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Exploring Top Language Learning Apps of 2024 (Other Than Duolingo!)

Now you don’t need to resort only to the green owl when there’s a wide range of alternatives! 

As we usher in the new year, many of us are armed with resolutions, and often, topping our bucket list is the ambition to learn a new language. Yet, here’s the twist in the tale—our journey of mastering a foreign tongue is often fraught with lost tracks and dwindling motivation.  What if I told you there’s a smoother path? The solution lies in your pocket: simply download a language-learning app. These digital tutors not only nudge you to keep up with your daily lessons but also offer the flexibility to master a new dialect on the go, anytime, anywhere.

Let’s bypass the well-trodden path of Duolingo (since we’re all familiar with that green owl) and dive into some fresh waters. As a self-confessed language enthusiast, I’ve navigated the vast seas of free language learning apps to curate a list of top-notch alternatives that bring something new to your learning table.

Best language learning apps of 2024

1. Memrise 

Image by Memrise

After hearing a lot of good reviews about Memrise from fellow language aficionados, I was intrigued enough to dive into learning Spanish with the app. Right off the bat, Memrise impressed me with its insightful query regarding my language proficiency level, spanning from absolute beginner to advanced. This personalized touch ensured the curriculum was perfectly aligned with my existing knowledge, setting a solid foundation for my learning journey.

Memrise employs a robust revision strategy, where it repeats words and phrases throughout a unit to cement them into your memory. Additionally, the integration of visual Spanish spellings alongside English translations significantly bolsters the learning process, providing a comprehensive understanding of the language.

The best part of Memrise is the incorporation of real-person videos to teach accents—a critical feature for authentic pronunciation. However, the interface could use some speed-boosting. The lessons sometimes lag in loading, and I couldn’t be as fast as I wanted to be with the lessons. 

Feature highlights: 

  • Scenario-based conversation practices from greetings, work, travel and more. 
  • MemBot AI chatbot for practicing simple interactions like ordering food. 
  • Motivational streaks to fuel your learning journey. 
  • Local song integration to familiarize you with the language’s melody and authentic accents. 

Languages available: 22, including less commonly offered ones like Slovenian, Icelandic and Mongolian.

Platforms: Google Play Store and App Store 

Subscription tiers: US$27.99 per month / US$130.99 per year / US$199.99 for a lifetime 

2. Babbel 

Image by Babbel

Continuing with my Spanish learning journey, I tried using Babbel for some fresh perspectives and new learning approaches. This app captured my interest not only through its interactive interface, featuring AI chatbots and real-life conversational exercises but also through its fact-based learning approach. 

Each lesson unfolds a new fact about the language’s culture—like Spanish being a native language to more than 450 million people—which made the lessons a lot more interesting and enriching. This embeds a deeper appreciation and understanding of the language’s rich heritage into the learning process. Yet, I couldn’t help but notice the scarcity of real-person video resources. I find this shortfall somewhat limited my exposure to authentic native accents and speaking styles, which are elements crucial for nuanced language mastery.

Feature highlights: 

  • Picture-based expression learning and real-person accents (rather than AI voices) for pronunciation.
  • Detailed learning roadmap and diverse tools like podcasts, audio recaps and language games. 
  • Babble Live classes—small interactive classes offering an immersive learning environment.
  • Online Babbel magazines for cultural insights.
  • Comprehensive grammar guides (still at the Beta stage) serve as a concise summary of lessons for quick reference. 

Languages available: 13, including Norwegian, Turkish, Swedish and Indonesian.

Platforms: Google Play Store and App Store

Subscription tiers

  • Babbel app: US$13.45 per month for a six-month subscription / US$107.4 per year / US$349 for a lifetime 
  • Babbel Live classes (the app comes free with a Live subscription): US$99 per month / US$177 per three months / US$294 per six months / US$468 per year

3. Rosetta Stone 

Image by Rosetta Stone

Just like its historical namesake, Rosetta Stone too is a treasure trove of languages. This time, I tried my hands on Japanese with this app. Unlike Spanish, Japanese presented a steeper learning curve right from the start. Eager to build a solid foundation, I focused on mastering greetings and everyday expressions, sidestepping the more generic vocabulary typically introduced in the early stages of language learning.

What I liked best about Rosetta Stone was the usage of real-life vivid graphics and pictures, reminiscent of a toddler’s picture book. This engaging approach made the interface captivating and kept me hooked throughout the lessons. The lessons were imbued with visual clues that aided in understanding, making each new word and phrase still comprehensible even in the absence of English translations or Romanized text.

The app encourages learners to listen to native pronunciations and then replicate them, with AI technology providing immediate feedback on accuracy. This method ensures a focus on perfecting pronunciation and accent, critical components of language fluency.

Feature highlights: 

  • Daily conversation clips to immerse you in the natural rhythm and accent of the language. 
  • Free recording feature allows for self-assessment and practice in pronunciation. 
  • Downloadable audio lessons for learning during commutes or while on the move.
  • Videos on cultural insights offer glimpses into customs and practices, such as the proper way to fillet a fish according to cultural norms. 
  • Colorful and vivid interface to maintain learner interest and facilitate lesson differentiation. 

Languages available: 24, including less commonly taught languages like Irish, Farsi/Persian, Hindi, Hebrew, Tagalog/Filipino and Arabic.

Platforms: Google Play Store and App Store 

Subscription tiers: US$15.99 per month for a three-month subscription / US$167.88 per year / US$399 for a lifetime subscription 

4. LingoDeer 

Image from Google Play Store

If you are in search of an alternative to the popular green-owl app, you now have a yellow deer. Offering a structure and interface reminiscent of Duolingo, LingoDeer follows a revision-based structure to reinforce learning by revisiting the same phrases in various contexts. 

What captivated me while I was learning Japanese on LingoDeer was the wealth of language-learning tips sprinkled throughout the lessons. The app offers practical tips to brush up your vocab skills like associating basic words with everyday objects or silently revising them during day-to-day activities. The app also included grammar tables for quick reference on sentence structure—an invaluable tool for consolidating my understanding of Japanese grammar.

A standout feature of LingoDeer is its handwriting practice. It provides a tactile break from the auditory and visual components of language learning. This character drill feature is especially beneficial for languages with unique scripts, offering a hands-on method to master character formation and recognition.

Despite its many strengths, I noted a gap in video-based learning for daily conversation practices. The app relies primarily on AI voices for teaching accents, which I felt could potentially leave learners, including myself, slightly less confident in real-world conversational settings.

Feature highlights: 

  • Clear lesson plans indicate the proficiency level being targeted, from certificate levels to practical applications. 
  • The Travel Phrasebook helps prepare learners with local phrases (greetings, shopping, ordering food, airport interactions, transportation, lodging and more) before or during a trip to the country of their chosen language.
  • Flashcards for a quick revision of the previous lessons. 
  • Romanized versions of the languages available to learn the pronunciation, an essential feature for languages with non-Latin scripts. 

Languages available: 16, including but not limited to Thai, Vietnamese, Russian and Arabic.

Platforms: Google Play Store and App Store 

Subscription tiers: US$14.99 per month / US$39.99 per quarter / US$79.99 per year / US$159.99 for a lifetime subscription 

Conclusion

Learning a new language is more than acquiring foreign words; it’s an immersion into the heart of a culture. Standing in 2024, the evolution of language education is unmistakable, moving beyond traditional methods to embrace gamification, interactive experiences, and personalized learning routes. 

As we conclude this exploration, remember that mastering a language is a dynamic and personalized experience that benefits from tests and trials. The future of language learning is not just about embracing new words but about connecting with cultures worldwide in a more meaningful way.

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Header Image from Freepik