Are you somebody currently trying to learn a language online, but you can’t find any good apps or programs? Or maybe you don’t want to pay a huge amount of money for Rosetta Stone? Read on, because here are five perfect apps and sites just for you (and all of them are free!)
On Memrise you have access to vocabulary in almost every language. Simply sign up, pick a course (there are hundreds) and start learning. Memrise uses a handy metaphor for learning – on this site, the words you learn are called seeds.You plant new words into your brain by giving them water regularly (a.k.a revision) and eventually they will grow into plants. After that, you keep watering/revising them regularly, so you’ll never forget them again. Apart from that, the program uses memory tricks and images called mems to help you remember.
It’s hard work, but Memrise is especially good if you’re going on holiday to a foreign country, because their Learn Basic Spanish/Chinese/French/Russian etc courses have a lot of phrases that are useful to tourists. Be critical though, because this site is crowd-sourced, and because of that not all courses have good quality.
One of the problems that people who learn languages via the internet face, is pronunciation. Learning a language requires face-to-face communication as well as learning grammar and vocabulary. Livemocha is a language-learning community where members can help each other improve their skills in over 38 languages. They have flashcard exercises with voice recordings from native speakers, and you can also fill on your own mother tongue and then help other people learn that language, for example by listening to their voice recordings and then giving them feedback.
The only drawback – there is no app, you have to use the website on a desktop computer or laptop.
Other than Memrise or Quizlet, which focuses on memorization, Duolingo takes a different approach to learning. Say goodbye to memorizing etre and avoir over and over again – on this app, you learn a language by simply using it straight from the beginning. Beginning learners get simple sentences with the grammar embedded in it, and every course introduces new words. The app uses gamification – the app tries to motivate you to use it every day and you get points for progressing to the next level.
The downside: Duolingo is very good quality, but the sentences and vocabulary are not focused on day-to-day usage. You learn words like ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘milk’, ‘cat’ and eventually move on to ‘the cat drinks milk’ - leading you to understand the language, but without much chances of applying it – the sentences are simply not suitable for social occasions.
If you want to learn Mandarin, this is the app you need. Granted, languages (and especially languages such as Chinese which are unfamiliar to Western languages) can’t be learned from a single app. In the Chinese languages, pronunciation is extremely important and you need to practise writing the characters, and that simply can’t be done online.
But, alongside another Mandarin course, this app can definitely be a huge help. Just like in Duolingo, you play games and earn points – and once you’ve earned enough points, you go to the next level. The focus is on ‘writing’ characters, pronunciation (the voice in the background sounds pretty Chinese to me) grammar and vocab.
For applying a newly learned language, you use Lingua.ly. This app has dozens of articles from the internet that you can read to improve your language. You can click on an article in the app, mark words that you don’t know and add them to your vocabulary list, and you can practise several languages at the same time.
When I started using the app for Spanish though, I was at a very basic level and I did not understand most of the words in the articles. I would say that Lingua.ly is for people who already have a bit of experience in learning the language and want to improve their reading skills. If you’re an absolute beginner, it can be a bit overwhelming.