Want to learn a second language? There is an app (several actually) for that. Whether you are planning an exciting trip abroad or want to spend some free time(and you don’t have time for traditional lessons), a language learning app can help. The best language learning apps can build your vocabulary, develop proper grammar, and ultimately let you flow through lessons that are easy to digest—all from the comfort of your or .
There are many different language learning apps to choose from, so be sure to check out what types of strategies each program uses to find the one that best suits your needs. The best language learning apps are also economical, especially compared to formal education or tutoring with a language expert. Many have, which is crucial to ensure correct pronunciation. Others offer multiple language options, which is ideal when you want to pick up multiple languages.
Here are the 10 best language learning apps that will make it easier for you to learn a language at your own pace. You’ll sound like a native speaker in no time!
I found Babbel to be most similar to a foreign language course you would see in an online school curriculum. Babbel’s minimalistic layout helps keep a new language (French for me) from feeling overwhelming without being boring. Each lesson takes you through translations and includes word or phrase variations, pictures, and whether it’s formal or informal. If it asks you to spell the phrase, the letters are included.
You can also see the new words you’re learning used in everyday conversations, listen to them (if you choose to have the sound on), repeat phrases and learn more about verb groups. The 15-minute language lessons are easy to fit into your day – whether on your commute, before bed or during your lunch break. The My Activity module allows you to track all your progress.
Babbel is free or you can subscribe to a package. A three-month subscription costs $27, six months costs $46, and one year costs $75.
Mondly/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
Like Drops, Mondly is a fun, colorful app that has several features that you can take advantage of even if you don’t subscribe to premium. I tried Hungarian for beginners in this app and I liked how it offers to display different conjugations if you tap on the verbs. The app includes images, translations and hearing aids to help with your specific learning style.
The instructor also speaks the words and phrases in a rather melodious way, which made it easy for me to remember them (even after trying different languages in different apps).
In addition, Mondly is offering a huge discount on its premium features for the next five days. Lifetime access to Premium (which includes all 41 languages) is usually $2,000 per year, but has dropped to $90. If you subscribe to Premium, you also get access to special lessons for children.
Duolingo/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
As a regular Duolingo user, I like the app’s colorful interface and short game-like exercises. The app doesn’t limit how many languages you can try to learn at the same time (personally, I think two is a good maximum if you want to retain something). I use Duolingo to practice my Spanish and German.
To make sure you don’t get rusty on the basics, even if you’ve “mastered” a skill by leveling up, the skill can still “break” if you don’t check it consistently. Practice the skill again and it will repair itself.
I like Duolingo’s user-friendly layout and the “bar” feature that motivates you to keep going by tracking the number of days you’ve reached your point goal. In the app, you can access resources like Duolingo Stories, which are short audio stories that allow you to check your comprehension skills as you go. I also subscribe to Premium for $7 a month which includes an ad-free experience, downloadable lessons and unlimited “health”.
Memrise/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
One of my favorite parts of Memrise is that the app uses short videos that show how real locals express different phrases in conversation. I tried a French course and the first lesson allowed me to listen to the tone of voice and casual pronunciation, show me the literal translation of a phrase and explain its gender usage. The app also helps you spot patterns in the language to make it easier to improve your skills.
Several lessons are available daily for free, but you can tap Upgrade in the app to choose from a monthly subscription ($9 per month), an annual subscription ($8.49 per month), or a one-time payment of $120 for lifetime access.
Busuu/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
When you sign up for Busuu, you choose the language you want to learn and the app helps you determine how advanced you are in it and why you want to learn it and at what level. From there, you set a daily study goal, and if you subscribe to the premium plan, a study plan is created so you reach your goal by the date you set. For example, Busuu says that if I study three times a week for 10 minutes a day, I’ll be fairly fluent in my chosen language in about eight months.
Premium costs about $6 a month for a year. Even without a premium, Busuu offered valuable tools if you want to learn a language. There is also a Premium Plus option for around $7 per month for additional features.
I tried Italian with Busuu and liked the clean, bright layout of the app. Busuu also offers helpful reminders: The second time I logged in, it reminded me of “weak words” that I needed to revise to improve my vocabulary. In addition to listening to a phrase paired with a photo of the corresponding action, Busuu included helpful vocabulary tips (such as “ciao” can mean “hello” or “goodbye”).
Lyrics/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
If you listen to any song enough, you’ll learn all the words by repetition – even if they’re in a different language. But how do you figure out what they mean? This is where the Lirica app comes in. This app is unique in how it approaches teaching Spanish and German. Instead of traditional teaching methods for language learning, Lirica uses popular music from Latin and reggaeton artists to help you learn the language and grammar. In addition to learning the language, you will also immerse yourself in the culture behind it. The app also includes facts about the artist while you learn.
Lirica has a one week free trial and then it’s about $4 a month. So far, the app only offers Spanish and German, but its website says it plans to add more languages in the future.
Drops/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
I tried Greek on Drops. The app’s fun color layout made the language (which has its own alphabet) less intimidating. The app shows users every word in the Greek alphabet and the English alphabet and says the word and shows a picture of it. Drops is constantly adding new languages, most recently the app brought Ainu, the original Japanese language.
If you don’t subscribe to the $10/month premium, you have to wait 10 hours to access the next lesson, but after you finish a lesson, you can view your stats (correct answers, wrong answers, and words learned) and tap the words you’ve learned to hear them pronounced again (and see them written in the Greek alphabet). This can help you when your next lesson starts.
Netflix/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
Although not technically an app, the free Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension can be helpful on your journey to multilingualism. Install the extension and click the icon to launch a catalog of movie and TV show options. However, you need a Netflix subscription.
After launching the catalog, you can choose from hundreds of titles that use movies on Netflix to teach different languages. For example, if you wanted to work on your Spanish, select a language from the drop-down menu along with the country where you use Netflix. If you’re watching in the US, the extension generates 306 titles. To watch any of the movies, just click on the red “Watch on Netflix” button. Depending on the language you want to learn, you may have fewer titles to choose from.
While playing a series or movie, two sets of subtitles are displayed at the bottom of the screen. One set is your native language and the other is the one you want to learn. Words are highlighted as they are spoken, like a karaoke sing-a-long. You can listen to the dialogue phrase by phrase, pause and play as needed, access the built-in dictionary and more.
Pimsleur is an app that offers 51 languages to learn, but provides the information essentially in podcast form. Basically, you choose the language you want to learn and start a 30-minute listening lesson (which are downloadable and compatible with Alexa). The app also has a driving mode, so you can improve your language skills during a long commute without looking at the screen.
You get a seven-day free trial. An audio-only subscription costs $15 per month, while a Premium subscription, which includes 12 of the best-selling languages, costs $20 per month. Features include reading lessons, role-play challenges, and digital flashcards.
Rosetta Stone/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET
Perhaps the most well-known language learning service, Rosetta Stone has come a long way since its inception in the 1990s. My parents still have a boxed set of Spanish learning discs somewhere at home. With Rosetta Stone, it’s much easier now, but you still need at least 30 minutes to complete a basic lesson.
I tried Rosetta Stone’s first Irish lesson, which was primarily auditory with pictures, although there are ways to customize the app to suit your learning preferences. The lesson started out quite challenging, especially as I was a complete novice in Irish. But it got easier as I went along.
The iOS app got an update last year that brought augmented reality into the mix. This allows for Seek and Speak, a scavenger hunt-style challenge. Point your phone’s camera at an object and get a translation in the language you’re learning.
Rosetta Stone has different subscription options depending on the language—for example, Spanish costs $36 for three months, $96 for a year, or $179 for lifetime unlimited access to all of its languages.