; it’s simple to switch between your native language and the one you’re trying to learn. However, it’s a freemium service for iOS and Android, so if you want to find out about relative pronouns, geography or even flirting, you’ll have to part with some money.

HelloTalk Language Exchange – Want To Meet New People?

Learning a foreign language meets social networking.


It’s an incredibly simple idea that’s all about putting your trust in someone you don’t know. Everyone’s there for the same reason, and you can be both a student and teacher without much hassle. HelloTalk (available for iOS and Android) lets you select your entry level, then find a stranger to talk to. You can type in your native language and they can type in theirs. Just tap and hold to translate or pronounce any sentence.

There’s a huge list of languages to choose from, and you can refine your list of possible tutors by age and country. The really useful thing about HelloTalk is that you can favourite any conversation and add it to your NotePad for future reference.

Naturally, you need an Internet connection and new users are likely to be intimidated when taking that first big step, but HelloTalk breaks down the barriers between countries – and that’s what learning another language is all about.


Bilingualism improves your memory and perception and also allows you a greater command of your native tongue. It can help your business expand and make you new friends. Put simply, it’s a great way to better yourself. With so many easy-to-use free apps out there, there’s no reason not to dabble in Spanish or Gaelic or even Mongolian.

Let us know what other language you’re learning in the comments section below. I’m sure there’s a gag about the French word ‘comment‘ too, but I’ll leave you to that – pourquoi pas?

Image Credits: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson Via Flickr

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