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3 great language-learning apps (that aren’t Duolingo)

If you’ve thought about learning a new language on your own, you’ve probably considered using a language-learning app. And if you’ve considered using a language-learning app, that app was probably Duolingo. Duolingo is surely the king of language-learning apps, and it has been for a while now. But it’s not the only game in town. There are lots of language-learning apps available, and we’re here to tell you that some of them are even better than the green owl. So we chose the three best langue-learning apps that aren’t Duolingo. Whether you’ve tried Duolingo and didn’t like it or you’re just the kind of person who likes to go against the grain, one of these will suit you.

Best language-learning apps: Babbel

Babbel is a good app if you are someone who likes to learn in a way that feels like an actual online class. After choosing a language and answering a short set of questions about why you want to learn the language, how you prefer to learn and how much time you want to spend learning each day you’re ready to get started.

Babbel levels and lessons

If you already have some experience in the language you’re learning, you don’t have to start at the beginning and rehash information you already know; you can take a test and Babbel will start you at the level appropriate to your knowledge base from Newcomer to Intermediate with three levels between. With short 10-15 minute structured lessons that build on each other, Babbel breaks language down to fit learning easily into your day, and you can choose to have it remind you when it’s time for a lesson. The lessons are more challenging than those on some of the other apps as well, so be ready to really apply yourself to learning a language. It also has lessons to download for learning offline.

Learning with Babbel

When it’s time to start learning, Babbel uses a spaced repetition technique, reintroducing words through various memory stages. They also know that everyone learns differently and offer personalized learning paths. This app has you learn through conversation, as opposed to teaching you random words and phrases, and this allows you to learn skills that will carry over into real-life scenarios. It also has lessons that teach you how not only to speak the language, but also to read and write it. It offers reviews after each lesson and builds on them in the next. The lessons are also unique to each language to maximize effectiveness in learning. If you want to learn more than one language, Babbel will save your progress in each so it is easy to switch back and forth between lessons.

Babbel’s drawbacks

Drawbacks of this app are that the languages it offers are more limited than on some of the other apps at 13 to choose from. Also, the repetitive nature of the lessons can get tedious. And the layout itself is sometimes not as intuitive as users might want.

Babbel subscriptions

Babbel offers one free lesson then beyond that it is a paid subscription. It starts at $13.95 for one month then goes to $29.85 for three months, $50.70 for six months, or $83.40 for an entire year so you save if you commit to a longer subscription. If you get started and decide that this isn’t the app for you, they do offer a 20 day money-back guarantee.

Best language-learning apps: Tandem

Tandem is the app for you if you prefer learning a language by having chat-style conversations with a native speaker over a set lesson-type plan. You build a profile, then users help each other learn their language via text, audio and video chats. Tandem reviews every application, so you may have to wait a short time before getting started, but this step ensures that the community is safe and fun for those using it. You search for the language you want to learn and notate which language you can teach in return.

Tandem levels and lessons

Once you have chosen your language and paired with a partner, you choose how you want to communicate and how often. You can use text, video and audio chat, and in-app correction and translation tools help keep the conversation flowing and make sure that you are learning the language correctly. Since it is a chat app, there are no real levels or lessons, and the members decide how they want their learning to go.

Learning with Tandem

When you build your profile on the app, you list your learning goals so you get paired with someone who will be able to help you achieve them. You learn at your pace, and you can record yourself using the audio message feature then ask your learning partner to correct your pronunciation. You can also opt to meet in real life for a “face-to-face” tandem. And since you can connect to almost anyone in the world, there is almost no limit to the languages you have access to learning and can list more than one language as what you want to learn. While actually speaking the language is a great way to learn, you also need grammar to back you up. If you find yourself wanting for more structured lessons in grammar, the app offers access to around 150 paid tutors.

Tandem’s drawbacks

Since you rely on the app to pair you with a language match, you sometimes have to wait to get started learning. Also, since it is a chat app, your partner may not always be available when you want a lesson, and since it is not professional language teachers, you will likely need to use other learning resources to achieve true fluency.

Tandem subscriptions

The chat feature is free to use, but the app also offers Tandem Pro which costs $6.99/month for one month, $3.99/month for three months or $2.92/month for a year subscription and provides you with unlimited translations, the ability to see who viewed your profile, the “Near Me” feature that allows you to connect to users nearby, and removes all ads.

Best language-learning apps: Memrise

Memrise is a language app that is co-founded by a grand master of memory and uses a tried-and-true learning method in that it uses digital flash cards to teach you a language. It is one of the best language-learning apps for anyone dipping their toe into learning a new language. Along with their curated lessons, the app also relies on a fair amount of user-created content.

Memrise levels and lessons

Memrise offers 23 languages and has daily lessons available for free. During your lessons, the app keeps track of how many words you’ve learned, so it’s easy to track your progress. Along with the flashcards, they offer video lessons that show how real locals sound using various words and phrases. When you go to the Courses page, you can choose your level so you don’t have to rehash what you already know, and you can then browse all the courses that are available for your language. Examples of courses are “learn new words”, “classic review”, “speed review”, “difficult words”, “listening skills”, and “learn with locals”. The premium option further offers a Chatbot and a Grammarbot. When you complete a course, you get points that move you into a higher rank to keep you motivated learning and moving forward in your ability.

Learning with Memrise

Memrise uses mnemonic devices and spaced repetition to help you remember the language, especially the words you have a more difficult time with. They created a three-step approach to help you learn the language naturally and effectively which adapts your lessons to your individual needs, immerses you in the language by using audio and video clips from real locals in place of computerized audio and avoids grammar lessons from the get-go allowing you to jump in and get going without worrying about accuracy. Aside from the language, Memrise also lets you learn history, geography, math and science among other subjects.

Memrise’s drawbacks

The Memrise app offers very little grammar instruction, and, while it is good for building basic ability in a new language, it will likely not make you fluent in, or provide you with an in-depth study of, your chosen language.

Memrise subscriptions

Memrise is a free app with the ability to upgrade to Memrise Pro, their paid subscription, for $8.99/month for one month, $7.50/month for an annual subscription or $139.99 for a lifetime membership. A Pro membership offers offline access to lessons, grammarbot, chatbots to learn through conversing and a wider range of official courses and more learning and review modes.