If you’re living in the 21st century (as most of us are) and reading this, your phone is likely your most trusted companion.
You can use it to pay for coffee.
You can use it to communicate with your friends and family.
You can even use it to swipe through endless dating profiles full of filters and embellishments.
(In reality, people don’t have dog ears, not everyone graduates from an Ivy League school and the primary result of a long walk on the beach is usually strained calf muscles.)
But there’s one phone feature you might not be using to its maximum potential: its language education powers.
Your phone can be one of the most powerful learning tools you’ll ever encounter if you use it right.
Here’s all you need to know about learning a language with your phone.
Why Learn a Language on Your Phone?
First and foremost, learning a language on your phone is incredibly convenient. After all, you have it with you all the time regardless, and you can keep language learning tools at the tips of your fingers with almost no effort.
Plus, learning on your phone can involve a wide array of options. Whether you’re learning through innovative Android apps or your beloved iPhone, or listening to language audiobooks on your commute, your phone is one of the most versatile language learning tools out there.
Finally, opportunities to learn on your phone can grow and evolve with you. Some of the best language apps monitor your learning to give you better material. But regardless of what tools you’re using, there’s enough variety that you can keep using your phone for learning from the moment you decide to study a language straight through until you’re fluent.
How to Get the Most Out of Learning a Language on Your Phone
Use multiple methods.
When it comes to learning on your phone, there are countless methods you could use, which we’ll detail below. But the best scenario is using multiple methods. Each method has a different focus and can give you a unique perspective on your target language, so combining multiple methods is an ideal way to develop a more well-rounded skill set.
Fit in some learning whenever you get a chance.
More conventional courses might have you studying for an hour or two at a time, but when you’re learning on your phone, there’s no need to wait until you have a long stretch to practice your language skills. Whenever you have a moment, all you need to do is pull out your phone and select your favorite way to learn. Even if you’re only studying for a minute or two at a time, those minutes can really add up.
Don’t be afraid to try new things.
There are a lot of options when it comes to learning on your phone. It can be tempting to just stick to the first app or site you try and avoid branching out, but if you do this, you might just overlook some of the best ways to learn. Don’t hesitate to try new things. Even if you love how you’re studying now, there’s no guaranteeing that there isn’t something else out there that you’ll love even more. And remember, you never have to stick to just one tool, so you can always add more variety into your language learning routine.
If you find yourself getting addicted, consider comfort measures.
Learning on your phone may become addictive, so you might need to take some precautions to ensure your comfort and well-being. Particularly if you’re using interactive apps, you might find that your hands and wrists get sore. To ensure that your learning binge doesn’t have to end, you might consider investing in products that can make using your phone more comfortable, like PopSockets or wrist splints. You don’t want to make your poor wrists unfortunate victims of your language learning habit!
Easy Opportunities to Use Your Phone to Learn a Language
In just a minute, we’ll get into some specific resources you can use for learning on your phone, but first, let’s quickly note all the opportunities you have to make time for your language learning.
During your commute.
If you drive yourself to work, try using audio-only phone options. Whether that means an audiobook, podcast or hands-free app, there are plenty of ways you can turn your drive time into learning time.
If you commute via public transportation or carpool, you’ll have even more options. You can pop on some headphones and use audio-based content or go ahead and use your favorite app (as long as you don’t get motion sick).
While on a flight.
No, you don’t have to pay exorbitant prices for in-flight internet service. There are plenty of downloadable options that don’t require an internet connection to use. Some apps offer offline content and you can download audiobooks or podcasts. And best of all, with the right noise-cancelling headphones, you can not only improve your language skills but also avoid hearing your seatmate’s sonorous snores. It’s a win-win.
Waiting in line.
Whether you’re at the gas station, the grocery store or the drive-thru, chances are that you wait in more lines than you’re even fully aware of. Even if a line is short, you’ll often spend at least a couple valuable minutes just waiting. This is a great time to take out your phone and use one of your favorite apps. You don’t even need to turn on the sound. You might consider studying flashcards, looking up words you don’t know or just playing a quick game in your target language.
This is a quick, easy opportunity to practice your skills and distract yourself from the fact that your ice cream is quickly melting as the person ahead of you slowly writes out a check to pay for their pack of gum.
Whenever you turn on your phone.
Want to trick yourself into studying? Just get a little studying in whenever you turn on your phone. Change your lock screen or phone background to a vocabulary word or list, and every time you pick up your phone you get a quick study session. It will only take a second, but you might find your vocabulary slowly expanding with very little effort.
During your shower.
Yes, you can get clean while cleaning up your language skills. The safest way to do this is to purchase a Bluetooth shower speaker. Then, you can listen to your favorite audio from your phone while you shower without the risk of losing it to the dangerous waters.
While working out.
If you’re looking to keep your body in shape, that doesn’t mean you can’t get your mind in shape at the same time. Your phone can be an easy way to infuse learning into your workout.
If you’re doing something like running or weightlifting where it would be difficult to look at your phone, you can lean on hands-free apps, audiobooks and podcasts. However, if you like something more stationary, like spinning, you might even be able to use some video apps during your workout.
Whenever you want to tune out the outside world.
Sometimes, the world is too much and you just need a retreat. Whenever you’d ordinarily resort to daydreaming, you can instead improve your language skills by using your phone. There are plenty of engaging options out there, so using your phone to study a language can be a great way to zone out when you need a break.
6 Ways + 21 Tools to Unlock Language Learning on Your Phone
There’s a massive array of apps that are beneficial for language learners. Between learning apps, conversation apps, translator/dictionary apps and entertainment apps, there’s an app for virtually every language learning need and level imaginable. Here are some of the best apps to help you learn a language on your phone.
The FluentU app adds a language learning punch to videos you’ll want to watch anyway. That’s because FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, movie trailers, news and more, and captions them, giving you easy access to any word’s definition, example sentences and an associated image.
FluentU is flexible. Since you select what you watch and for how long, you can use the app on your phone for just a couple minutes or for hours on end. Additionally, FluentU’s algorithm tracks your learning to present you with level-appropriate questions, so it can stick with you from the moment you start learning straight through until you’re fluent.
One plan gives you access to FluentU on any and all devices, so try out the free trial today!
Duolingo is one of the most popular language learning apps on the market, and if you’re looking to learn a language on your phone, the thought of downloading Duolingo has probably been on your mind. And it should be!
The Duolingo app has a lot to offer for phone-based learning. For one thing, it’s free. But beyond that, it offers reading, writing, speaking and listening practice in short, bite-sized chunks, making it easy to fill whatever spare moments you have available.
If you’re looking for an app that focuses on real-life language skills, Memrise might be the app for you.
Memrise aims to teach useful words and phrases through fun games and videos featuring native speakers. You can even compare your pronunciation directly to that of a native speaker.
Not only that, Memrise also offers an offline mode. Perfect for those heart-wrenching moments when free Wi-Fi just isn’t an option.
Conversing with native speakers is one surefire way to improve your language skills, and italki offers some great options for doing just that.
Through the italki app, you can connect with a native speaker for language exchange or hire a language tutor. You can message users, interact with the learning community, read articles, book lessons and more. Whether you’re looking for practice or more formal lessons, italki enables you to get what you’re looking for through your phone.
Want to talk? Want to write? Want to read? Want to listen? HelloTalk is an app that can allow you to do all this through your phone.
HelloTalk not only connects users with native speakers, it also allows them to exchange text and audio messages, for terrific, free reading, writing, listening and speaking practice whenever it’s convenient for you.
Google Translate is probably the biggest name in online translators, but its app packs a learning wallop, too.
Through the app, language learners can look up words and listen to pronunciations. You can also translate text, images and/or speech. You can even translate text without a data connection. This makes it super easy to look up unfamiliar words on the go.
Bing Microsoft Translator also comes in the form of an app that you can use on your phone. Like with Google Translate, you can translate text, voice and/or images. Plus, Bing Microsoft Translator offers audio pronunciations and offline text translation.
So what’s the difference between Bing and Google Translate? Well, on the surface, there isn’t a huge difference. However, some individual translations may vary. Plus, the interface is different. You might see which translator you like best or even keep both on your phone in case a particular word or phrase isn’t translating well in one app.
Like listening to music on your phone? Well, you can work in a little language practice by listening to music in your target language. The Spotify app offers music in a variety of languages. You might search for playlists in your target language or even create your own for easy listening on the go.
Netflix offers tons of foreign language content. Just search the name of your target language to see what Netflix has to offer.
This app is a great companion since it will allow you to watch foreign language content wherever life should take you. Plus, the app even allows you to download some material to your phone, so you can binge-watch it on your next flight.
YouTube, everyone’s favorite source of free content, also has a terrific app. Between user-generated authentic content, learning material, movies, music and more, you’ll never lack for language learning material here.
Since YouTube videos range from just a few seconds to several hours, having the app on your phone is an easy, convenient way to fill whatever time you have available. If you’re watching authentic content, you might even switch between the YouTube app and a translator app for quick translation. (If you’d rather not bother with all that, though, FluentU takes care of all translations and lookups for you.)
You might not have noticed, but your phone already has some helpful features you can use to learn a language. Here are some of the features you can use to improve your language skills.
Want to learn words every time you turn on your phone? Change your lock screen to a vocab list.
Yes, your phone background can be changed to vocabulary, though try not to make it too text-heavy or it might be a little much to look at.
To do so, follow the same basic protocol used for changing the lock screen. Just be sure that when given the option, you change the wallpaper rather than the lock screen.
If you have a recent iPhone, your Siri can provide you with plenty of help.
Can’t resist a good simulated conversation? Change Siri’s language settings by accessing “Settings,” then “Siri & Search,” then “Language.” Now you can speak with Siri in your target language and receive a response in your target language.
However, if you’re looking for something simpler, you can also ask Siri to translate. Yes, Siri can translate words for a number of common languages, making it easy to learn new vocabulary whenever you realize you’re missing a key word.
Change settings of existing apps
Some apps come in several languages. If you wish you could use your apps in your target language, you might try changing your phone’s language settings. You can usually do this under “Settings.” For beginning students, this might be overwhelming, but once you build up your skills, using your target language in as many apps as possible can be excellent, immersive practice.
If you want some immersive listening practice, foreign language audiobooks can be a terrific choice. After all, you can download them and have them with you wherever you go. Once you have the audiobook you want, you can listen on your headphones or through Bluetooth speakers.
Audible is one of the leading providers of audiobooks. And you can either search for audiobooks entirely in your target language or language learning books. Either way, it’s incredibly convenient.
LibriVox also has audiobooks, and guess what… they’re free!
LibriVox offers audiobooks in a wide variety of languages. These are intended for native speakers, so they might be a little challenging for beginning students. However, more advanced students can download classic works to their phones for convenient, on-the-go listening practice.
Podcasts designed specifically for language learners can offer easy, affordable listening practice that you can take with you when you travel. They’re usually shorter than audiobooks and are particularly useful for beginning and intermediate students since they’re intended for non-native speakers.
LanguagePod101 offers learning podcasts for a huge variety of different languages, including popular options like Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Podcasts are relatively brief, so they’re easy to listen to on your phone whenever you have a few minutes.
Need some listening practice but not ready to dive into authentic material just yet? NewsinSlow.com is a great resource for transitioning to more native-level listening activities. The reading is much slower and clearer than native-level speech, so it’s approachable for beginning and intermediate speakers. You can download podcasts to your phone to get a hearty dose of listening practice and news wherever and whenever you have a chance to listen. Podcasts range from a few minutes to around half an hour, so there’s a podcast for any amount of time you’re prepared to commit.
NewsinSlow.com offers podcasts in French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Reading websites in your target language can help you practice your reading skills through your phone. Best of all, there are some websites that offer relatively short articles that can keep you up-to-date on the latest news while giving you reading practice in your target language. It only takes a few minutes to read an article, so you might squeeze one in the next time you’re waiting for your friends to arrive for coffee.
BBC News offers high-quality news stories in a wide array of languages, giving you a terrific opportunity to read a little news in your target language whenever you have a moment. You’ll get a nice mixture of world news and more regional stories, which will give you additional insight into the cultures of places where your target language is spoken.
You may know BuzzFeed for the viral articles you see posted all over your Facebook news feed, but you might not know that it can also be a language learning tool. In addition to English-language pages, there are regional editions in different languages for Brazil, Germany, France, Japan, Mexico and Spain. And best of all, articles tend to be short and image-heavy, making them easy to read on your phone.
Social media is a fun, interactive way to practice your language skills. You can access social media via app or website on your phone and get some reading, writing, speaking and/or listening practice. You can’t get much more well-rounded than that!
You might already be using this on your phone, but chances are, you haven’t started using it for language learning just yet.
To make Snapchat a language learning tool, start posting in your target language and following speakers of your target language for a quick learning fix. What’s great is that your Snapchats will be deleted, so there won’t be a long, embarrassing record of your language mistakes.
Instagram is your go-to source for inspiring photos, but can it help you learn a language? Of course! You can post in your target language, interact in the comments section in your target language and/or follow native speakers to get some practice whenever you open Instagram on your phone. But beyond that, you can find language learning accounts that offer graphics designed to help you practice your target language.
Whether you’re posting in your target language or following native speakers of your target language, Twitter is a great source for reading and writing practice on your phone. It only takes a moment, so you might find yourself sneaking in a few tweets whenever you have a second.
Facebook offers plenty of language learning options. You can friend native speakers, post in your target language and/or join groups that use your target language or are dedicated to studying it. No matter what you choose to do with it, having your Facebook set up for language learning will make it easy to maximize the learning potential of your phone.
Pinterest is helpful for pinning things like articles and study guides for your target language. Have trouble with a particular verb conjugation? You can probably find a graphic on it to pin. Once you’ve pinned it, you’ll have easy access to it on your phone and can use it like your own private reference material whenever you need a little guidance.
With these tips, tricks and resources, you’ll have all you need to learn a language on your phone.
All you need to do now is swipe right on learning!
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