Do you sometimes find it difficult to find the time to practice English? Or are you looking for something extra to help you practice English on a daily basis?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then have a look at three of our favorite applications for learning English (in no particular order). Let’s take a look.
Memrise has come a long way since its development stage over the past decade; in the middle of 2017, Memrise won the overall Best App of the second edition of the Google Play awards. Memrise prides itself on having developed an app that incorporates cutting edge scientific research about how your brain works so that “you learn as quickly and effortlessly as possible” and it’s easy to see how they have applied this to your learning – lexical items are presented and repeated at regular intervals throughout a learning session in the form of real life emotive videos or photos (“mems” as named by Memrise).
You’re also reminded of what you’ve learned at scientifically optimized times so that your memory of new language is continuously strengthened and more importantly so that you don’t forget it. As part of Memrise’s 3-part recipe for effortless learning, they also insist that learning with their app is fun. This is achieved by the use of games (speed mode is incredibly fun!), videos and beating challenges set by the app that are tailor made to your individual strengths and weaknesses (similar to Duolingo).
Lastly, to enrich your learning, Memrise has built an online learning community where users can create their own courses for everybody to use (open source). It’s obvious that Memrise are making an extra special effort to become the leader in this area out of all other language learning apps. This is possibly one of the defining features of the app and really adds value to your experience because it provides you with almost endless possibilities of topic areas for you to learn about in English. By choosing a course to suit your needs you can learn vocabulary that you need to learn about and to make things more exciting you can compete with other people to get the highest score and climb the leader board.
Memrise does also have a paid subscription option, which allows you access extra features such as Grammarbot, pro chats and video mode to learn a few. We will be testing and scrutinizing this in the future, so keep checking our website for updates.
What started as a project in 2009 in Pittsburgh by Carnegie Mellon University professor Luis von Ahn, Duolingo has become the most popular app for learning languages and boasts over 50 million downloads (June 2017). It is free to use and and currently offers 68 different language courses across 23 different languages. Unlike some other applications, Duolingo makes use of a digital language proficiency assessment exam so that you start learning according to your current level. There is an option to pay a small subscription price which allows you to use Duolingo offline and so that you don’t see any advertisements.
Learning English with Duolingo is incredibly fun. With colourful and bright cartoon-like pictures; a dangerously addictive points system and a satisfying touch sentence creation style of learning, the app is really brought to life and makes learning fun and effective. Gain experience points as you progress through each course and learn new language skills. Each skill consists of 1-10 lessons with a strength bar indicating your competency in each skill. Do you struggle to remember vocabulary? Then struggle no more – after a certain amount of time, strength bars fade, indicating the need for you to revise or re-do a lesson. After about a week, it will also design a tailor made lesson for you to practice words that you were weak on in previous sessions.
Another great feature with Duolingo that’s not too dissimilar to Memrise’s community courses (albeit with considerably less input comapred with Memrise’s courses), is their incubator platform which has courses made by Duolingo’s users. While it appears that the incubator platform is still in its development stages, there are still some courses that have been made which you can access.
What’s more is that you are kept motivated by unlocking achievements for streaks of regular practice and high performance. You can even compete with your friends on a scoreboard. The combination of these features make effective use of your time and so that words are easier to remember, but perhaps above all else, Duolingo has made learning English both fun and addictive!
Last but not least on our list of favorite apps for learning English brings us to Babbel! Babbel isn’t free like Duolingo or Memrise, instead you must sign up and pay a subscription fee. While you might not be willing to pay a monthly subscription price, there are somethings about Babbel which separate it from Duolingo or Memrise.
It’s quite clear that Babbel really makes an effort to make you practice your pronunciation, which is a very important skill to master before you can become fluent in English. The courses on Babbel effectively encourage you to practice listening to how not just words, but whole sentences of language are pronounced. Throughout a typical course, you are regularly asked to record yourself repeating target language and to repeat it again if its’s not quite right. What’s more is that each course will go into more depth and make you explore the target language further. For example, each category of vocabulary or area of grammar is tested more and Babbel makes your brain work harder to correctly place words in sentences or produce grammatically accurate sentences.
Babbel also has a great range of functional courses for specific areas of interest that you might have or areas that need to learn about for your job; the English for work section has courses in meetings, accounting and finance, human resources or journalism to name a few.
Another great feature of Babbel is its vocabulary list which builds up as you progress through a course. You have access to this list at any time and you can use it review words, phrases or areas of grammar you’ve learnt about. Next to each word or sentence is an audio button which you can press to listen to how these are naturally pronounced. In a nutshell, it’s an audio dictionary that’s automatically built for you and serves as a very valuable tool for revision purposes.
The Bottom Line
While you’re probably not going to become fluent by using an app alone, they do serve as a great starting point if you’re new to a language or if you want to get your daily language practice in and you’re still around the lower intermediate level of your chosen language. Most language learning apps appear to make clear that “learning is effortless” but do remember that becoming fluent in a language will certainly not be effortless and you should use these apps as an aid to your learning as they are no substitute for regular language classes. If you’re looking for a free way to learn English or other languages, Duolingo or Memrise can help you along the way and once you’ve completed them you will be passed the beginner stages of your learning. Babbel might be an option if you want to practice more or if you want to make sure you’re getting enough pronunciation practice in. The apps talked about here are 3 of the most well known language learning apps, if you’re using one we haven’t mentioned here, comment below and share with our online community what you like about it.
Rob Hamburg is a trained English teacher from England who has numerous years of experience teaching English to young learners, teenagers and adults in Spain. He completed his bachelor degree in 2010 at The University of Manchester and obtained CELTA certification in 2015. As well as being an active teacher on Verbling, Rob teaches English online for SayABC and gives classes via Skype and Google Hangouts.