by Patricia Shuler
One of the most important ingredients for fluency in a second language is immersion, and if you can't get quality time with native speakers, you'll need to put in a good deal more work. For that reason, smartphone apps are a great tool for aspiring language learners-they allow you to dig into your language during your down time, so you can maintain constant exposure and keep what you're learning fresh in your mind. Here are a few of my favorites, for Android and iOS.
This free app is a miniature version of the full-feature (paid) app, which provides stronger help for your language of choice. This is a great starting point, and an awesome way to see if you really are ready to devote the time needed to learn a new language. The app contains 30 short lessons that can have you speaking short useful phrases surprisingly quickly. If you decide this is something for you, you can purchase the full app and have access to more features and more lessons. (Cost: Free)
Targeted specifically to English speakers wanting to learn Spanish, this is a quality app that contains 50 short lessons combining both audio and video to create a top-notch learning experience. The app contains insightful information not available on other apps, like grammar explanations and 2 different Spanish speakers to accustom you to the myriad of ways that different cultures use the language. The app also has a built in reward system consisting of motivational badges, which will hopefully give you that extra nudge to keep learning. (Cost: 4.99)
This is a bit of a reverse from the app above. This is the most popular English learning app in Latin American countries. One of the greatest ideas behind this app is to load it with current relevant content, like daily news stories ranging from business to art. Otherwise it's a standard flashcard/audio combo that has regular updates to keep the learning coming. So if you're trying to help your Spanish-speaking parents or friends learn English, this is a great place to start, and the basic version is free! (Cost: Free)
The Busuu team has created a few dozen apps to learn different languages. This app is also designed to be partnered with the website www.Busuu.com, however it is significantly more polished than TumBOLO. The free version has 20 lessons which should be a good way to see if you are up to the challenge before purchasing more. One of the best unique features is that you can submit writing exercises to be evaluated by native speakers. While this app was designed to be mobile, we experienced best results on a tablet computer with a lot of screen space. (Cost: Free)
This popular language site has created an app that is best used in combination with the site (and particularly the online community). The mission statement of the group behind TumBOLO is language diversity, the idea being that diversity enriches. The website and app contain thousands of combinations of languages and phrases that you can listen to and learn. The interface of each is a bit rough, but the community behind it is where the real strength lies.
Patricia Shuler is a BBGeeks.com staff writer from Oakland, California. She's an admitted tech-junkie who's quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic-including up-to-date news, user reviews, and "no holds barred" opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.