Perhaps you’ve always wanted to do it but never had the time or money to commit to regular classes. Moreover, as an adult, learning a foreign language at this age can be daunting.
However, with the wide variety of language apps (even free ones) available for download onto our smartphones, it’s never been easier and more convenient to start learning a new language.
Apart from being able to converse and connect with foreigners when travelling, learning a new language trains your brain to think more creatively, improves memory and cognition, and adds a huge skill boost to your CV.
Here are some of the best free language apps to start your multilingual journey today.
Top language apps to start learning a new language
|App||Best for …|
|Duolingo||Overall language learning|
|Memrise||Overall language learning|
|Busuu||Learning new vocabulary|
|Babbel||Most European and Scandinavian languages, Russian, Turkish, Indonesian|
|Pimsleur||Learning by listening|
|Fluent Forever||Learning pronunciation and spelling|
Best language apps for travel
Isn’t it frustrating when you’re travelling in a new country and you can’t tell what’s on offer on the menu? For your travel needs, learning the basics can help you with reading menus, conversing with locals and navigating public transport.
One of the most popular language apps out there, Duolingo offers 38 different languages mainly common ones such as European languages, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and less common ones like Scottish Gaelic, Hebrew, Yiddish and even High Valyrian and Klingon, though it’s doubtful you’d ever use the last two in real life.
The app is free to use (with ads) and teaches you the basics of conversation and vocabulary through different categories like restaurant, family, travel, shopping and tenses.
Another popular app that offers 23 different languages, Memrise positions itself as helping language learners get comfortable with a new language through a combination of science and technology.
Courses come with audio and video clips featuring native speakers speaking so you know how people actually talk and understand the nuances of how certain words and phrases are used in real life situations.
It’s partly free – you can access part of the course, but to go further, you need can choose from monthly, quarterly and annual plans to subscribe to.
A basic app that offers English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, Russian and Arabic, Busuu is an app for those looking to go to Europe. What makes it unique are its detailed grammar explanations, real life pictures, live lessons with experts and the fact that its lessons are recognised by the Common European Framework of Reference, so you can actually get a cert for your efforts.
Free plan available, which allows you access to limited lessons. Enough for learning the basics and for travelling. To go further, 3-, 12- and 24-month subscription Premium plans are available.
Tailored for native speakers to learn a new language – an English native speaker learning German would have a much different experience than a Spanish person learning German – Babbel features real-life conversations from native speakers, live online classes and videos and games.
Languages offered include: Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
Free plan available – but limited to only the first lesson in each language.
Based on the principles by Dr Paul Pimsleur, a linguistic scholar, the Pimsleur app is based on the principles of the Pimsleur Method. It’s based on something called Graduated Interval Recall – where learners learn faster if they were reminded of new words at gradually increasing intervals.
Lessons are introduced within a conversational context so learners quickly learn how words are applied in real life, and each lesson is limited so as not to overload you.
Choose from more than 50 languages and hear lessons in audio format.
Free 7-day trial available.
Designed to help you become fluent forever, the app offers German, Castilian Spanish, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian and Mandarin.
Control how you learn by creating your own flashcards to help you memorise certain words and participate in weekly live online coaching with professionals. Fluent Forever is based on 10-minute lessons of practice a day to help you memorise new words faster.
Free 14-day trial available.
Best language learning apps for Japanese
Japanese is one of the most popular languages to learn for anyone who loves the culture, but it’s an Asian language and not all apps are suited for it. Here are some that are:
Start your immersion into Japanese with the Japanese Ministry of Education approved WaniKani app by learning the kanji alphabet. Familiarise yourself with Japanese vocabulary which offers over 2,000 kanji and 6,000 vocabulary words in a year. It uses mnemonics to help you memorise the kanji faster, radicals that help you understand how the kanji is created and an algorithm that’s tailored to your learning pace.
First three levels are free.
It’s gotta be the cute graphics that make it oh-so-kawaii that makes learning Japanese on LingoDeer more fun. Learn the basics of hiragana and katakana alphabet, vocabulary and phrases. Hear from native Japanese speakers and learn how to use words and sentences in culturally appropriate real life settings.
Free for basic levels. Also offers Korean and Mandarin languages.
To read Japanese, you’ll need to learn the 3 different alphabet systems – hiragana, katakana and kanji – and Obekyo teaches you exactly how to do so.
It follows the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and teaches you the meaning of each word. You can even practice how to write hiragana and katakana alphabets on screen!
Best language apps for Spanish
One of the world’s most widely spoken languages with over 500 million speakers, Spanish is definitely a useful language to learn whether you’re thinking of travelling to Spain or Argentina. Since it’s such a widely spoken language, most language apps are bound to offer it.
Some of the best language apps for learning Spanish are: Duolingo, Busuu, Babbel, Pimsleur, Lingo Pie, and FluentU.
Learn without a hitch with M1’s SIM-only Plans
You can make the best use of your time while waiting for public transport or idling during your lunch break to learn a new language. Therefore, it pays to have an affordable but good data bundle to have a smooth learning experience.
Sign up for M1’s SIM-only plan, which offers 80GB for $17.95 or 100GB for $19.95. There are also limited time promotions available. Head on to mpowered for the latest deals and discounts for M1 SIM-only plans.