BITS and Pieces

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The Language-learning app miracle!

Bitten by the language-bug? Well, welcome to my world!

Learning a new language and being able to communicate with a local – no matter how rough-hewn your effort is – is an addiction of its own kind. But breaking the shackles of time constraints and finding the motivation to attend a language class after a day’s work can be tough, I get it. But who said you can’t learn a new language while waiting at the dentist’s clinic or in bed before sleeping? The internet revolution has produced numerous language leaning apps that are only getting better by the day. So here’s the list of tried and tested options that will help you order food in French the next time you are in Paris or discuss football with an Italian while in Rome.

Duolingo

Quite easily one of the most widely used language learning apps available on the market, this entirely free app is available for both Android and iOS users. Supporting a staggering 21 languages already, Duolingo is “hatching” courses for 6 more languages which include Hindi and Klingon! The apps works similar to game where learners receive experience points for every correct answer. The language learning pedagogy revolves around repetition, listening and speaking. On the flip side of the things, it can sometimes become too repetitive and thus boring. But if you persist, you will have picked up quite a treasure of vocabulary and sentence structures.

Lingua.ly

Ever wanted to read articles in a foreign language that you have been practicing? Ligua.ly, brilliantly simple and effective app allows you to do just that. The Google Crome extension monitors all your Internet activity and then offers you a bunch of articles in the language you want to practice based on your areas of interest. And every time you don’t understand a word, you can just click on it to know the meaning and pronunciation. However, Lingua.ly told Geektime that it isn’t for complete beginners. It helps to have some knowledge of grammar to be able to reap the best benefits of the app. Ligua.ly keeps track of your progress and quizzes you on words, making it a perfect companion to other apps such as Babbel that are more grammar-oriented.

Babbel

Babbel is Duolingo’s smarter (and paid!) cousin that has programmes for 13 languages. Though paid, it costs less than most of its competitors and still manages to deliver quality courses. The grammatical instruction is superior to that of Duolingo which helps beginners understand basic grammar rules such as conjugations better. The paid version of the app is divided into courses which are further divided into lessons. Every lesson introduces new words, phrases and sentences and then moves on the grammar aspect. The Review Manager ensures that you don’t end up forgetting what you learnt weeks ago. Learners argue that the quality of programmes varies according to language where more popular languages such as French and Spanish have better programmes as against languages such as Russian. But for an inexpensive yet serious language learning platform, Babbel exceeds all expectations.

Rosetta Stone

The prime market differentiator for Rosetta Stone is that it doesn’t “teach” you a language but rather helps you “acquire” it. It does not use the translation approach to teach new words. Instead, it puts you in real life situations where you learn to speak by immersion. The programme is like a game where you have a virtual persona and go around crossing levels as you progress in your language learning. Arguably one of the biggest brands for language learning in the English speaking world, Rosetta Stone is a comprehensive programme that sometimes leaves learners dissatisfied due to its exorbitant prices. But if you don’t have budget, go crazy!

Busuu

Busuu is a free app but most of its features and paid. It is similar to Babbel in terms of its approach to language learning but the paid version has the added feature of engaging in conversations with native speakers. The lessons are organized in topical themes and each course comes with a special “travel lesson” for those who need to learn the basics before taking off to a trip abroad.

Living Language, Rocket Languages and HiNative are other similar apps. If you are confused with the wide variety of options, your best bet is to start with free apps like Duolingo and Lingua.ly and then pair them up with paid programmes like Babbel or Living Language. Be patient, regular and determined and you might just teach yourself a new language from the comfort of your home.

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Sonali Kulkarni - Editor-in-Chief, French-English Translator A novice at adulthood and an ardent disciple of Dan Brown and Ayn Rand, Sonali is a pathological bookworm, a borderline nerdy introvert and a hardcore adventure junkie who cannot live without chocolate. She is currently studying French and manages to speak some Spanish too. Having represented her state in national level Athletics for the better part of a decade, the nomad in her has now given it up to venture into the exciting world of languages, writing and travel.