Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you don’t have to sit in a classroom or pay hundreds of dollars to use Rosetta Stone to learn a new language. There are numerous smart phone apps that serve the same purpose, and regular use of these apps can make the learning process fun. Best of all, many of them are free.
I’ve been using this one to learn French since I moved to Montreal and it has been very useful so far. It turns language learning into a game by first teaching you words with “mems” which are funny pictures or strange phrases that help you memorize things. You are quizzed on the words either by multiple choice, spelling individual words, or by selecting words to form a sentence. Correct answers earn you points, and you can also go back to review the things you have already learned. There are thousands of courses available on Memrise, and it’s totally free.
This is perhaps the most well known of all language training apps. DuoLingo was developed by a team who wanted to solve the problem of translating everything on the internet for no cost. When you use DuoLingo, not only are you learning a new language but you are also helping translate the internet bit by bit.
DuoLingo also uses gamification to make learning fun. You have to enter the correct words either by typing, or selecting from a multiple choice list. As you work through the modules you can go back and strengthen the words you scored low on. You also get three hearts for each unit, and if you get three wrong you have to go back and start again.
This won’t teach you a new language, but it an extremely useful tool. It is probably my most heavily used app since I moved to Quebec. You can easily pop in words in English to translate them to your desired language, or you can do it the other way around. There have been many times when I was out and about when a phrase came into my head that I wanted to know in French, and thanks to this handy app I was eable to figure it out. Google Translate isn’t perfect, but it does help. It has voice recognition so you can also recite what you want to translate instead of typing it. Pretty sweet.
This is a multifaceted app that also uses a gamification system to keep you engaged. Through Busuu you learn through listening to dialogue, identifying definitions, and writing your own sentences. You will also interact with the Busuu community by sending your own messages in the language you are learning and having other members correct them. Each correct answer earns you Busuu berries. You can download this app for free, but to gain full access you will need to pay.
Chris Riddell is a freelance writer from Toronto who covers art, business, and urban life for various fine publications. Also a poet and aspiring novelist, he’s busting his butt trying to get his name into a few literary magazines these days. He encourages you to check out his website for a look at what he’s been working on lately.