Take a few minutes out of your commute to learn a few key phrases. // © 2015 iStock
Feature image (above): These language-learning apps make memorizing vocab fun and easy. // © iStock
It never hurts to know a few key words and phrases before jetting off to a new destination, but dictionaries can be tough to tote around and language-learning software can get expensive. Fortunately, there are several great language-learning apps on the market will help you build your new vocabulary quickly — and cheaply.
Anki is a flashcard-creating app that enables you to customize the cards you’re committing to memory, which is perfect when you plan on learning specific phrases. The app uses a spaced repetition system so that it knows which cards you need to review and which ones you’ve already mastered, allowing you to learn a wide variety of vocabulary words in a short amount of time.
Anki is free to download on both your desktop and mobile phone.
What’s missing from a lot of language-learning apps is the ability to learn correct pronunciation. Babbel corrects this by allowing for pronunciation evaluation through its integrated speech recognition, which makes sure you’re saying everything correctly. The app also lets users brush up on less commonly featured languages such as Danish and Norwegian.
The Babbel app is free to download.
Busuu’s main draw is that it connects you with a community who are all learning a new language. You can ask natives for help in understanding difficult phrases or slang and, in turn, help them learn English. Unlike most language-learning apps, Busuu stresses social interaction.
The app is free to download, although there are in-app purchases.
Probably the most popular and well-known language app, Duolingo teaches you languages module by module as you progress from learning grammar to learning words about food and animals. Duolingo uses several ways to impart vocabulary, from answering short multiple-choice questions to writing out translations (including accent marks). It also allows you to translate websites written in the language you’re learning in order to get a feel for how native speakers actually write and speak. Last but not least, Duolingo keeps tabs on your progress and lets you know which modules you excel at and which areas you need to practice.
The app and the website are both free to use.
Like Busuu, HiNative stresses social interaction as an integral part of learning a language. Users can chat with native speakers to learn more about the language, as well as about their culture — essential for any trip you might be planning. You can also ask other users to correct your pronunciation by uploading recordings of yourself.
HiNative is free to use and to download.
Memrise is another flashcard app that permits you to choose from crowdsourced courses in several different languages. The key feature of Memrise is that it encourages the use of memory tricks to recall vocabulary. The app also introduces the thrill of competition — you can rack up points as you learn different words and see how you fare against other users.
The app and website are both free.
MindSnacks makes learning a language incredibly fun with its series of games. Users are timed as they try to pick out the correct spellings of the vocabulary they’ve just learned or attempt to translate phrases as quickly as possible. Colorful and sometimes silly, the MindSnacks apps are a great way to pick up a few phrases on your daily commute.
Prices vary — you can download the introductory lessons for free, but additional lessons will cost you.