If I can learn an entire language on my own from scratch, with just the help of a few apps, then so can you.
And in this post, I will teach you how.
I’ve always enjoyed doing things independently and learning at my own pace.
When I challenged myself to learn a new language, I neither had a native teacher to guide me nor access to local classes. I was almost entirely reliant on apps to understand the basic grammar, pick up new words and test my pronunciation with voice recognition software.
And guess what?
Within six months of dedicated learning, I could already introduce myself and make basic conversation. With the help of Google Translate, I could read books and understand the gist of things. Now I’m at a stage where I can express myself reasonably well and can follow the speech patterns of native speakers.
All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a few handy apps.
As a beginner, you may feel daunted (scared of) and unsure of where to start and which apps to download. So, I’ve curated a list of apps, as well as a five-step learning process, which should set you on your English learning journey.
Available for the usual iOS and Android platforms, you can download these apps immediately and start learning directly from your phone today!
Tips for Using English Apps for Beginners
As a beginner, learning a new language may seem like the most difficult thing in the world, and you’re likely to give up whenever you hit an obstacle. These tips will ensure you have a smooth and easy journey.
- Keep a notepad. Always make sure you have note-taking software or a writing pad with you so that you can jot down stuff, be it a new phrase, a new word, a grammar rule or even a learning tip. You can also make special notebooks for vocabulary to keep a list of all the words you have learned so far or even track your study progress.
- Set notifications to learn every day. Most of these apps come with daily motivational reminders so that you don’t miss a day. In fact, it’s vital that you learn every day, even for a short while, as it will help you form a connection with the language.
- Take it slow. Sometimes you may make more progress than you expected, and as a result, you push yourself to learn more until it gets difficult. That’s not advisable in the beginning when it’s best to take things slowly. Slow but steady progress will always matter more in the long run.
- Focus on all aspects of the language, but initially concentrate on vocabulary. Every aspect of language is important, be it grammar, speaking, writing or reading, but when you’re starting out it’s best to focus on vocabulary and learn as many new words as you can.
- Don’t use too many apps at once. As a beginner, you may be tempted to download several apps at once but then become quickly overwhelmed. That’s why I’ve outlined a five-step learning strategy below. As a general rule, try not to use more than three apps at once, and download a new one only after you’re done with all of the learning material in another one.
Best English Apps for Beginners: Begin Your Linguistic Journey with this 5-Step Guide
Trying to improve your English on your own can take time, but there are so many ways to speed up the process. The lesson plan I’ve outlined below is designed for absolute beginners who aren’t very familiar with the rules of the language or the way it’s spoken and used.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Language
The first step to learning a new language is to familiarize yourself with it, which means getting used to the way it sounds, the way certain words follow each other and the logical rules that comprise its grammar.
In this step, you don’t need to understand what’s being said, but just get used to the language and gradually pick things up.
FluentU is a well-designed, all-purpose app that is suitable for language learners at all levels—including beginners.
Instead of learning a language by understanding the rules of grammar first, you’re simply exposed to the language in the form of real-world videos from movie trailers, songs and news sites, which are transformed into language learning experiences.
FluentU has a variety of engaging videos like popular talk shows, music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos because it has interactive captions. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word “brought,” you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned.
Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re using the same video.
The Rosetta Stone app is also a one-of-a-kind learning platform and is suited for all those who prefer a non-grammatical approach. This award-winning app uses scientifically-verified techniques to teach foreign languages.
In every lesson, you’ll only encounter the language that you’re learning. They also have state-of-the-art (top) speech recognition software that will help you speak and sound like a native in no time.
Many of their lessons are under ten minutes, and they also have an audio companion feature that will focus on building your listening and comprehension (understanding) skills.
Some of you may prefer a traditional approach to language learning with the help of translations and grammar rules. In that case, the best free app for you is Hello English. It contains English lessons for native speakers of more than 22 languages.
Moreover, it can be used offline so you don’t need to be dependent on an internet connection to access it.
The app offers 475 interactive lessons and a number of games that test your skills and progress. You can ask teachers questions, talk to chatbots and even access a mini-dictionary on it.
Yes, it covers all your bases.
Step 2: Build Your Basic Vocabulary
The above three apps should help you build a foundation for further learning. The apps below are for specialized skills, and I would suggest you download them after you’re comfortable with using one or more of the above apps.
Once you’re familiar with the language, it’s important to have a strong vocabulary because otherwise both reading and speaking will be difficult. These two apps should help you out.
This is a simple and efficient app that will teach you eight new words every day, by taking up only five minutes of your time. That’s over 2,900 words a year, and for a beginner, that’s more than enough.
For every level, the word sets are thematically arranged and voiced by both male and female native speakers. Moreover, the app will ensure that you’re constantly revising so that you don’t forget the words you’ve already learned.
This is a slightly advanced app because, in addition to simple words, it will also help you learn English idioms and phrasal verbs, which are crucial (important) parts of the language. You’ll also be introduced to around 200 commonly confused words so that you avoid mistakes.
Moreover, the app, created by Knudge.me, has 12 built-in, fun word games to help you learn vocabulary. As a bonus feature, it also has math lessons.
Step 3: Learn the Grammar
Once you’ve picked up the most commonly used words and you’re comfortable with the language, it’s time to pay attention to English grammar. Every language is made up of rules and if you know the rules, learning becomes much easier and faster.
English Grammar in Use does a fantastic job of explaining the basic grammar topics.
The Starter Pack has six units, along with interactive exercises for you to solve, and is based on Raymond Murphy’s best-selling grammar book of the same name. It also has audio recordings of the example sentences so that you’re never confused.
For those who prefer a textbook approach to learning a new language, this app is ideal.
As beginners, certain parts of the English language might appear more difficult than others. For instance, a lot of students are often confused by the different parts of speech.
This app will clear up all your doubts with the help of a very enjoyable and colorful game. The premise is simple: as a word flies across the screen, you have to grab it and put it into the container that holds the appropriate part of speech.
With this app, you’ll never mistake your nouns for adverbs, your conjunctions for prepositions or your linking verbs for action verbs!
Step 4: Practice Listening and Comprehension Skills
Now that you know how the basic grammar rules work and you have a decent vocabulary, it’s time to put your skills to the test. Can you understand what is being said? Can you make out the meanings of different words and the overall meaning of a sentence?
These apps will help you develop your comprehension skills through English listening practice. Moreover, you can use this material as a template and guide for your writing.
LingQ is here to help you practice English with more than 1,000 hours of audio files, including podcasts and audiobooks.
You can keep track of your learning progress and listening time and even use the app offline. Their paid option also allows you to import unlimited content from the web and use it as learning material.
The app’s founder, Steve Kaufmann, has reportedly learned over 15 languages using this unique learning approach. So, that should inspire you to get started!
If you prefer music and audiobooks to flashcards, then there’s another app for you. You can choose your reading material from a number of short stories and novels and learn at your own pace.
With the text and audio being presented simultaneously (at the same time), you aren’t likely to get confused or lost. Also, the audio comes with a karaoke-style animation to keep you engaged.
There are also quizzes available to test how much you remember from and understand a story.
Step 5: Start Speaking Like a Native
By this time, you should know a reasonable number of words, be able to use them in the right context and be able to read, listen to and understand simple and intermediate conversations, as well as even write out your thoughts. Except for one skill, you’re set!
All that’s left is to develop your speaking skills.
I’ve listed two apps for this purpose—one that lets you practice with yourself and another that helps you practice with native English speakers.
With this excellent app, you can practice with yourself to improve your pronunciation and accent.
The app has a number of basic English, as well as basic business English, conversations from which to choose. You’ll pick up on the way people greet each other in formal situations and the right words to use in such contexts.
You can use this app to learn English and build your confidence before you interact with native speakers.
Finally, this app lets you practice with native speakers. All you have to do is press the call button and the app will immediately match you with someone who will patiently help you learn the language.
After the call, you will receive feedback on grammar, fluency and pronunciation. You can also “like” the person you chatted with, and if it’s mutual you’ll be able to talk to them again and even become friends!
Moreover, the app encourages you to give back to the community. You can do this by teaching your own mother tongue to whoever is interested, all while building confidence in expressing yourself.
Apps to Always Keep Handy
The three apps I’ve listed below won’t directly help you learn a language but will be useful in a number of ways. In fact, whenever you get stuck, at least one of the following apps will immediately help you out.
Grammarly is an online spelling and grammar checking platform that is especially important for developing your English writing skills.
With the help of this software, you’ll know that every sentence that you’ve written in an email or online blog is correct and free of errors.
You can add Grammarly to your web browser for free and whenever you make a mistake while typing, it will point it out. As one of its premium features, it provides better word choices. It can also detect plagiarism and even analyze and improve your writing and its readability (how easy it is to understand what you’ve written).
Without immediate access to a dictionary, I wouldn’t have been able to learn any language. Having a dictionary at your fingertips is very important because whenever you come across an unfamiliar word, you can immediately look it up and find out what it means. If you make this a habit, your vocabulary will certainly improve in no time.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary app is a great one to have on your phone. Moreover, you’ll know what part of speech a word is, how it’s pronounced and even how it’s used in a given context. You can also choose a random letter from time to time and learn a new word.
This app is a must-have for developing efficient reading and writing skills. Although it isn’t the best translator, it’s pretty good at conveying the basic idea behind a sentence or paragraph.
So, if you’re reading a fairy tale and suddenly feel that the language has become difficult, you can copy and paste bits of it into this app for an immediate and literal translation.
Similarly, if you’re writing an essay or an entry in your journal and you’re struggling to express yourself, you can type out what you wish to say in your native language and have it translated into English.
If you follow the steps I’ve outlined above and complete your lessons every day, you’re sure to be speaking English in no time. These spectacular apps will help you become a fluent and confident self-taught user of the English language, which in turn will open up further avenues to success in your life.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.