Did you know that according to the 2016 ABS Census of Population and Housing, more than 300 languages are spoken within Australian homes, with the most common after English being Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, and Vietnamese?
Living in a multicultural society, many Australians have used the additional time at home during the COVID pandemic to teach themselves an entirely new language – even if recent times have kept travel bugs at home.
Now things have returned to normal and international travel is no longer just wishful thinking, maybe it’s time to brush up on your language skills.
The biggest barrier is knowing where to start, so we’ve dug up some apps to make it easier for you!
The best way is to find an app that accommodates your personal learning style. Some people learn by listening, while others learn by reading, some enjoy games and drills, and others find speaking the language more useful than reading it. Whatever your learning style, you can do this at your own pace.
DuoLingo is a great place to start learning a language, and with 38 language choices, there’s something for everyone – even High Valyrian from Game of Thrones) and Klingon from Star Trek!
The app allows you to enroll in as many languages as you like, offering lessons which can be skipped if you already know the material. It has a built-in game mechanic that encourages you to return to older content for practice and reinforcement.
Duolingo’s “streak” feature might motivate you to keep up with your language learning efforts by tracking the number of days you’ve reached your point goal. It might also make you feel like your world is crashing in if you lose a 63-day streak – not that I’m speaking from personal experience.
The best thing about Duolingo is that it’s free!
To remain free, the app is ad-supported, although you can opt to go premium and benefit from no ads as well as other extras including personalised lessons to practice your mistakes, and the ability to track how much of the course you’ve mastered.
Memrise also allows you to learn multiple languages, with 22 offered. It provides a fun and interactive language learning platform with its use of memes and videos of native speakers in various settings. The courses focus on vocabulary and pronunciation, and although limited, it’s great for beginners.
While using the app, there’s reminders to sign-up for a paid subscription, which will provide access to detailed statistics, pronunciation checks, offline content, chatbot and even grammarbot.
The chatbot lets you practice your language and become comfortable making mistakes as you chat with a well-equipped robot. The grammarbot will send you messages to teach you different grammar points. It also tests your comprehension after the lesson.
If you’re feeling a little extravagant, Babbel is one of the oldest and most comprehensive language learning apps. It offers up to 40 free lessons before you need to pay for a subscription, but provides an ad-free language learning environment for beginners to intermediate levels across 14 languages.
The app only provides the option to learn a single language. It’s aimed at beginners looking to learn a language from scratch and those looking to boost their vocabulary and improve sentence structure. With 2 million active subscriptions internationally, it speaks for itself.
Babbel breaks its lessons down into short, easy-to-understand chunks that use an interactive quiz-like process. It customises each set of lessons for the country and culture rather than simply learning the same vocabulary and phrases regardless of the language.
If you take out a paid subscription, you’ll have unlimited access to the language program on both the website and mobile apps.
The Rosetta Stone program offers 25 languages and uses what they call the “total immersion” approach to learning. This sort of learning style may not appeal to everyone, but it is a unique player in the field.
Rosetta Stone’s approach is a more traditional way of learning compared with other language apps, relying on the way we learn a language as children.
It works by you listening to the words and then choosing the image that corresponds to it. The app also gives you the option to record yourself as you practice pronunciation. However, it doesn’t explain the grammar, so there’s a lot of guesswork involved!
There are various paid subscription options, but a free version is pretty easy to spot in the app (and a little harder to spot on the website). By using the free version, you can take a limited number of lessons on the app each day. A subscription is required to take lessons on a PC.
Offering 12 languages, Busuu is probably the best app if you prefer a goal-orientated learning process. It will test your knowledge of a language and then allow you to set a daily study goal. While quite similar in lesson style to Duolingo, Busuu incorporates video clips of native speakers into their lessons and prioritises grammar.
Busuu has a feedback system in place for its courses, offering a community-like feel. After you’ve completed lessons, they send some of the verbal and written practice exercises to the Busuu Community for feedback.