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My favourite foreign language learning apps

In How I Travel, Travel Planning by Jaclynn Seah8 Comments

Hola amigos! I’m a big fan of learning and picking up some foreign language words when you travel to a new place – it is such a big help in communicating with the local people, and a great way to start a conversation because people appreciate when you try to speak their language, even if you bastardise their words with your terrible accent and pronunciation. One of the easiest ways these days to pick up a new language is to use a language learning app – here are some that I’ve tried and used for myself.

Here’s a bit of the languages I do know – I speak English as my main language and Chinese as a second language, and am currently trying to pick up Spanish with the help of lessons and apps.

Why use a language app?

Cheaper and less commitment

The traditional style of language learning involves signing up for classes and physically attending them – this can be a bit tough if you have a really busy schedule and would rather save your money for actual travelling instead. The app is something you can install on your phone and work on anytime – open your language app and do a few exercises when you have some downtime instead of browsing Facebook, you’ll find that you can get a surprising amount done.

Repetitive learning that complements lessons

With an app you can repeat a lesson as many times as you want, and for me as a visual learner, it’s really useful being able to look at the words while I practice them.

And language apps don’t have to replace classroom lessons altogether, but give you that extra practice that complements your lessons instead. I still like the human interaction you get from talking to a peer of the same abysmal language level as you. You will likely be using your new language when talking to other people, so I think building up that confidence.

My favourite language apps

So I’ve been trying to pick up Spanish ever since I visited Spain way back in 2007 and 2008. I talked a little bit about the importance of having some Spanish for travelling around South America, and even spent some time in Panama with the Habla Ya Spanish School learning some Español, and I’ve been using a couple of apps to help me practice.


Duolingo seems to be the go-to app that people like to use to learn languages – it’s the one most people assume I’m on when I say I’m learning via an app. It’s pretty decent and I like the bot chats that mimic actual conversations, it’s a fun way to pick up more conversation and test how well you can apply the words you have learned in an everyday context.

One thing I don’t really like is the ‘expiry’ of the various past lessons in the app. I know the idea is to motivate you to keep using the app consistently, but personally it makes me feel a bit disheartened.


The app I prefer using for lanaguage learning is Memrise – just something about the interface I prefer using over Duolingo. It’s a matter of personal preference moreso than it actually being better or worse than Duolingo, I suggest you test out a few apps to see what works best for you.

Many of the better features like Meet the Natives (they film and record actual people saying key phrases – it’s different from the voices used in the rest of the app), Chats and Listening Skills are only available in the paid version, though you can unlock them from time to time when using the app.


Beyond just learning vocabulary, one problem for me with languages is always about getting the grammar right. AnkiApp isn’t actually a language learning app, but a flashcard creation app, where you create your own flashcards that the system uses to improve your recall. but for language learners, you can browse and upload ‘decks’ created by others to help you learn a language. I was using a Spanish phrases deck to help me remember the use of the various feminine/masculine/plural/singular grammar rules.

You can also create your own deck based on your own problem words, but it can be pretty time consuming doing that.

Tell me about your favourite language learning apps in the comments, what works for you? I’ve had recommendations to check out italki which lets you practice speaking to native speakers, and I do subscribe to the Fluent in 3 months newsletter, I’d love to hear what else people like to use to learn foreign languages.

Cover Photo by William Iven on Unsplash


  1. Duolingo is a useful application that allows to know the basics of the language. Very helpful, but there’s nothing like a living person with whom you can talk:-)

  2. I added you! I have been so bad about doing this consistently, but I am determined to get back to it. I’ll make you look good in the meantime :)

    1. Author

      Thanks Carmel! I tend to do mine in bursts rather than consistently everyday… and you are SOOOO far ahead I’m never going to catch up!

      (lovely blog btw, the design is great inspiration for how I want mine to look eventually, clean yet pretty!)

  3. I have been using Duolingo as well and it’s pretty fun. For me I just need the vocab. The grammar is too much work lol. As long as I make myself understood when travelling that’s fine. So vocab is good enough =)

    1. Author

      haha yeah when travelling it’s a lot of “word 1? word 2?” and flapping hand actions :P

      but I like the idea of being able to be conversational and understanding what people are saying! i find it very difficult to listen and intepret foreign words when spoken because i’m used to seeing them on paper!

  4. Hi! I’ve just discover your blog today and It’s a pleasure spend the sunday reading your posts. 6 months ago I arrived from Barcelona to live in Singapore. So if you need some help with your spanish I could teach some useful words for your next travels!

    1. Author

      Hola Sandra, very nice to hear from you! I hope you like it in Singapore, and yes I’ll definitely get in touch when I feel ready to try out some proper Spanish conversation =)

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