Resources For Learning a New Language – Part 1


Language learning used to be a much more difficult task pre-smartphones. If you can remember, one used to have to carry around dictionaries, verb conjugation guides, and for the really privileged, pocket translators. Rosetta Stone software has been around since the early 90s, but it can be expensive and cost-prohibitive. Now that smartphones are ubiquitous, language learning should be made that much easier, especially when it takes less than 10 seconds to find the translation for certain words or phrases.
This is a three-part series covering some fantastic resources for language learning, with an emphasis on French for our Canadian audience. Part 1 covers apps for school age and older; Part 2 covers preschoolers’ apps and Part 3 covers non-app resources like websites and bursary programs.

For school age

Wordlayer – iOS app – free with $0.99 in-app level purchases

This app is great for building French vocabulary and has games to help reinforce learning. With multiple categories for words, like colours, professions, fruit, animals, countries and simple verbs, users can learn the words by seeing the picture and hearing the pronunciation, then play the multiple choice quiz or fill-in-the-word game.

The sound effects may get annoying, but one might miss the point of hearing the pronunciation if the game is on mute. Overall, it’s useful even for intermediate users (i.e. adults) who could brush up on some vocabulary!

There is quite a substantial amount of French content (three levels which is actually 33 categories of words) in the free version, so buying the in-app purchasable levels at $0.99 would be great support for the developers. Users can also try less hearty trials (one level, 11 categories) in Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Italian, Russian, Catalan, Swedish, Norwegian and Turkish.

Lexico Comprendre – iOS app – free with $9.99 in-app purchase to unlock all levels

Unfortunately, this app’s in-app purchase functionality wasn’t working at the time of testing, but for the quick lesson that it could provide in comparison phrases and vocabulary, it was worth a mention. Currently, there are five levels available where users match the picture with the description with regard to size, position, and direction. From the iTunes app store, users can also purchase the German and English versions of the game.

For high school students

Word Reference

One of the best language resources (to my knowledge), is a superbly useful online dictionary, and available in a multitude of languages which include French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Greek, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic. I often use the French-English/English-French dictionary, which provides translations, compound forms, other uses and verb conjugations.

First available as a website, this site’s resources are now a free app for Android, and specific French-English, Italian-English and Spanish-English dictionaries are available free for iPhone.

For adults learning for the first time

WordUP – free for lite version, $4.99 for full version

I only tested the French version, but the WordUP series of apps looks very promising and easy to use. You can test the lite versions for free, but full versions of the language learning programs in Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean, German, Italian, and Chinese (Mandarin) are $4.99 each. WordUP has big, bold, clear icons on its main menu; a large font dictionary with words to add to customizable study lists; phrase books; a record-and-play-back-to-compare activity; playlists; flashcards; and quizzes. The best part of this app is how clearly words and phrases are displayed and pronounced so that it’s an excellent tool for beginning learners or anyone travelling. And for people who just need to be understood promptly, they can find the phrases needed and just play them aloud!

Living Language – free to download, $19.99 in-app purchase for full version

Users can opt for the more expensive (but extensive) products from Living Language’s website, which retail from $22.99 to $179.00, but I really like the textbook-like interface of the Living Language French iPad app. It may require some heavy testing before choosing to buy it, but the app seems like it could be good value for money at $19.99 (3 courses, 46 lessons), through which users progress from Essential French to Intermediate to Advanced, learning vocabulary with flashcards and playing games to collect badges. Now that’s a proper example of gamifying learning.

Speak In the City – free with $2.99 in-app purchase for full version

Available in English to French, French to English, Chinese to French and Chinese to English, this is a useful app that provides translations for various common phrases. Perfect for travelling, it’s also a simple way to get an overall introduction to the language without getting too overwhelmingly complicated.

Check back for Part 2 of Resources for Learning a New Language where I cover apps for Preschoolers!

Image Source: appfinder

  • Sean McCan

    Nice article. Looking forward to the next one.