Duolingo, Busuu and Other Apps Teach Languages on Phones
By KIT EATON
IF you’re looking to learn a second language like Spanish, forget the old-fashioned repetitious lessons you remember from school. There are plenty of smartphone apps that offer worthwhile language lessons in entertaining, bite-size chunks.
Learn Spanish by MindSnacks, a free app for iPhones and iPads, makes lessons fun. The app teaches you words, phrases and grammar by actually making you giggle.
MindSnacks’ app has different games meant to help you learn the language. In one game, for example, you click the word on the screen to match the Spanish word you’ve just heard. You play against the clock while water is draining out of an on-screen fish tank. Think quickly: Is “ocho” eight or 18? That fish is going to die if you get it wrong! Badges and scores add to the experience, and the app changes the formula enough to keep your interest.
The app’s cartoonlike images may seem more appropriate for children than adults, but don’t let this put you off. I’ve found the app helps me learn new words better than other language programs. Learn Spanish is free for a handful of lessons, but full access to 50 lessons is $5. For $20, you get an all-language pass and can learn French or Portuguese, too.
If you prefer a more serious and immersive approach to learning languages, Duolingo, which is free on iOS and Android, is probably for you. Like MindSnacks’ app, Duolingo shuns the usual recitation of verbs and so on and instead uses a gamelike mechanism in which you learn by tapping the right words in the app’s bright, clear interface to earn points and other rewards.