Setting off to learn a new language?
You’ve got a decision to make.
Will it be the beaten path? The familiar landmarks? The same old, same old?
Or will you choose the uncharted route? The unfamiliar twists and turns? You know, “the road less traveled”?
Let’s go with that one.
It’s the perfect time to look beyond the language tools whose names you already know. They can be great, but without diversity in your learning program, you’re bound to get complacent and your motivation to learn will dry up.
Luckily, there are innovators who are changing the language learning landscape with original apps and tons of unique features for sharpening your skills.
Whether you need instant translations of the world around you, connections to native speakers across the globe or science-proven rapid learning tools, you’ll find all that and more below.
How to Get the Most Out of a Language Learning App
First things first: don’t be afraid to try an innovative app. There are many apps out there that offer new approaches to language education and deviate from conventional methods. One of the huge benefits of technology is that it’s always possible to find new, more interesting ways to learn a language, so don’t be afraid to branch out and see what works best for you!
As you’re exploring your options, here are some tips to maximize learning:
- Take advantage of freebies. Many apps offer free trials or basic app downloads. This is a good opportunity to see which apps you like without putting your money on the line. If you like a new app, terrific! If not, on to the next one.
- Try to use an app everyday, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Frequent exposure to your target language is key to retaining and building on what you’ve already learned.
And since apps are a super convenient learning tool, you should be able to cram them into even the busiest schedule. If your language learning time happens to coincide with your bathroom time, so be it.
- Play around with any app you download to get a broader idea of its features. When you download a new app, it can be tempting to just use the features that are right in front of you, completely ignoring other features or supplementary material you might be able to download for the app. However, this might make you miss out on other great learning opportunities, so go ahead—play around!
- Mix and match apps for a well rounded language education. Each app has different features and teaching techniques. Some might be great for reading, while others are better for listening. Mixing and matching apps will help ensure you improve multiple language skills.
Even if you just mix and match listening apps, you’ll be exposed to a wider array of speakers and accents, which will make you more likely to understand the language when you encounter it in the real world.
7 Incredible, Innovative Apps for Learning a New Language
Most innovative feature: “learn mode” transforms authentic videos into interactive learning tools.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could learn a language just by watching entertaining videos?
With FluentU, you can. FluentU is an innovative learning tool that allows you to learn a new language just by watching authentic content like music videos, movie trailers, inspirational talks and news.
Each video is captioned, and each word is fully annotated. At the tips of your fingers, you’ll have access to a word’s definition, several example sentences and an associated image. If you want to really reinforce a word’s meaning, you can even click it to see how that word is used in other videos.
What’s more, FluentU offers an innovative “learn mode.” This mode takes video clips, images, pictures and example sentences and combines them into exercises and flashcards—perfect for anyone looking for a fresh and fun way to approach learning, all while absorbing native speech and target language culture.
Since FluentU uses an algorithm that takes into account learner history, the lessons are fully personalized and you’ll never be in over your head.
Most innovative feature: research-proven rapid learning.
Ever wish you could learn a language in 10 minutes a day? That’s busuu’s wish for you, too.
busuu aims to improve your speaking, listening, reading and writing in just 10 minutes a day. Through targeted exercises that are personalized to fit your skills, busuu provides innovative and dynamic content to help you learn your language of choice.
busuu uses a vocabulary trainer, audio dialogues, quizzes, exercises and games to pack a lot into your 10-minute daily practice. Not only will this keep you on your toes, it’ll also provide a well rounded language education. Plus, you can also use the app to connect with native speakers, which is great practice and motivation.
According to a study by City University of New York, 22 hours of busuu is equivalent to one semester of college language study. By that math, if you use it for just 10 minutes a day, you’ll be able to complete the equivalent of nearly three semesters of college language study in a year.
busuu offers 12 different languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Chinese and Japanese.
The initial app download is free with limited content. Subscriptions start at $5.41 per month and include flashcards, grammar exercises, vocabulary training and much more.
Most innovative feature: “chatbot” with speech recognition.
Mondly has 20 million users. And when you think about it, 20 million people probably aren’t wrong.
Mondly is a flexible option that adjusts to your needs to improve your reading, writing, listening and speaking. Rather than having you memorize long vocabulary lists, Mondly focuses on key words and phrases grouped thematically.
Part of what makes Mondly so unique is its “chatbot” feature, which allows you to practice speaking your target language in a structured environment. The chatbot simulates a real conversation—you speak and the app replies.
Mondly offers more than 30 languages, and it could be a great tool for anyone learning a language that isn’t usually catered to by language courses or programs.
The initial app download is free, but you’ll need a subscription to unlock content. Subscription options start at about $4 per month.
Most innovative feature: a “question template” that makes it possible even for beginners to communicate with native speakers.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew a native speaker who could answer all your most pressing language questions?
HiNative can help you do just that!
HiNative is an unconventional language app. It bills itself as a “global Q&A platform.” You can post spoken or written questions in any language you want. You can even use images for additional clarity. With users in over 170 countries, there are plenty of people on here who could help you out.
Language exchange apps like this, where you’re put into direct contact with native speakers, can sometimes be intimidating to beginners. However, HiNative’s “question template” feature allows you to build sentences in your target language, which not only opens up communication but also gets you comfortable thinking in the target language.
The basic download is free. A premium subscription costs $9.99 per month and offers additional helpful features like the ability to play voice responses to other people’s questions, the ability to use bookmarks and the use of 10 “premium tickets” each month that’ll make your questions stand out.
Most innovative feature: voice comparison technology to help learners master the nuances of pronunciation.
It can be very difficult to find learning materials if you hope to learn a less common language. Especially if you want a fun, easy to follow, visually appealing format. Thankfully, the Mango Languages app offers all this and more.
Mango Languages focuses on teaching culture along with standard vocabulary and grammar for an all-around learning experience. The app is colorful but not cluttered, so it’s easy to use. You’ll be learning essential grammatical structures and how to combine them to form your own sentences. Mango Languages also emphasizes highly useful phrases that learners would be likely to encounter in the real world.
To help with pronunciation, the app offers a voice recorder and comparison feature that allows you to listen to your own pronunciation alongside recorded audio. You can see the audio waves mapped out and you can slow it down or accelerate to a native pace. This is the up-close, no-excuses way to perfect your pronunciation.
Mango Languages offers more than 70 languages, covering common languages in addition to less common ones such as Cherokee, Haitian Creole and Hawaiian. There are even festive specialty courses that focus on special events or themes, such as an Irish St. Patrick’s Day course.
The Mango Languages app is free to download.
Most innovative feature: an “object translator” that shows target language words for any physical object you point your device at.
You can still learn a language even if you’re in a hurry!
FlashAcademy suggests you study just a few minutes a day. Since the app adapts to your learning needs, there won’t be as much wasted time.
Courses are basic through advanced, so the FlashAcademy app is useful for any level of language learner. Fun, innovative features include quick-fire word games, flashcards with audio and video and useful tips staggered throughout.
FlashAcademy also lets you keep your target language top-of-mind even when you’re traveling or just out in the real world without your dictionary on hand. With the “object translator” technology, just point your device at an object and FlashAcademy will instantly give you its target language translation. The app is also integrated with FlashSticks, physical vocabulary stickers you can post around your home or office.
FlashAcademy covers popular languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, German and more.
The basic app is free to download, though additional material requires in-app purchases.
Most innovative feature: karaoke-style audiobook presentation for focused reading.
Besides having one of the cutest app names ever, Beelinguapp has a lot to offer language learners.
Rather than focusing on conventional lessons, Beelinguapp focuses on audiobooks. While the words are being spoken, the text appears side-by-side in your target language and English. Beelinguapp also boasts “karaoke audio reading,” where the text is highlighted as it’s spoken so you can follow along.
This innovative approach allows you to engage with the language immediately and build your reading and listening comprehension skills simultaneously.
The app includes English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese.
Beelinguapp is free to download and offers additional in-app purchases.
Don’t let the tedium of staying on the same familiar road set in. Get off the beaten path and try these innovative language learning apps! It’s the best fork in the road you’ll ever take!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.