These language learning apps will prepare you for the trip
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Finally ready to take that long-delayed international trip…but not sure your Spanish (or French or Korean) is up to it? One of the easiest ways to learn a new language is through an app. But there are so many apps to choose from, how are you supposed to know which one is best for you?
We have a list with a bunch of apps that gamify learning, use flashcards, and help users learn virtually among native speakers. We’ve reviewed the best language learning apps and selected them with native language learners in mind. Take a look and choose the app that matches your style.
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1. Rosetta Stone
When we tested Rosetta Stone, we liked that the app offers 25 languages to choose from and listens to your pronunciation to help you master your skills (important for being understood abroad!). While we thought it had an outdated interface and lacked visuals, our tester said she learned the basics of the language faster with Rosetta Stone than with We’ll rarely have the same exercise twice while you learn, which we also liked.
Once you’ve paid for Rosetta Stone, you’ll have four plans to choose from: Travel, to meet people, get your bearings, and dine out; Family, for family relationships, special occasions and compliments; Work, to learn good business manners and money; and Basics and Beyond, for daily routines, everyday items, colors and more. Rosetta Stone starts at $35.97 for 3 months, but has additional plans of varying lengths, including a lifetime membership for $199.
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Mondly focuses on gamifying the language learning experience so you don’t even think about everything you’re learning. It has a very similar interface to Duolingo, but gives you games that can be completed in two minutes. The premium subscription comes with augmented reality that helps you learn the language of your choice. You can get started on Mondly for free and upgrade to a subscription service, ranging from $9.99 to $479.90. Our tester found Mondly good for picking up the basics of the language, but said it might be difficult to gain an advanced understanding of a language you have no experience in.
Perhaps one of the best-known apps is Duolingo, famous for its owl that will let you know if you don’t follow your lessons. The best part about this app is that it’s completely free, although you have the option to upgrade if you want to avoid ads. The upgraded plan is $12.99 per month, and with 34 languages to learn, it’s by far the easiest app to get started.
Although this application does not allow you to master a language, it will certainly prepare you for your trip to Barcelona. Duolingo has a very structured learning regiment, including modules you can progress through. Most Duolingo learning is translation-based, meaning you’ll translate the word or phrase to make sure you get the answer right. There are also comprehension tests for listening and reading. You will listen to a story and then answer questions to see what you understood from the story. (It’s very similar to the Spanish class at school!)
4. Mango Tongue App
While many apps on this list focus on gamification and making the learning experience addictive, Mango goes the other way, focusing on step-by-step instructions. A single language will cost you $7.99 per month, or $17.99 to access all available languages (that’s 70 languages at your disposal). Mango has longer lessons, which average about 12 minutes per lesson. These lessons are very detailed and Mango emphasizes a conversation-based methodology to help you become fluent.
When we tested Pimsleur’s Spanish lessons, we thought it was the best audio-focused app. It’s ideal for those who want to do chores while doing their lessons or listen to them in the car. That doesn’t mean this app is like the old language learning tapes though: Pimsleur is very interactive and will ask you to speak the language when prompted. If you have trouble memorizing language just by looking at words on the page, this app might be for you. Pimsleur costs $14.95 per month, Where you can purchase all lessons in one language for $550. If you are unsure about the program, you can try it for free for a week.
If you’re trying to brush up on a language you already know, Memrise might be the perfect intermediate app. Memrise focuses on flashcard and vocabulary learning, with vocabulary in the app starting at the elementary level and becoming more advanced as you answer. Native video speakers pronounce the wods on the flashcards, helping users learn the language authentically. Memrise costs $9 per month, $59 per year, or $129.99 for a lifetime subscription, and is available on Android, Apple, and desktop computers.
Babbel prioritizes tailoring the course to who you are: you choose your native language, interests and skill level, and words are introduced through six memory stages that will help you store what you learn in long-term memory (otherwise known as Babbel’s Method). We found this app to be very hands-on in its approach and the information easy to maintain, although the lessons were longer than most programs. The quizzes are very similar in style, but you’ll never find yourself learning information you wouldn’t use for the first time in Paris. Babel starts at $13.95 per month.
This application favors a simple and clean interface and tries to encourage a natural way of learning through translation. The app will present different sentences and ask the user to translate certain words. It also looks a lot like a game and features scores and points for those who continue to use it. It may take a bit more effort than others, as there isn’t as much incentive to keep doing it every day, except that the app is completely free! Clozemaster offers over 60 languages, so it’s sure to have the language you want to practice before your vacation.
Sometimes you’ll go as far as you can in learning a language only for it to burn out because you’re not immersed or talking to native speakers. HelloTalk is a language exchange app that lets you connect with native speakers to practice the language you’re learning. You’ll create a profile and meet other people to chat with in your chosen language. There are no classes, and it’s a very informal way to learn a language. It might be best to pair this app with another one from our list if this is your first time learning the language. There is a free version of the app with ads, or you can start with their $6.99 per month subscription.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan or Korea, check out this app: LingoDeer originally focused exclusively on Asian languages, but has since expanded to include Chinese, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. For $12.99 per month, you’ll get access to the desktop and app version of LingoDeer, which teaches through quizzes and grammar notes and keeps tabs on your progress. LingoDeer claims to take you to an intermediate level of language proficiency.
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