Great polylingual apps for absorbing new languages

Jan 8, 2015
Tech

There’s an old adage that the potential for comprehensively learning a second or third language decreases with age. There are mobile applications aiming to improve language efficacy for different skill levels and age groups. Here are five services with apps covering multiple languages.

There’s an old adage that the potential for comprehensively learning a second or third language decreases with age. There are mobile applications aiming to improve language efficacy for different skill levels and age groups. Here are five services with apps covering multiple languages.

Learn Spanish by MindSnacks (iOS Free)

MindSnacks presents aspiring polyglots with a suite of apps that are free to download but require in-app purchases for unlocking all content. These apps include multiple games (like Swell, Belly and Word Birds) for students to master individual words based on themes including vocabulary words related to the human body, numbers, and days of the week. Player progress for mastering individual words displays after each session. Completing quests and higher scores help them level up and unlock additional games. All lessons in every language MindSnacks offers (Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese and Portuguese) can be unlocked for a one-time charge of $19.99.

Phrasebook (iOS Android, Free)

Phrasebook by Bravolol Limited serves as a guide for word and phrasal pronunciation. The app separates questions and phrases based on relevant topics. If students want to practice greetings or ordering food in a restaurant, they can simply tap on the relevant icon within the app. When working through a language set, students can favorite entries they need to practice, record their own voice speaking words or phrases, and listen to normal and slower speed pronunciations. Unlocking individual languages costs $4.99 each, and the more ambitious can get all of them for $23.99.

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Learn Languages: Rosetta Stone (iOS Android, Free)

Most adults have seen advertisements for the Rosetta Stone, but the mobile app packs 20 learning units and many lessons in pronunciation, vocabulary, and more. In each lesson, students match photographs to phrases and vocabulary words and are tasked at certain intervals with pronouncing them. As they progress, the app offers less guidance to encourage independent comprehension and improved fluency. The repetitive lessons encourage users to naturally pronounce words without prompting. Upon completing a lesson, students receive a percentage score factoring correct and incorrect answers, as well as those skipped (which is not recommended). The first lesson is free, but a subscription to 5 levels of any language costs $199.99.

Busuu (iOS Android, Free)

If you’re looking for a less costly option than Rosetta Stone, Busuu covers the four mainstay languages–English, Spanish, French, German–and nine more that aren’t as common in a primary school setting. After a quick registration, the app presents students with their first language lesson. The lessons present pronounced phrases with relevant photos. The app quizzes users during the learning process with drag-and-drop exercises, hangman-like spelling puzzles, and more. Users can upgrade to the Premium version with an in-app purchase, and the most popular option costs $49.99 per year.

Mango Languages (iOS, Free)

Mango Languages offers polished lessons in 16 world languages for English speakers, as well as a dozen courses for those learning English as a Second Language (ESL). This app teaches each language through exercises that mimic everyday conversation, making it properly practical.Those interested in learning for free can access this educational service through their local library, as long as they possess a valid library card membership and download the Mango Languages Library Edition app. Mango Languages’ unlimited access plan, which unlocks all language courses for the web and mobile devices, costs $20 per month.

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Stephen Danos

Stephen Danos is the Associate Editor for appoLearning.com, AndroidApps.com, and Appolicious. He has contributed to articles published on TechCrunchThe Chicago Sun TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere.

He received his BA in English from the University of Iowa and MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming).

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