7 Easy to Use Apps for Practicing English Before Going to University

Have you ever found yourself lost in translation and simply wanted to have an easy tool to use, other than an old fashion dictionary? You probably did and even if you didn’t, it surely won’t hurt to know that you now have plenty of apps you can download on your computer or smartphone that can help you out in understanding and even practising English for when you go to study abroad.

Whether at home or anywhere you feel comfortable, you can engage in a quick and fun language lesson. So a language app can really come in handy when you travel any place where most people speak English.

Check out some of the most popular language apps and find out how you can use them to advance your English skills.

1. Fluent U

Platforms: Web, iPhone and Android system

Price: Basic at 8 USD per month and Plus at 18 USD per month

Recommended to: advanced learners

Fluent U app is based on a fun learning experience, where you only have to watch a lot of videos. Each of these videos, which can be a music video, a commercial or piece of news, is linked to a dictionary that instantly offers you the translation for any word you don’t know.

Fluent U remembers the words that you have learned and suggests new examples based on what you already know.

Although anyone using this app watches the same videos, each learner benefits from a personalised approach. Fluent U has bilingual subtitles for all the content it offers.

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Downside

English language learners are not required to speak so it doesn’t encourage you to practice speaking and check if your pronunciation is correct. Fluent U does not have a clear course structure that you can follow and the videos are rather short (less than ten minutes).

2. Duolingo

Platforms: Web, iPhone and Android system

Price: Free

Recommended to: Beginners

With Duolingo, English lessons are easy to follow and you will basically learn by translating phrases written by native English speakers. The fun part is that while using Duolingo, you will feel you are playing a game rather than having to learn something. With each lesson you complete, you earn points, while mistakes cost you “lives”. Once you are left without any life, you will have to re-take the lesson.

Duolingo is dedicated to learning how to read and speak English.

Downside

The teaching method is rather limited and the quizzes only focus on one aspect of the English language. With Duolingo you don’t develop too many conversational skills.

3. Anki

Platforms: Windows, OS X, Linux/BSD, iOS, Android.

Price: Free (with the option to make donations to support the developer)

Recommended to: Intermediate to Advanced learners

Anki is the Japanese word for “memorizing”, and this app is mainly focused on helping you memorize words, phrases, images and sounds. Like other language apps, Anki uses a flashcard system, aimed at encouraging English learners to make connections, repeat and interpret the cards.

During your learning experience, Anki figures out if and how well you memorized each flashcard and it won’t list again those you already know. With Anki, you can learn English vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.

Downside

With Anki, it can be hard to find fun or entertaining subtitled content.

4. Memrise

Platforms: Web-based, iOS and Android

Price: Free

Recommended to: Beginners

Adopting features from Duolingo and Anki as well, Memrise is meant to stimulate your memory with an interactive part, by making the learning experience similar to a game.

In addition to the English vocabulary, Memrise gives you the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of the English language. Memrise applies memory tricks that will help you learn words easier and with each good answer you receive points and you can also compete against other users of the app.

Downside

You are introduced to only three or four new words or phrases with each lesson and the program doesn’t offer you explanations related to English grammar or reading.

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5. The Pimsleur Method

Platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows devices

Price: average 300 USD for the package or CD

Recommended to: beginners and intermediate

The Pimsleur app is mostly an audio-based programme, consisting of lessons/exercises of about 30 minutes. You will hear an English word or phrase you want to learn and then the same word/phrase will be translated into your mother tongue. You can then repeat the phrase and Pimsleur will give you the answer to see if you were right or not.

The advantage of Pimsleur is that what you will learn during one lesson will be repeated in the future ones in order to make sure you didn’t forget them. Each lesson includes conversations between two native English speakers.

Downside

Users have declared that you will only learn a small number of new words over a large period of time.

6. Busuu

Platforms: Web, iPhone and Android system

Price: Free or 10 USD/month for premium package

Recommended to: Language learners of all levels

Once you connect to the Busuu platform, you can learn English by having live conversations with native speakers. Through a video recording system, you will exchange video-conversations with your language partner. This interactive method is not only fun, but you can in fact improve pronunciation skills faster, as your language partner will instantly correct you when you’re wrong.

Apart from the conversations you can have with native speakers, with the premium package, you also have access to grammar lessons.

Downside

Busuu has no system that will help you retain what you learned and focuses mainly on formal and conversational skills of English language.

7. Babbel

Platforms: Web-based, iPhone, Android

Price: starting from 11 USD

Recommended to: beginners, intermediate

Babbel focuses more on helping English language learners acquire the basic conversational skills. During each lesson, lasting from 10 to 15 minutes, you will learn new words, hear a dialogue, have a grammar instruction and then review all that you have learned and memorized. Featuring a microphone technology, you can check if your pronunciation is correct; Babbel will correct you if you’re wrong.

With an intuitive software and extensive content, Babbel is also user-friendly, allowing you to use the app without an internet connection.

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Downside

Babbel doesn’t give you the chance to repeat slides or audio recordings until after you have gone through an entire lesson twice.

Now that you know more about the advantages and disadvantages of each of these useful applications, you can decide on which one is more suitable for your language learning experience.

You just have to remember that a language app is not enough to replace an actual English language course. Not only that it doesn’t offer you any kind of certification or diploma, but no language app is so complete as to offer you full understanding and explanations about that language in all aspects of it: speaking, reading, listening and writing.

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