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 wouldn’t hurt to know that there are plenty of apps you can download on your computer or smartphone that can help you out to understand and even practise English.
Whether at home or in another place where you feel comfortable, you can engage in a quick and fun language lesson. A language app can really come in handy when you travel to any place where English is widely spoken.
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, iOS, and Android
- Price: 30 USD/month if you choose monthly billing or 20 USD/month if you choose annual billing
- 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.
Downside of Fluent U
English language learners are not required to speak, so it doesn’t encourage you to practise 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).
- Platforms: Web, iOS and Android
- 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 lives, you will have to re-take the lesson.
Duolingo is dedicated to learning how to read and speak English.
Downside of Duolingo
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.
- Platforms: Windows, macOS, 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 “memorising”, and this app is mainly focused on helping you memorise 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 how well you memorised each flashcard, and it won’t list those you already know again. With Anki, you can learn English vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.
Downside of Anki
With Anki, it can be hard to find fun or entertaining subtitled content.
- Platforms: Web-based, iOS and Android
- Price: Free
- Recommended to: Beginners
Adopting features from both Duolingo and Anki, Memrise is meant to stimulate your memory with an interactive approach by making the learning experience similar to a game.
In addition to 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. You can also compete against other users of the app.
Downside of Memrise
You are only introduced to three or four new words or phrases with each lesson, and the program doesn’t offer you explanations related to English grammar or reading.
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 speakers
The Pimsleur app is mostly an audio-based programme consisting of 30-minute lessons/exercises. 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 of Pimsleur
Users have declared that you will only learn a small number of new words over a long period of time.
- Platforms: Web, iPhone and Android system
- Price: Free or 5,83–6,66 EUR per month for premium memberships
- 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 also improve pronunciation skills faster, as your language partner will instantly correct you when you’re wrong.
In addition to the conversations you can have with native speakers, with the premium package, you also have access to grammar lessons.
Downside of Busuu
Busuu has no system that will help you retain what you learned and focuses mainly on formal and conversational skills.
- Platforms: Web-based, iPhone, Android
- Price: between 5–10 EUR/month depending on the monthly plan
- Recommended to: beginners, intermediate speakers
Babbel focuses more on helping English language learners acquire 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 memorised.
Thanks to a recording feature, you can check if your pronunciation is correct; Babbel will correct you if you’re wrong. With intuitive software and extensive content, Babbel is also user-friendly, allowing you to use the app without an internet connection.
Downside of Babbel
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 these useful applications, you can decide which one is more suitable for your language learning experience.
You just need to remember that a language app is not enough to replace an actual English language course. It doesn’t offer you any kind of certification or diploma, and no language app is thorough enough to offer you full understanding and explanations about that English language in all its aspects: speaking, reading, listening, and writing.
Find a suitable course at one of these English language schools worldwide.