December 9, 2022

10 of the best language learning apps to make getting fluent fun

Today’s impressive technology has brought all the citizens of the world within closer reach than ever before, but there’s still one big obstacle in the way of us communicating freely: language barriers.

Did you know that the number of languages spoken around the world is estimated to be over 7,000? Sure, only about two dozen of them make up the linguistics of more than half of the planet’s population. But even so, we’re willing to bet you only speak one or maybe two languages fluently.

Certainly there are a rare few polyglots out there who are fluent in three or more languages, and we salute you with utter admiration (and maybe a healthy dose of jealousy, too). But what about the rest of us mere monolinguistic mortals who are hoping to learn a second language? Well, just like anything else, there’s an app for that.

Maybe you’re planning to go on an overseas business trip someday soon, or are hoping to connect with a family member whose native language is not your own. Or, maybe you need to familiarize yourself with a local language for a dream vacation, a budding love connection, or simply just for fun. No matter the reason for wanting to learn some new lingo and expand your cultural horizons, a language learning app or app-based language course can really set you on that path to fluency and a broader understanding of the wide world around you.

Do language learning apps really work?

The idea of having an always-accessible linguistics expert in the palm of your hand is obviously great and can open a lot of doors for people across the globe. After all, that’s what inspired the co-founder of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn, who said he wanted to create something that “would give equal access to education to everyone.” But, now that we have that access — and a mind-boggling amount of language options to learn — is it actually effective?

It’s true that many language learning programs have received some flack for being more addictive than effective. However, a study done in July of 2019 by Michigan State University found different results

Eighty-five undergraduate students tested their proficiency in Spanish before and after using the popular language app Babbel, and found that 59% of the students improved their oral proficiency. 

However, they also found that 36% of students who started the study ended up quitting before the agreed-upon 12 weeks were up. That leads us to believe that language learning apps aren’t much different than any other form of studying. That is, if time is truly taken to focus on the lessons, the information will be better retained and will result in long-term improvements in one’s language proficiency. But, blaming the app would be kind of like blaming every teacher you didn’t like in high school. (Were they actually the worst, or did you just not keep up with your studying?) That said, with so many different language apps out there, it’s important to find one that will keep you interested in the material because that will consistently encourage you to come back for more. 

What different program styles exist for language learning apps?

People learn in all different ways, and a method that helps one person retain information won’t necessarily work for another. Maybe you prefer to learn by watching videos so you can see how words are spelled and hear how they are pronounced. Or, maybe you prefer to turn language learning into a game where you can interact with quizzes, games, and flashcards, or even get some “on-the-job training” by diving right into communication with native speakers of your target language. Whatever method works for you, there is a language app out there to fit your learning style. 

Language apps that utilize flashcards, memorization, and games are great for keeping you excited about your learning material, and apps with interactive exercises are key to staying engaged in your coursework. You’ll find some apps utilize videos to help you both see and hear material at once, while others lean on podcasts and other audio content to focus your ear on your new language while also providing hands-free convenience so you can learn while on-the-go or doing other tasks. Furthermore, some apps put a heavy emphasis on reading material to help your proficiency and grammar when writing, while others foster community interaction with native speakers to better guide you toward speaking fluently.

With so many components to language — reading, writing, hearing, and speaking — there’s no wonder that different language apps take such different approaches to teaching and learning. It can be a little overwhelming to consider all these choices, which is why we’ve noted the most prevalent program style of each language app in our suggestions below. 

Should you use more than one language app?

While there are plenty of different methods to help you learn a new language, it’s crucial to realize that you might not know what works for you until you give it a try. And although language apps help you study at your own pace, you’ll still want to engage with them consistently to keep up your progress while learning a new language. That said, remember to resist the temptation to get discouraged if the first method you jump into doesn’t seem like it will bring the results you want, or you find it to be a total chore. There are plenty of other apps to try and you should absolutely take advantage of the fact that they have different approaches to teaching, as noted above. Go ahead and use a few of them interchangeably, especially by incorporating free language learning apps that focus on teaching language in specific and different ways. For example, Quizlet’s flashcard method helps you learn by memorization, while HelloTalk’s community interaction helps you learn syntax — the proper arrangement of words and phrases in a sentence — for better fluency.

Supplementing a comprehensive language learning app with these more specialized apps and language learning software is not just a possibility, but actually recommended to help you achieve a more complete education and understanding of your new language. Ultimately, the more apps you have in your language learning toolbox, the faster you’ll progress on your way to full mastery. Plus, it’s just a lot more fun to shake things up and keep it interesting on those days when you don’t feel like sitting down for a serious lesson. Also keep in mind that your needs for supplemental language apps will evolve over the course of your education, so if something no longer seems challenging enough, be sure to give a new app or method a try.

How do you pick the right language app as a beginner, intermediate, or advanced learner?

Picking the right language app to start with ultimately depends on your current language skill level and your eventual goal. Someone who wants to become fluent in another language is likely to have different needs than someone who just wants to gain some steady understanding of another country’s language as they gear up for a future trip. Do you already have a working knowledge of your target language, and now you’d like to be able to speak it and write it fluently? Or, are you just hoping to learn some quick phrases to conquer common language barriers as a tourist? Also consider whether or not your target language uses a different script or characters, as this will require more visual or writing-based lessons.

As a complete beginner — a total blank slate — you may lean toward a comprehensive language learning program like Rosetta Stone, with longer lessons intended to be studied each day. To help you retain the new information you’ve learned (and make the process a bit more fun), you may choose to supplement your “serious” language app with a more gamified one, like Duolingo, that can quiz you in quick bursts whenever you have a few spare moments in your day.

On the other hand, intermediate and advanced speakers would benefit more from an app with more challenging lessons, such as Babbel, or one that connects users with native speakers of their target language so they can practice one-on-one conversations. This learning method will help refine pronunciation, expand your vocabulary, and acclimate your ear to proper accents and syllabic emphasis.

Duolingo vs. Rosetta Stone vs. Babbel: which is best? 

As we mentioned in our suggestions above, the top three language learning apps are arguably Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Babbel, and they can be thought of as progressive stepping stones throughout the language learning process.

Babbel is designed for those who are always on-the-go or just have a few minutes to spare here and there. Their lessons have a “no time to waste” kind of feel, in which you can choose between courses focusing on the vocabulary you would want to know for real-life situations, such as ordering at a restaurant or asking for directions. Advanced users can also listen to podcasts in their target language while doing something else, like cooking or cleaning, to maximize their language learning time.

Rosetta Stone is on the opposite end of the spectrum, guiding you in a completely immersive world. It’s the kind of program you want to sit down with away from all distractions. Besides having effective ways of teaching you the language, it also aims to teach you more about a country’s culture.

Duolingo is the in-between option of the three. Much more than just a friendly interface, it uses multiple-choice challenges, games, and other activities that make it a fun way to dedicate time to something new without getting bored too quickly. Plus, it’s totally free, and you can’t beat that when you’re testing the waters of a foreign language study program.

If any of these language learning apps sound at all appealing to you, it might be time to make the jump and become the new language learner you’ve always wanted to be. Say goodbye to feeling like Google Translate is the only person who understands you, and be the bilingual (or multilingual) person who makes heads turn with your perfect pronunciation and stunning sentence structure. Trust us, today’s language learning apps are not designed to bring back those haunting memories of high school Spanish class. We hope you’ll find our suggestions below to be a lot more interesting and approachable than that.

Free forever • Incredibly popular • Used by schools
Distracting ads (unless you pay) • Depth of lessons varies by language
With a wide range of lessons and games, Duolingo is one of the easiest ways to learn a foreign language.


A popular choice of language app with a fun and engaging interface.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
    Quizzes and games
  • Duolingo:
    Free (with ads)
  • Duolingo Plus:

Through a collection of multiple-choice quizzes and games, Duolingo guides users through lesson plans for reading, listening, and speaking comprehension with multiple-choice challenges and games. For extra encouragement, the app can also record your translations and play them back for you at a later date to show you how much you’ve improved over time. They offer a wide selection of languages from Italian and Portuguese to Navajo and Esperanto. You can even learn fictional languages like Klingon from Star Trek and High Valyrian from Game of Thrones. All users get full access to Duolingo for free, but upgrading to Duolingo Plus removes ads, allows offline access, and grants better tools to track your progress.

Immersive and intuitive • Lots of language options
Subscription can get expensive • Lessons can be repetitive
If you’re serious about learning a language in the easiest way possible, Rosetta Stone is the gold standard.

Rosetta Stone

In-depth and comprehensive lessons for people who want to learn a new language fast.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
  • Three-month membership:
    $11.99 per month
  • One-year membership:
  • Lifetime membership:
  • Lifetime Plus membership:

With language options ranging from Spanish and French to Filipino and Farsi, Rosetta Stone’s award-winning program acts as a language bootcamp with intense, but easy-to-follow courses designed to help you learn a foreign language within a matter of weeks. The app utilizes immersion tactics to help users understand a country’s language and culture with everything they see, hear, speak, read, and write throughout the courses. With TruAccent, the learning app even uses speech recognition software designed to help you with proper pronunciation and accents.

First lesson is free • Syncs across devices
Monthly rates add up • Lacks progress tracking
Babbel utilizes to-the-point lessons to help you learn whenever you have a few minutes to spare.


Short lessons designed to help users communicate confidently in the real world.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
    Quick exercises
  • 1 month:
  • 3 months:
  • 6 months:
  • 12 months:

Babbel is an app built for those who don’t have enough time in the day to sit down for a full language course. Users can practice at their own pace with short, expertly crafted lessons and develop real-life conversation skills with native speakers. You can even pick interesting topics, such as business or travel, that will teach you relevant vocabulary and help you hone in on the area of your choice. Speech recognition technology is also utilized to build confidence faster and help you speak your new language sooner.

Customizable • Visually appealing • Cultural connection
Not beneficial for advanced learners
Memrise brings lessons to life and makes language learning fun and personal.


A fun choice for beginners to absorb a new language.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
  • Memrise:
  • Memrise Pro monthly:
  • Memrise Pro annual:
  • Lifetime membership:

Memrise makes language learning fun with real-life content and video clips of native speakers in their own hometowns to help users understand authentic accents and see a bit of the local culture and scenery, too. The app also utilizes games and lessons to help build memories attached to the new language, and tests users on speed and accuracy to optimize learning. Memrise is a fully functional free app, but you can choose to upgrade to a premium subscription to unlock more games, chatbots, and other in-depth features.

Lots of languages • Learn with native speakers • Friendly connections
HelloTalk is a great way to gain a new language, and maybe some new friends, too.


It’s like Facebook, but for learning a new language.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
    Community Interaction
  • HelloTalk:
    Free (with ads)
  • VIP membership:
  • Lifetime membership:

HelloTalk connects users to a worldwide community to practice with language partners via text, voice recordings, voice calls, video calls, and even doodles. It goes beyond the features of a typical chat app with built-in translation and pronunciation aids, making it a great supplement to other apps to help put your growing knowledge of your target language into practice in the real world. Users can also share “Moments” with all native speakers of their target language to ask questions and improve fluency. Fully functional as a free app, you can also choose to upgrade to a HelloTalk VIP membership to get rid of ads, gain some extra features, and learn up to three languages at once.

McGraw-Hill Education certified • Desktop and mobile available • Works offline
Only 12 languages offered
With Busuu’s quick, yet in-depth lessons, you can take advantage of even the smallest breaks in your day.


A great option for language learners who are constantly on the move.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
  • Busuu:
  • Busuu Premium:
    as low as $6.56/month
  • Busuu Premium Plus:
    as low as $7.57/month

Busuu features over 1,000 courses with advanced study plans that focus on speaking and writing a foreign language. Expert linguists designed the courses to be utilized on both desktop computers and mobile devices, and you can even download your lessons and study while offline. The free version is rather limited, while bumping up to the premium plan allows for the ability to practice your skills with native speakers of your target language. The Premium Plus plan grants you even more, including a personalized study plan and official certificates.

Easy to use • Relatively cheap
Only good for memorization
Quizlet offers free tools that makes it fun and easy to memorize vocabulary from your target language.


A great study aid for memorizing vocabulary.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
  • Quizlet:
    Free (with ads)
  • Quizlet Go:
  • Quizlet Plus:

Quizlet is a great study aid for learning just about anything, but it’s especially great for language learners. The app works a lot like flashcards (except in digital form, obviously), turning small lessons into big victories that’ll keep you encouraged. Plus, you can use sets made by other users or create your own to fit your needs. While you’re not going to become fluent with Quizlet alone, it’s a great supplement to help you study and keep your new vocabulary at the forefront of your mind. The standard app is free, but you can ditch the ads and gain offline access with Quizlet Go, or upgrade to Quizlet Plus for more in-depth creation features.

Pronunciation perfection • Syncs across devices
No reading or writing • Not very interactive
Pimsleur’s audio lessons are fantastic for the language learner who wants to get conversational quick.


Great for learning to speak and understand your target language.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
  • Price:
    Varies, but many are $19.95/month

Pimsleur is designed for users to complete one 30-minute audio lesson per day, and it’s especially fantastic for nailing proper pronunciation. By using a spaced repetition model, it will ask you to recall learned information after a specific interval of time, thus maximizing retention of your target language. Many languages are available to learn, from German and Japanese to Ojibwe and Pashto. Lessons can also be accessed offline, or hands-free through an Amazon Echo device. Since it’s mainly audio-based, Pimsleur is best paired with another app focused on reading and writing.

Wide selection • Great instructors • Some free intro courses
Can get expensive • Not interactive • Hard to find best fit
Udemy offers some of the best online courses, but it can be tough to sift through everything to find the best one for you.


A (very) wide selection of foreign language courses at a reasonable price.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
    Audio and Video
  • Price:
    Varies by course

Udemy offers more than 100,000 courses in a wide range of subjects and topics, including learning a foreign language such as Spanish, Russian, and Japanese, or even sign language. It’s a very extensive portal with a lot of video and podcast options that can be accessed via app to learn anywhere, but it’s not an interactive choice like some of the other gamified apps on this list. Udemy’s prices can range from the affordable $11.99 to the very expensive $199.99. However, there are usually sales and discounts to keep the more expensive courses accessible to everyone.

World-class instructors • Peer-reviewed assignments available • Affordable options
Not many languages available
If you’re looking for in-depth and comprehensive lessons, Coursera is a good option for access to some of the best teachers from all around the world.


Access to world-class teachers and instructors at an affordable cost.

  • iOS or Android:
  • Number of languages offered:
  • Program style:
  • Price:
    Varies by course

Much like Udemy, Coursera offers thousands of online adult learning courses from a wide range of subjects and topics, including foreign languages and cultures. 
Some of the best teachers and instructors from top colleges and universities design these classes to make them easily digestible in the form of recorded video lectures, peer-reviewed assignments, and discussion forums with experts and students.
While these classes are for everyone, they seem to skew towards the business world with classes like Business English for Non-Native Speakers and Business English Communication Skills Specialization. Just be aware that Coursera’s offerings can vary wildly in price with courses ranging from free to $100, all the way up to degree programs in the five-digit range.