Did you get that iPad just to play Candy Crush?
You also probably didn’t get it just to send work emails or just to stream videos.
These are all great uses of your iPad, but you can get even more out of it.
Your iPad is actually a heavy-hitting, take-no-prisoners language-learning dynamo.
Your secret weapon for fluency, even.
When we think of secret weapons we think of stealthy ninja tools, aces up sleeves and off-the-radar resources. Pulling these things out of the shadows gives us more than an advantage—it ensures success.
So take another look at your iPad.
How Can an iPad Help You Learn Languages?
Study tools are best when they’re portable. That iPad of yours? It’s totally mobile—ready to go with you anywhere for language practice at any time.
Great study tools are also adaptable. The iPad’s middle name should be Versatile. With endless apps it can help you learn tons of different languages through tons of different methods.
Download any language app (we’ll give you plenty of ideas below) and you’re ready for the mission!
How to Access Alternate-language iPad Keyboards
Even the best secret weapons need minor adjustments from time to time. Your iPad is no exception, but the adjustment is so low-key it’s almost a covert op.
To practice writing, spelling and using accents if necessary in your target language, you’ll need to add a foreign language keyboard to the device.
First, open an app that uses a keyboard, like Messages or Mail. Tap and hold the little globe icon to reveal the language menu. From there, you can select the language you’d like added to your iPad keyboard.
And just like that, you’re ready for action!
How to Transform Your iPad into a Language-learning Secret Weapon
Not all language apps are created equal. There are apps that give you authentic content in your target language, apps that gamify the language learning experience, apps that mimic formal language courses and even apps for chatting in your target language.
Let’s do some reconnaissance and get a good look at our options in each category.
Authentic Content Apps
FluentU is one of the most unique and useful secret weapons on this list. FluentU takes authentic target language videos, like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks and more, and transforms them into customized language learning experiences.
To bring these real videos within reach for any learner, FluentU has interactive transcripts and subtitles. You can click any word for an instant definition, visual learning aid and native pronunciation. If you see an interesting new word, you can add it to your vocabulary list for future reference. FluentU also creates flashcards and exercises for each video automatically so you remember what you’ve learned when you’re done watching.
Unlike other apps that take a scripted approach, FluentU uses a natural approach to ease you into your language and culture over time. You’ll learn your language as it’s spoken in real life, without any rote memorization. The best part is that FluentU keeps track of your learning and recommends new videos based on that information. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re watching the same videos!
There aren’t any double agents here—everything is genuine and relevant. Aside from learning your language the way native speakers really use it, you’ll encounter plenty of fun pop culture that you can talk about with them!
TripLingo is an incredible travel app that can instantly make you seem like a local, wherever you go.
It provides content for over 100 countries, as well as huge phrasebooks for 13 languages from French to Hebrew to Japanese to Irish. There are 2,000 phrases per language including real-world slang. There’s even a “culture crash course” to get you immersed in and familiar with the region you’re traveling to.
If you need a little extra help as you explore, there’s a voice translator for 42 languages and even an image translator that’ll help you understand signs and other text you encounter. You can also take language audio lessons and practice with built-in study tools.
All these features make TripLingo an all-purpose tool. Can we say mission ready?
Even secret weapons should be fun. Lingorilla, with its purple, banana-toting gorilla, makes learning 23 languages a blast.
This engaging app teaches vocabulary and spelling using assorted packs of flashcards. The images featured on the cards are realistic and the packs cover the gamut from vehicle words to animals, body parts to insects, reptiles to food—varied but vital vocabulary!
To keep you sharp, there are also memory games, quizzes and puzzles.
Lingorilla has the potential to be addictive. I see users mastering one language and then going on to another, just because it’s so much fun.
The MindSnacks apps are a series. Each one teaches one language—they’re available on iPad for Spanish, Italian, German, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese.
Using interactive games with catchy animations, MindSnacks teaches vocabulary, essential conversational skills and even addresses the trickier grammar issues found in some languages. The idea is to make learning fun and addictive like any other iPad game—except you’re learning hundreds of vocabulary words while you play.
Conversation and pronunciation audio is provided by native speakers so there’s a great opportunity to practice listening and speaking.
Duolingo features more than 30 languages and is a great addition to your arsenal of iPad language learning apps. While Duolingo definitely has “gamification” features like the apps above, it takes you on a path from beginner to advanced in a structured, course-like way.
Reading, writing, vocabulary building and pronunciation practice are all emphasized. You’ll learn how to say, spell and understand new words all at once. As you master new skills, you “level up” to new ones, which is a great motivational tool.
There’s a tracking feature that shows your progress, which also keeps you invested in your learning.
It’s possible to join other learners in a language club so this app isn’t just fun and course-like, but it also has the potential to be a social event, also!
Learn 33 languages with Mondly’s daily lessons. This app is suited for every learning level, from beginner to advanced. It even provides travelers with language essentials so they’re trip-ready!
One highlight of this app is that it uses audio of conversations between native speakers to model correct pronunciation. Then, speech-recognition software allows the app to listen to your own pronunciation and provide feedback.
Authentic, useful phrases are taught rather than individual vocabulary words to help support your conversational skills. The app encourages correct speaking skills right from the start!
HiNative is a global language community app that makes it possible to share your learning with native speakers or other learners from anywhere in the world. It supports over 110 languages.
This app lets curious learners discover language and culture without ever leaving home! It has a question-and-answer format that you can use to get insights and advice from native speakers. Not sure about a pronunciation? Curious about regional dialects? Have a last-minute travel issue? Just use the audio upload feature and ask away!
Even if you don’t know the correct words to phrase a question, it’s possible to get answers. There are question templates that facilitate communication.
Additionally, if you’re stuck on understanding something in a foreign country—a menu or street sign, perhaps—just take a photo and upload it. Another learner will give you its meaning and maybe save you from ordering something you’d rather not eat or keep you from taking a wrong turn down a one-way street.
Even if you don’t have a pressing language question, it’s beneficial to chat with others in your target language. This is one app that makes hours fly by.
Tandem brings the conversation exchange experience to the world instantly and effortlessly. This language exchange app makes it possible to learn Japanese from someone in Kyoto and teach Italian to a learner in Sweden. It’s a fabulous concept—and it’s bringing learners together to the tune of 3 million people!
Signing on is simple. Just select a language to learn (from over 150 possible languages) and you can find native speakers of that language who are learning your native language. Then, send instant messages, voice clips and pictures to your language partners so you can both learn from each other.
There’s also a Tandem Tutor option for one-on-one tutoring if that’s more your style.
This is a great language app for informal or idiomatic communication. Learn realistically from native speakers. And teach others your language at the same time. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
I’ll bet your iPad doesn’t look ordinary anymore, does it? You see it’s a multi-function language-learning secret weapon, don’t you?
Only using it to stream movies or play games is a waste of a valuable resource.
There are many benefits of learning languages. And the iPad is a top-notch method of gaining information so put it through its paces and learn languages with some excellent apps!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.