What are the Best Apps for Learning a Foreign Language

A picture of a mobile phone showing apps.

The best app for learning a foreign language depends on your preferred learning style and your language learning goals. Some apps will be best for people who want to learn how to speak fluently by listening to conversations. Others will be best for people who just want to get a grasp of the basics so they can travel abroad. Whatever your goal, we’re here to help you choose an app that best suits your needs. In this article, we’re breaking down the 8 best apps for learning a second language (check out the quick list below). We’ll talk about how each app is unique and give you the inside scoop on how you can make the most out of your learning journey. Ready to get started? Let’s go!

Table of Contents

Best App for Learning to Speak: Mango Languages

If your goal is to learn how to speak and have natural conversations in your second language, then Mango Languages is the right choice for you. Mango’s lessons are based on conversations recorded by native speakers and contain content that expert linguists and language teachers have curated to maximize your learning benefit. As a bonus, Mango has a lot of cool features that can help you develop your pronunciation skills, like Phonetic Pop-ups (which lets you interact with any word, at any time to see how it’s pronounced), and Voice Comparison (which lets you record yourself using the language you learn and match up a visual representation of your pronunciation to that of a native speaker – see below for an example!).

Picture of the Mango voice comparison tool and a sound wave.

If you’re interested in checking out these features and learning more than 70 languages, then you’re in luck: subscriptions to Mango Languages start at just $7.99 per month! What’s more,  there’s a good chance that you can get access to Mango’s entire library of content for free! How? All you need is a membership at one of more than 1,250 public libraries across the country. You can check here if your local library subscribes to Mango and start your journey today!

Best App for Learning in a Virtual Classroom: Babbel Live

Babbel Live is a great option if you are interested in taking a virtual language class. Babbel Live is a separate service from the Babbel app, which teaches grammar and vocabulary through drills, podcasts, and games. Live lessons with Babbel span a range of proficiency levels (beginner to advanced), cover a variety of topics (like work, dining, or travel), and can be a fantastic opportunity to get in some authentic conversation practice. Just keep in mind that Babbel Live is available for just 4 out of the 14 languages offered by Babbel: Spanish, French, German, and Italian.

Pricing plans for Babbel Live start at $75 per month. While that may seem steep, each subscription gives you access to all the languages that are offered in the Babbel app. If you’re only interested in the Babbel app, pricing starts at $7.50 per month. And it’s good to know that the first lesson for any language offered on Babbel is free!

Best App for Learning by Association: Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is the perfect app for you if you want to learn by association, instead of translation. Rosetta Stone’s learning method is based on having you associate words and phrases with images, which is supposed to help you retain more language in the long run, and give you the tools needed to excel in an immersive environment. The app features reading and listening passages, as well as a speech recording tool to help you practice your pronunciation. Rosetta Stone offers courses for 25 languages, and pricing plans start at $7.99 per month.

Best App for People Who Like Games: Duolingo

Duolingo is arguably the most game-like language learning app on the market and a good fit for game enthusiasts. In each lesson, you’re presented with (sometimes strange) sentences in your target language, and complete a variety of exercises to practice those sentences. With each lesson you complete, you earn “experience points” that are used to track your learning progress and unlock new, more advanced, content. Other game-like elements featured in the app include “lives” (which run out if you make too many mistakes and prevent you from continuing your learning), “streaks”, and “power-ups”. There’s also an in-game currency known as “lingots” (or “gems” for desktop users), which can be used to buy more lives, maintain streaks, or buy power-ups.

Duolingo is free to use and offers courses for more than 40 languages (including some invented languages such as Klingon and Dothraki. However, the free plan does feature advertisements. For users who want to level up their game, Duolingo offers in-app purchases of lingots (or gems), as well as the option to purchase a premium, ad-free plan for $6.99 per month.

Best App for Learning through Videos: Memrise

Memrise could be right up your alley if you’re someone who gets a kick out of watching videos. The lesson structure of Memrise is pretty simple: you learn a word or phrase, then move on to different exercises and drills to help you practice and remember what you’ve learned. The coolest part about the app is that most of the learning is done through videos that feature native speakers saying the target words or phrases. In this way, you are able to see how the language is used by real speakers of the language in authentic settings – a definite plus! Pricing plans for Memrise start at $8.49 per month and grant you access to any of the 23 languages offered in the app.

Best App for Traveling Abroad: TripLingo

The best app for traveling abroad is TripLingo, since it is geared towards teaching you essential travel phrases rather than improving your language proficiency as a whole. The app is essentially an interactive phrasebook and voice translator that helps you navigate the ins and outs of a foreign country. It features interactive lessons to help you learn key phrases, as well as helpful notes on culture and essential travel information. 

TripLingo offers a free trial version of their app which includes basic vocabulary, phrases, and cultural tips for any of the 100-plus language/country pairs offered. The price for the full version of the app starts at $19.99 per month and unlocks additional learning content as well as access to live translation services.

Best App for Learning with Others: Busuu

Busuu is a great app for learning with others because of its integrated community feedback system. This system is an extension of the base Busuu app, which teaches you words, phrases, and grammar in your second language through a series of structured lessons and guided practice. The way the system works is simple. First, you record yourself or write a response to a picture or video prompt. Then, you submit this response as a “post” to your Busuu profile page. Lastly, other users view the comment on your page and give you feedback on your language use. The app also has a “lite” social-networking feature that lets you add other users as friends so that you can give each other feedback more consistently!

Busuu has a free version of its app, but this only teaches you vocabulary and does not provide access to the community feedback system. For that, you’ll need a premium plan, which starts at $5.50 per month. All plans with Busuu give you access to any of the 14 available languages.

Best App for Learning through Flashcards: MosaLingua

MosaLingua is perfect for people who like to nerd out with flashcards. MosaLingua lessons introduce users to level-appropriate words and phrases through four activity types: listen & repeat, memorize, write, and self-evaluate. Each activity is based flashcard-based, with one side of the flashcard displaying a prompt (e.g., a word or phrase) and the other displaying the correct answer. Perhaps the most interesting part of the app is the self-evaluation activity, which has you review flashcards of content you have learned and asks you to rate how well you think you have learned it. Your self-evaluation data is used to generate content for review sessions, which use the same flashcard-based activities.

One interesting part about the app is that in addition to a structured program that goes from easy to difficult, it has an “Explore” mode, which allows you to practice a range of pre-made flashcard sets on common themes (like “Meeting others” or “Parties”). You can also create custom flashcard lists from MosaLingua’s complete flashcard database so that you can learn and practice the content that you find most useful for your purposes and goals! MosaLingua offers content in 9 languages, and plans start at $4.99 per month.

What is the most popular language-learning app?

The most popular language learning app by rating is Mango Languages, which boasts 4.8 stars on both the App Store and Google Play based on more than 30,000 reviews. In terms of the number of downloads (App store), the most popular language-learning app is Duolingo, followed closely by Babbel and Rosetta Stone.

Which apps are the best for learning a language for free?

The best apps for learning a language for free are Duolingo and Mango Languages. However, there is a key difference between the two. While Duolingo is free to use, it contains advertisements as well as in-app purchases that are necessary to fully benefit from the learning content. By contrast, Mango Languages is free to use for members of over 1,250 public libraries in the United States – no strings attached, and is designed for learning rather than entertainment.

Which apps can help you become fluent in a foreign language?

Apps that are engaging and based on authentic conversations, like Mango Languages and Babbel, are likely to help you become fluent in a foreign language. This is because conversation-based apps teach you the vocabulary, phrases, and grammar that native speakers actually use, and contain built-in activities and exercises to help you get used to using what you’ve learned. Of course, no app on its own can make you fluent in a foreign language, so it’s important to make sure you also get in plenty of authentic language practice and use study strategies that help you stay active when learning.

Can you learn a language with an app?

You can learn a lot about language using an app, but there are limitations on how far an app can take you. Language learning apps are great for learning the basics, like vocabulary, grammar rules, and even some cultural nuances. However, apps don’t provide nearly enough exposure to natural language or opportunities for authentic interactions to push you beyond the high beginner/low intermediate stages of proficiency. Achieving advanced proficiency in a foreign language requires massive amounts of contact with meaningful language, and years of dedicated language study. In addition, the rate at which you learn, and how far you can go, are affected by a whole host of factors that are beyond your control, like how old you are, whether or not you have a natural “gift” for language learning, and even your personality type! For these reasons, the best apps for learning a foreign language are those that make you want to keep using them (since they maximize your exposure to language), prepare you for real-world language use (i.e., conversation-based apps like Mango or Babbel), and help you stick to a regular practice schedule.

Well, that’s that! We hope that this article has answered some of your questions about the best apps for learning a language. Are you ready to try out a language-learning app? Why not start with one of the 70+ languages that Mango Languages offers today?

Meet The Author:
George Smith - Headshot
George Smith
Linguist at Mango Languages
George Smith is a Linguist at Mango Languages. He holds a Ph.D. in Second Language Studies from the University of Hawai‛i at Mānoa and conducts research on second language listening, speaking, and vocabulary learning. He is a lifelong language teacher and learner who enjoys gabbing about language with his family and friends.

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