The 8 Best Language Learning Apps and Websites

Newsroom By Timothy Nelson Mar 9, 2017

Whether you want to improve your job prospects or just get the full experience when you visit a foreign country, there are plenty of reasons to learn a new language. Of course, there are countless language learning apps, podcasts and online resources to make it easier. But how do you choose which one is right for you? Here’s our overview of the most popular digital programs that can help on your path towards proficiency.

1. Coffee Break

Format: Podcast, browser, smartphone/tablet app

Languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German

Price: Free Podcasts or $92-$294 for the full course

Best for: Auditory learners

Coffee Break’s free podcast can turn your commute or elliptical session into a productive language lesson. Each 15-20 minute episode is a crash course in the concepts you’ll need to know to learn French, German, Spanish or Italian.   

Coffee Break Academy offers a more extensive curriculum, with detailed audio, video, and text-based lessons. Each of Coffee Break’s four “seasons” is meant to deepen your knowledge of grammar so you can have practical conversations instead of just repeat a list of vocabulary words.

2. DuoLingo

Format: Smartphone/tablet app

Languages: See full list of 22 languages

Price: Free

Best for: On-the-go learners

DuoLingo turns learning language into a game. Each lesson is broken down by subject matter, and users must complete exercises that integrate reading, writing, listening and speaking to advance to the next level. The app records your progress and uses smart phone notifications to encourage regular use.

One of DuoLingo’s best features is its chat bot functionality, where you can test what you’ve learned in simulated conversations. You’ll even see suggested phrases if you’re at a loss for words.duolingo_chat

While DuoLingo lacks some of the more advanced features you’ll find in pricier tools, it’s a fun way to introduce yourself to  a new language and won’t cost you a cent.

3. Rosetta Stone

Format: Desktop software, smartphone/table app

Languages: See full list of 25 languages

Price: $49-$149

Best for: Virtual immersion and collaborative learning

Covering everything from Spanish to Swahili, Rosetta Stone’s immersion-based curriculum mimics the process you used to learn your mother language.

In addition to its core software, other Rosetta features add a human touch. Using Rosetta World, you can play games to practice your skills with other students from around the world, and on Rosetta Studio, you can schedule a live tutoring session with a native speaker.

4. Babbel

Format: Browser, smartphone/tablet app

Languages: Spanish, English, German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian, Norwegian, Danish, Russian

Price: $12.95-$83.40

Best for: Learning ultra-specific lessons

What sets Babbel apart is its course customization, letting you tailor lesson plans to focus on vocabulary and conversation topics relevant to your specific needs. Whether you’re conducting international business or traveling abroad to meet the in-laws, you’ll be prepared.

Babbel draws on what you already know about your native tongue and new lessons are introduced through conversation, training you to think on your feet. Traditional learners need not fear, though: Babbel re-introduces vocabulary and grammar through reading, speaking and listening exercises over time to make sure you’ve got everything committed to long-term memory.

5. Memrise

Format: Browser, smartphone/tablet app

Languages: See full list of more than 100 languages and dialects

Price: Free

Best for: Cost-conscious learners and polyglots

Memrise uses an understanding of brain science and learning to make sure you’re truly absorbing new linguistic concepts. Courses are broken into different levels, which are all available for offline use on the app.

To keep the program sharp, Memrise crowdsources information from its graduates. Students can contribute their knowledge and Memrise integrates performance data to refine lessons.

6. Fluenz

Format: Desktop software, DVD, audio CD, smartphone/tablet app

Languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, Portuguese

Price: $177-$368

Best for: Face-to-face learners

Teaching you primarily through video tutorials, Fluenz shuns the one-size-fits-all approach that other language programs use. Each course is built from the ground up, meaning Mandarin lessons aren’t just a mirror of the Spanish curriculum. Fluenz also takes a real world approach to learning, prioritizing words like “bathroom” over “dolphin.”

It may come at a steep price, but access to a real tutor that helps you through the program is invaluable. Plus, the ability to jump from desktop software to the mobile app makes steady progression a breeze.

7. Rocket Languages

Format: Browser, smartphone/tablet app

Languages: See full list of 15 language courses

Price:  $99.95 and up

Best for: Cultural enthusiasts

If you want to learn about a language and its place in the world, take a look at Rocket Languages. Relying on speech exercises and vocabulary flashcard drills, their curriculum is built on the strategies that polyglots use to pick up new languages quickly.

And unlike other language programs, its full suite comes with culture lessons to show you how the language evolved over time and what kind of role it plays today. With 24/7 access to a network of teachers and the ability to stream lessons across devices, it’s a great way to learn about a language and the people who speak it.

8. Living Language

Format: Browser, audio CD’s, course books, smartphone/tablet app

Languages: French, Hebrew, Italian, Mandarin, Russian, Tagalog, Arabic, German, Hindi, Japanese, Polish, Spanish, Vietnamese; “Passport” courses in Croatian, Greek, Thai, French, Hawaiian, Portuguese

Price: $39 – $179

Best for: Crash courses for travel and multimedia learners

Living Language has a course for every type of learner. With a classroom feel and live “e-tutoring,” their standard program is the perfect way to build your conversational confidence. Old-school learners may prefer Living Language Platinum, which comes with three course books and nine audio CD’s in addition to all the digital bells and whistles.

If you’re in the market for a pre-trip crash course, consider the Living Language Passport program for an overview of the phrases that tourists need.

Now that you’ve chosen a language learning app and you’re on your path to fluency, check out some of our other favorite apps that are great for any traveler.