If learning a new language is on your summer to-do list, how about starting with your smartphone or tablet? Sure audio CDs and workbooks help—but they're so old school.
With so many foreign language apps on the market and readily at your fingertips, it's easy to learn a new language at your own pace, wherever and whenever you have the time.
The latest language apps incorporate voice-recognition software, games, vocabulary and other interactive features.
If you have a trip coming up — or just want to brush up on your foreign language skills — we recommend you try out some of these 5 apps: everything from Japanese to sign language! A few of the apps come in multiple language variations so if you find one you like in a given language, keep reading to see if there are other versions.
Busuu (free): If you’re looking to learn Arabic, Polish, Turkish, Russian or German, Busuu is a free iOS and Android app available in 12 different languages. What is unique about this app is that it directly connects learners with native speakers online.
After you’ve spent time sifting through the 3,000 words and key phrases, you can interact with users to practice what you’ve learned via its video-chat feature and peer-to-peer text corrections. The app also uses audio-visual techniques, with high-quality stock photography that does a good job of creating a clear visual context for the words. The basic version is free, with options to upgrade to the full app.
KTdict+ C-E, Chinese-English dictionary with flashcard trainer (free): Whether you create the flashcards or rely on the expert information available through the iOS app, the KTdict is a comprehensive, easy to use Chinese-English dictionary.
Users can search words using English, Chinese characters (simplified and traditional) and Hanyu Pinyin. It includes the data of the renowned CC-CEDICT dictionary, based on HanDeDict, with over 70,000 entries.
The KTdict app is free with ads, with an option to upgrade to an ad-free version for a fee. One of the best parts about this app is that everything is stored on your iOS device, and Internet connection is not required to use it.
Mind Snacks (free): Hola, Campeones de Aplicación! Or, hey, app champs! If you’re looking for a fun and free way to learn a new language, the MindSnacks app uses games to help teach people of all ages. The app consists of different language levels, that are in fact mini-games designed to get you through each learning journey. Each game is designed with a personalized learning algorithm that helps users maximize memorization, retention and contextual usage at their own individualized pace.
Through its interactive play, MindSnacks will teach you essential vocabulary and conversation skills. The app is available in a 13 languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and German. The app is free to download, but you will need to upgrade to a paid account in order to access the entire set of features and lessons.
Sign 4 Me – A Signed English Translator ($9.99): This is not quite a foreign language, but it is a form of language after all. If you’ve ever thought of learning sign language then this iOS app is a good starting point, coming with a broad lexicon to help you along.
The app provides sign-language instruction in 3D, so you can type in sentences, phrases, words and the alphabet that you want the avatar to sign. The avatar then acts out each word for you with subtitles letting you know which one he’s doing. You can also change the speed and camera angle to get a better look at the gestures.
Using your iPhone Siri speech recognition, the Sign 4 Me app can also translate your spoken words into signed English. The library includes more than 11,500 words.
Babbel (free): Whether you want to learn Polish, Indonesian, or Dutch, Babbel has 11 languages to choose from. The free iOS and Android app blends listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
You can choose the lessons you want to focus on and learn basic or advanced language skills to fit almost any conversation needs. The app even ensures that you’re saying the words correctly with its pronunciation evaluator.
The best thing about Babbel is that it remembers your progress so you can access it from different places with different devices. Users can try Babbel on a free trial and then upgrade varying subscription levels: $12.95 per month; $26.85 every three months; or $44.70 every six months.
VerbalizeIt (free): If you are going abroad, you might want to think twice about leaving home without a translator app. The VerbalizeIt app connects translators around the globe with people struggling with a language. Users choose the language they need translated and after touching a button on the app they are connected to a person on the other end of the phone.
Smartphone owners can download the iOS or Android applications for free, but the cost of the service ranges from $1 to $2 per minute. Non-smartphone users can register to receive a local access phone number.
Jibbigo (free): The iOS and Android app lets users speak a phrase and automatically translates it both in audio and on-screen text. While it does not offer as many languages as Google Translate, it works completely offline. This way you don’t have to worry about not having Internet access or paying for roaming charges while you are in the middle of an unfamiliar land.
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