These 10 language apps will actually make you fluent

id=»article-body» class=»row» section=»article-body»> This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019, your source for the season’s best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET. Most high schools require students to take at least one language course before they can graduate. I took French, and while I loved the language, it didn’t come naturally to me. The cycle repeated my first year of college when I tried my hand at Spanish — even though I had an engaging professor, I struggled. Thankfully, I passed (even retaining some conversational Spanish!), but the experience helped me realize something. 

Cramming a language — any language — into a four-month semester (with your GPA at stake) isn’t always the best way to learn it. I also realized I had to want to learn a new language. 

General introductory courses can spark an interest in a language that leads to more advanced courses, studying abroad, master’s programs and more. But those of you who don’t want to go back to school still have options for learning a new language to travel, enrich yourself or better connect with your heritage. 

Here are the 10 best best language learning apps apps that make it easy for you to learn a language at your own pace. 

Best for an online school-type experience


Screenshot/Babbel I found Babbel to be the most like a foreign language course you’d see in an online school curriculum. The app’s minimalist layout helps prevent a new language (French for me) from seeming overwhelming without making it boring. Each lesson takes you through translations, and includes variations of the word or phrase, pictures and whether it’s formal or informal. If it asks you to spell a phrase, the letters are included.

You also get to see the words you’re learning used in common conversations, listen to them (if you choose to have audio on), repeat the phrases, and learn more about verb groups. 

Babbel is free, or you can subscribe to a package. Monthly subscriptions are $12.95, a three-month subscription is $27, six months costs $45, and one year is $84.

See at Babbel Read more: Best language apps for learning how to speak French in 2019

Best for learning multiple languages


Screenshot/Duolingo As a regular Duolingo user, I enjoy the colorful interface and short, game-like exercises. The app doesn’t restrict how many languages you can try to learn at the same time (personally, I think two is a good maximum if you want to retain anything). I use Duolingo to practice Spanish and German.

I like Duolingo’s user-friendly layout, and the «streak» feature, which motivates you to keep going by tracking the number of days you’ve reached your point goal. If you use the app online, you can access resources such as Duolingo Stories, which are short audio stories that allow you to check your comprehension skills as you go. I also subscribe to Premium for $10 per month, which gives me access to a feature that lets me chat with a language tutor from a country where the language is spoken. 

See at Duolingo Read more: Best apps to learn how to speak Chinese in 2019

Best for learning to speak casually in a new language


Screenshot/Memrise One of my favorite parts of Memrise is the app’s use of short videos to show how real locals express different phrases in conversation. I tried the French course, and the first lesson alone let me listen to the tone of voice and casual pronunciation, as well as showing me the phrase’s literal translation and explained its gendered usage. The app also helps you spot patterns in the language to make it easier to improve your skills. 

A few lessons are available for free daily, but the full program unlocks if you subscribe to Memrise Pro. There are three plans — one month for $9, a year for $30 or three months for $18. 

See at Memrise Read more: Best apps to learn how to speak Chinese in 2019

Best for goal-oriented users


Screenshot/Busuu When you sign up for Busuu, you select the language you want to learn, and the app helps you determine how advanced you are with it and why you want to learn it, and to what level. From there, you set a daily study goal, and if you subscribe to the premium plan, it creates a study plan so you’ll reach your goal by a set date. For example, Busuu says if I study three times a week for 10 minutes a day, I’ll be pretty fluent in my chosen language by June 2020.  

Premium costs $5.83 per month for a year. Even without premium, Busuu offered valuable tools if you want to learn a language. 

I tried Italian with Busuu and I liked the clean, bright layout of the app. Busuu also offers helpful reminders: The second time I logged in, it reminded me about «weak words» I needed to review to improve my vocabulary. In addition to listening to a phrase paired with a photo of the corresponding action, Busuu included helpful vocabulary tips (like that «ciao» can mean «hello» or «goodbye»).

See at Busuu Read more: Best apps to learn how to speak Spanish

Best for learning Spanish musically


Screenshot/Lirica If you listen to any song enough, you’ll learn all the words through repetition — even if they’re in a different language. But how do you figure out what they mean? This is where the Lirica app comes in. This app is unique in how it approaches teaching Spanish. Instead of traditional teaching methods for learning a language, Lirica uses popular music by Latin and reggaeton artists to help you learn the Spanish language and grammar. On top of learning the language, you’re also immersing yourself in the culture behind it.

Lirica has a one-week free trial and then it’s $4.49 per month. For now, the app only offers Spanish, but its website says it plans to add more languages in the future. 

See at Lirica Read more: How to use Google Assistant’s interpreter mode

Best for helping you remember specific phrases


Screenshot/Mondly Similar to Drops, Mondly is a fun, colorful app that has multiple features to take advantage of even if you don’t subscribe to premium. I tried beginner Hungarian on this app, and I liked how it offered to show you different conjugations if you tapped on verbs. The app packs images, translations and auditory aids to help your specific learning style. 

The instructor also speaks the words and phrases in a rather melodic way that made it easier for me to recall them (even after trying different languages on different apps). 

On top of that, Mondly is offering a huge discount on its Premium features for the next five days. Access to Premium is usually $480 annually, but it’s dropped to $48. 

See at Mondly Read more: Use your phone camera to translate languages on the fly

Best for visual learners


Screenshot/Drops I tried my hand at Greek on the Drops app. The app’s fun, colorful layout definitely made the language (which has its own alphabet) less intimidating. The app shows users each word in the Greek alphabet and the English alphabet, and says the word and shows an image of it. 

If you don’t subscribe to premium for $10 per month, you have to wait 10 hours to access another lesson, but you can check out your statistics after completing the lesson (correct answers, wrong answers and words learned) and tap on the words you’ve learned to hear them pronounced again (and see them written in the Greek alphabet). This can give you a leg up when your next lesson starts. 

See at Drops Best for breaking down how a language works

Language Learning with Netflix

Screenshot/Netflix’s Roma While not technically an app, the free Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension can be helpful on your journey to becoming multilingual. Install the extension and click the icon to launch the catalog of movie and TV show options. You do need a subscription to Netflix though. 

Once you launch the catalog, you can pick from hundreds of titles that use movies on Netflix to help teach different languages. For example, if you wanted to work on your Spanish, select the language in the dropdown menu, along with the country where you’re using Netflix. If you’re watching in the US, the extension generates 306 titles. To watch one of the films, just click the red «Watch on Netflix» button. Depending on the language you want to learn, you might have fewer titles to pick from.

As the series or movie plays, two sets of subtitles display at the bottom of the screen. One set is your native language and the other is the one you want to learn. The words highlight as they’re spoken, like a karaoke sing-a-long. You can listen to the dialogue phrase by phrase, pause and replay as needed, access a built-in dictionary and more. 

See at Netflix Best for learning on the go


Pimsleur Pimsleur is an app that offers 51 languages to learn, but delivers the information in what is basically the form of a podcast. Essentially, you’ll choose the language you want to learn and begin a 30-minute auditory lesson (downloadable and Alexa-compatible). The app also has a driving mode, so you can improve your skills during long commutes without looking at a screen. 

Users get a 7-day free trial. An Audio-Only subscription costs $14.95/month, while a Premium subscription (which includes the 12 top selling-languages) is $19.95/month. Features include reading lessons, role-playing challenges and digital flashcards. 

See at Pimsleur Best for auditory learners

Rosetta Stone

Screenshot/Rosetta Stone Perhaps the best-known language learning service, Rosetta Stone has come a long way since it started in the ’90s. My parents still have a box set of discs for learning Spanish somewhere in their house. It’s a lot easier now with the Rosetta Stone app, but you still need at least 30 minutes to complete a Core Lesson. 

I tried Rosetta Stone’s first Irish lesson, which was primarily auditory with images, though there are ways to customize the app to your learning preferences. The lesson started out fairly challenging, especially since I was completely new to the Irish language. But it did get easier as I went along. 

Rosetta Stone has a variety of subscription options, depending on the language — for instance, Spanish is $27 for three months, $19.84 for six months, $14.92 for a year or $10.30 for two years.

See at Rosetta Stone

Originally published Oct. 7 at 4 a.m. PT. Updated at 12:10 p.m. PT: Corrected pricing information for Pimsleur. 

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