Free mobile apps make it easier than ever to learn a new language

If you’ve ever tried learning a new language, you know it’s no simple task. From vocabulary to conjugation and pronunciation, a lot of time and effort must be invested to make real progress.

But, we’re all busy; when can we find the time to learn and practice?

Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever to begin learning a new language, for free, at a time that’s convenient for you. Several great mobile apps are now available for a variety of platforms, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, that let you practice any time, any place, many of which are free.

I’ve searched high and low for the best free language-learning apps available for both iOS and Android, the first of which I’ll tell you about today: Duolingo.

Duolingo: Learn Languages Free

Duolingo offers a variety of activity types for practicing a language. Image source: Duolingo for Android. Click to view full size.

Duolingo’s tagline says it all: Learn Languages Free. Yes, it’s straight and to the point, and it really is free.

Duolingo offers an introduction to a variety of languages including Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English. While this might cover a lot of bases, there are certainly other apps available that offer a wider selection. That being said, for the languages offered, I find Duolingo hard to beat.

What makes this app stand out to me is how fun and engaging it can be. The graphics are clean and attractive, which adds to the overall experience.

To move through the language-learning process, you work on different sections including The Basics, food, animals, and phrases.

Within each section, you complete a variety of activity types, including matching a picture to a word or phrase, typing the translation of something the app speaks to you out loud, and even speaking into your microphone in the language you’re learning, while the app determines whether you spoke the words properly. If you make a mistake along the way, you lose a heart. If you lose all of your hearts in one activity, you have to start over.

A leaderboard and stats help you understand how well you're doing individually and coompared to your friends. Image source: Duolingo for Android. Click to view full size.With Duolingo, your work is structured in a skill tree. As you progress, you earn skill points and trophies. The app also keeps track of how frequently you practice, and you can build a streak of consecutive days.

Streaks, points, and mastered words are all tracked in a dashboard so you can see your progress at any time. The app also includes a leaderboard so you can see how you’re progressing compared to your Facebook friends and other contacts.

If you feel that you’ve already mastered some of the basics, you have the option to test out of a section and move ahead without having to do all of the activities.

Beyond language-learning; helping translate the internet

I learned something interesting as I dug in to learn more about Duolingo. Not only does the app offer you, the user, the ability to learn a language, but your work is actually being leveraged to translate the web.

According to a recent interview with Fast Company, Duolingo founder Luis von Ahn states that machine translation won’t be good for another 20 years, so solving the translation problem today is best-suited for humans.

In fact, in the video below, Duolingo states that if one million people were to use Duolingo to learn a language, the entire English version of Wikipedia could be translated to Spanish in just 80 hours.

Free apps often come with a price

While Duolingo is, in my opinion, a wonderful app for learning and practicing a foreign language, it won’t quite get you to fluency.

If the app lacks anything, it is an in-depth explanation of the rules and structure of a language, which are foundational for truly learning and becoming fluent.

For those looking for a comprehensive language-learning solution, K12 offers full language courses with teacher-support. These World Language courses are available for both grades K-8 and high school.

That being said, Duolingo is perfect for those who are just starting to learn a new language and want a fun and easy way to practice on-the-go. I would especially recommend this app to anyone who plans to travel to a country with a language supported within the app, as it would be a great way to get in some practice and learn basic vocabulary before you go.

In addition to Duolingo’s great mobile apps for iOS and Android, the program is also available on the web at Duolingo.com. Progress from the web and devices is synced, so you can always pick up where you left off, even if you log in from a different location.

With all of these great features and the price tag (free), I encourage you to try out Duolingo today.

Want to learn more? Check out the video and download links below.

Download Duolingo for iPhone, iPad and Android today

Download Duolingo for iPhone and iPad in the iTunes App Store        Download Duolingo for your Android device on Google Play        Get Duolingo for your Amazon Kindle or Android device at the Amazon Appstore for Android

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