I tend to be slower than most people at buying gadgets and new technology.
I didn’t get my first smartphone until 2013.
It was a 16-gig iPhone 5, which at the time I thought had plenty of storage space.
Turns out, I ended up using all 16 of those gigs in about a month because I downloaded every app I came across.
It didn’t take long for me to learn that not everything has to be an app.
But the good news is that I discovered some great iPhone apps that turned my phone into an ESL classroom.
The great thing is that many of these apps work for English teachers and students.
And if there’s anything worth using your storage space for, it’s tools that make learning English easier.
So if you’ve had enough of English textbooks and audio CDs giving you the same information, it’s time to check out these exciting apps that will let you learn English with your iPhone.
Learn English with Your iPhone! 9 Apps for That
LearnEnglish Grammar is a free app available on the iPhone App Store. It was created by the British Council to help English language learners improve their understanding of the English language.
What’s great about LearnEnglish Grammar is that it incorporates activities into every lesson to help make grammar easier to learn. Each section is divided into skill levels—like Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced—so finding the right level for you shouldn’t be a problem.
And for low-level beginners out there, the instructions on the app can be presented in a number of languages including Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Japanese and other widely spoken languages.
Tip: The English covered in this app is British English. If you are learning American English, you can check out the U.S. version of the app here. Generally speaking, you don’t have to worry about too many differences between British and American grammar, but some words will be spelled differently.
Babbel is one of the fastest growing language learning programs available online. You can access it on the App Store (through the link above), and if you'd rather use it on your computer, there's an option for that, too.
Like some of the other applications mentioned below, it’s a complete program that turns your iPhone into a digital classroom. With Babbel, you have access to a wide range of English speaking, reading, writing and grammar courses for all types of skill levels.
What makes Babbel different from some of the other English apps out there is its natural approach to learning the language. While you’ll be exposed (given access) to thousands of vocabulary words and expressions, the dialogues are modern and realistic. This means that you’re also exposed to slang and informal speech as you work through each course.
Tip: Because Babbel is packed with useful and important information, you can improve your English by using it without any other resource. But if you really want to take your English a level up, try using it to help you reinforce (strengthen) what you’re learning from other resources, like English textbooks or different courses.
FluentU is perfect for the English language learner who’s looking for a truly immersive and complete learning experience.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences.
There are many different types of videos, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it easy to watch and understand native English videos with interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see what it means, learn how to use it, hear it pronounced and more.
For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” then you see this:
Tip: You can learn any video’s vocabulary with FluentU’s fun quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The videos are organized by genre and level, so it’s super easy to find the ones that work for you. FluentU also keeps track of your learning, then suggests videos and examples perfect for you.
Duolingo is a popular language learning app available for iOS and Android devices. With Duolingo, you’re able to turn your iPhone into a language learning lab where you can learn the basics of English vocabulary, grammar, listening and speaking through activities and flashcards.
Tips: If you want to maximize the effectiveness of Duolingo, try making sentences from the vocabulary words as you learn them. When you create sentences in the app, be sure to repeat them out loud.
While Duolingo is great for vocabulary building and learning the basics of the English language, it doesn’t have much to offer advanced speakers. If you’re preparing for something like the IELTS or TOEFL, you might want to use a fully customizable flashcard app instead…
AnkiApp is a powerful study tool that allows you to create customized flashcard decks and use them to help you study.
The thing that sets Anki apart from some of the other programs on the App Store is that Anki works with all platforms, including your computer or your friend’s Android phone. You can also customize existing decks or design your own, and can even insert pictures and sounds into each card.
Another great thing about Anki is that you’re in control of what you learn, so it’s perfect for every English learner regardless of skill level.
You can try it out by adding some of the important words, phrases and grammar rules you’ve been learning into a custom-built deck. Alternatively, you can visit the AnkiWeb site and download shared decks for free if you don’t feel like making your own.
Tip: AnkiApp is a free study tool. If you come across a similar product named AnkiMobile on the App Store that costs money, don’t download it. It’s not the same product.
Your Podcast App
Did you know that the podcast app that comes with your iPhone can be turned into an awesome language learning tool?
Podcasts stand out from other streaming services for a couple of reasons. For starters, when you subscribe to a podcast, you’re automatically notified when a new video or audio clip has been uploaded. Also, you can change your podcast settings to either stream content or download clips to your iPhone, which is great if you want to learn English when you don’t have WiFi access.
If you’re looking for some good podcasts to help you master English, have a look at these three:
- 6 Minute English: A British podcast that teaches conversational English to English language learners. Every six-minute audio clip is a quick chat on a random topic, like exercise, eating habits or the weather. Great for learning small talk.
- All Ears English: ESL podcast for intermediate and advanced English language learners. Focuses mostly on conversational English but touches on grammar, pronunciation and how to use those tricky American idioms.
- Daily Easy English Expression: If learning a new word every day isn’t enough, try Daily Easy English Expression instead. Every day, you’ll learn a new expression or phrasal verb, as well as how to correctly use it in a sentence.
If you’re looking for a completely new way to learn English, Tandem is just the app for you. Unlike language learning programs on the App Store that teach you through approaches like flashcards and word problems, Tandem gives you a one-on-one language exchange with a native speaker.
What’s nice about Tandem is that all new users are assessed (looked at and considered based on certain information) by a moderator upon signing up to make sure that they’re serious about learning English. Once you’ve been approved, Tandem will help connect you with a speaker (who you can schedule a time to chat with by video, voice or text), who they select based on your skill level and interests.
Tandem is unique in that the app is designed to make conversations go as smoothly as possible. You don’t have to worry about any awkward conversations like you might have with language exchanges on WhatsApp or Skype. Before scheduling your conversation, you and the other speaker can select specific topics to talk about so that you begin ready to talk!
Tip: If you want to take your English learning to the next level, try studying or brushing up on your set conversation topic before the scheduled language exchange conversation.
When it comes to writing out long, complex sentences, Google Translate makes a good number of mistakes. But if you’re looking for a quick definition of a word or you want to hear how something is pronounced in English, this app can be especially useful.
Tip: Think of Google Translate as more of a dictionary tool (instead of a language learning app). Next time you’re reading a story in English and you don’t know what a certain word means, try putting it in Google Translate and seeing the definition in your language.
Quora is a social media platform where people ask questions and experts respond with their answers. If you have any questions regarding English or anything else, Quora is a great place to look. The people who answer questions on Quora tend to put a lot of time and effort into giving well thought out responses and are happy to assist you.
Tip: The other benefit of Quora is that you’re able to leave comments just like you can on Facebook or Instagram, so you can also use it to improve your written conversations. If you know the answer to a question someone else asked, try writing your own response. If you’re one of the top respondents, your answer will be “upvoted” to the top of the page.
The best way to improve your English proficiency is to take a balanced learning approach, and that requires stepping away from the textbooks every now and then.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of useful apps to improve your studies and help you master English with the iPhone.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.