It’s really easy to get started learning a new language with Duolingo. Just open the app and then choose what language you’d like to learn to immediately begin the course. You don’t even have to create an account to start, but if you do you can save and track your progress.
Duolingo begins by using text, pictures, and audio to help you learn a different language. The idea is to associate the sound of the translation with the visuals of the text and pictures, and then have you manually translate the audio back into your native language to help reinforce the new words.
Every section you complete moves you forward to more difficult tasks, to build on your vocabulary and sentence structure. You have the option of testing out of several sections at once if you’re familiar with the language, and Duolingo will adapt the questions based on how well you do.
Languages you can learn: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Turkish, Esperanto, Norwegian, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Welsh, Hebrew, Vietnamese, Hungarian, Greek, Swahili, and Romanian
Memrise is another free language learning app. It’s not as smooth as Duolingo, but it is easy to work with, supports offline courses, and lets you learn a massive number of languages. You can start off simple or skip all the way through to more advanced lessons.
Something unique about Memrise is how it teaches you new words and phrases. Words are put into sentences with similar sounding words from your native language to help build the connection for remembering them. You'll also sometimes see multiple images that you can scroll through that overlay the foreign text with a recognizable image for added association.
Another method Memrise uses is to teach you a different language is by mixing up the translations. This way you learn a few new words at once, and then you keep learning them over and over again in a different order to ensure you know them before moving you through to the next round.
Languages you can learn: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Kanji, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Finnish, Icelandic, Esperanto, and over 150 others
busuu provides an app that's easy to use and is flexible in how you work with the courses. Just choose a supported language you'd like to learn, login, and then decide where in the course you'd like to start—Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, or Travel.
The best feature of busuu is that the words and phrases you'll learn are very helpful for beginners who may already be around foreign speakers and need to learn words in context quickly.
The app teaches you vocabulary words and phrases, both isolated and in sentences, and then quizzes you as you move forward through the levels to test your knowledge.
Note: Some quizzes and other features may require a premium account, but there are many, many words and quizzes that are absolutely free.
Languages you can learn: German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, Italian, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, and Polish
AccellaStudy has a different mobile app depending on the language you'd like to learn. Each app is extremely simple to use, supports offline use, and varies only in the words they give you—all the features are the same.
Different methods of learning are included in these apps, such as flash cards, audio quizzes, spaced repetition, and others. A hands-free mode is perfect if you're driving so you can learn without ever looking at your device.
These free language learning apps let you build your own study sets so you decide which words you focus on. This is great if you're having trouble learning a handful of words—just put them in the same study set and learn them separately from all the rest of the words.
Works With: iOS
Languages you can learn: English, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, French, Turkish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Chinese, Romanian, Korean
The idea for 24/7 Tutor is to have a tutor with you at all times of every day, right from your mobile device.
As you can see, lots of languages are supported. Each language requires a different app, but all of them are free.
No matter which app you're using, there are buttons that each take you to a set of topics, such as clothing, entertainment, color, education, family, food, health, greetings, body, directions, weather, work, and several others.
Within each category are tasks like a study list, memory game, quiz, spelling practice, flashcards, and more.
Works With: iOS
Languages you can learn: Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Greek, Farsi, Hindi, Norwegian, Tagalog, Turkish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Portuguese, Thai, Bulgarian, Indonesian, Finnish, Romanian, Ukrainian, Czech, and Mandarin
Rosetta Stone is a professional-grade service for language learning, but they offer a free app meant specifically to help travelers learn basic words and phrases.
There are dozens of pictures tied to common phrases that are spoken to you in the language you're wanting to learn, and you have to repeat the words back to practice your pronunciation. You can skip forward to any lesson you like or just follow through from beginning to end.
There's also a phrase book with basic words and words related to restaurants, hotels, and getting around—all very useful for someone traveling. You can buy more phrase books if you like, such as words related to shopping, colors, emergencies, and currencies.
Languages you can learn: Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Filipino, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese
Most language learning apps teach you a language through exercises and progressive steps, while Google Translate simply tells you how to write and speak anything you run through it.
You can translate text, handwriting, and your voice with Google Translate. This means you can enter text manually, draw the text, or speak it to convert it into the target language. You can even save your favorite translations so you can refer to them quickly whenever you like.
Google Translate may not be like other language learning apps, but it's certainly a great tool if you're stuck on a specific word or phrase, or if you prefer to target your learning to particular phrases and sentences only. It can especially prove to be beneficial if you're speaking with someone that doesn't know your language
This language learning app can also translate even when you don't have an internet connection (just be sure to download the language pack ahead of time).
Another feature that makes Google Translate a must-have if you're traveling is instant translations. Available for only some languages, it's a type of augmented reality that uses the camera on your phone to translate, in real time, any text you point your camera at, including foreign text displayed in a menu, written on a sign, etc.
Note: Not all translations can be spoken back to you, but all translations can be displayed as text.
Languages you can learn: Japanese, Dutch, Danish, Greek, Bulgarian, Swahili, Swedish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Chinese, French, Hungarian, Korean, Czech, English, Persian, Latin, Bosnian, and dozens more
The 7 Best Free Language Learning Apps
Free Mobile Apps for Learning a New Language or Sharpening Your Skills
These free language learning apps will guide you through learning a language from start to finish or help you sharpen language skills that you may already have.
Learning a new language with these free apps is particularly helpful because you'll always have them at your fingertips. Even a few minutes waiting for an appointment, or 15 minutes in the back of an Uber, gives you time to complete a lesson.
Whether you're learning a language to be able to order a meal on your next vacation, communicate with a friend in his native language, or simply want to add a skill set to your resume, these free language learning apps are a great way to reach your goal.
You can use these language learning apps to learn words and phrases in lots of different languages, including Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Irish, Dutch, Russian, Chinese, and many others. Just check each description to see which app teaches what language.
Many of these apps also have free language learning websites that offer even more options to help you learn a new language. You can also use a free language exchange website to get even more practice.