By Mihir Patkar
Learning a new language has been proven to kick start your stagnated brain into thinking anew. Little-used parts of your brain get much-needed exercise, and in turn, you come up with new ideas and solutions. Of course, learning a new language is hard work. But there are some apps and tools to make it easier.
A few developers have come up with creative solutions to this problem. Some apps integrate themselves into your daily routine. Others turn language-learning into a game. Choose the method that works for you, and you’ll soon find yourself with the ability to speak a whole new language.
1. Flash Academy (Android, iOS): Short Lessons, Games, and an “Object Translator”
Learning a language as an independent adult is much different from learning in school. You don’t have a dedicated time slot, you probably have short bursts of time instead. You can’t take tests, but you could try a few exercises. And you don’t have a teacher to ask random questions to. Flash Academy has cool solutions to all these problems.
Flash Academy presents five-minute lessons for you to learn one aspect about the chosen language, and then move on. You can keep doing this as long as you want. The app also encourages you to play excellent word games instead of taking tests. It’s a fun way to practice what you’ve picked up.
2. Wordeys (Web, Mobile): Make Your Own Flash Cards
You might not always need to learn a new language entirely, but only a few words or phrases in it. Wordeys lets you make customized flash cards which you can then use to learn and review your lessons.
Wordeys works beautifully on both desktop as well as mobile web browsers, so you don’t even need an app to use it. Plus, it’s completely free to make as many words and lists as you want.
3. Flipword (Chrome): Changes a Few Words on Any Web Page to Help You Revise Lessons
Once you have picked up the basics of a language with any of the above apps, you need to keep using it on a regular basis. That’s the only way you remember it and improve upon it. Flipword, a free Chrome extension, helps in this by changing a few words in every page to your desired language.
By doing this, the bulk of the page remains the same. So, it’s not like using Google Translate for a cold-turkey lesson or revision. It’s easier and more accessible. The changed words are clearly marked. Hover over them to see the replaced word, its pronunciation, or even small lessons. Flipword also includes typing practice, speaking practice with your computer’s microphone, and YouTube lessons.
4. Lingvo.TV (Chrome): Watch Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube to Learn a Language
Forget “Netflix and chill”, it’s time to Netflix and learn. You’ve probably seen a few foreign language movies, but the subtitles help you out. If you already learnt the dialect, though, then test yourself. Even the subtitles are going to be in the foreign language now!
Lingvo needs you to install the Chrome extension on your browser, and its mobile app on your phone. Once the movie starts, its sound and subtitles will both be in the foreign language. Lingvo says this makes learning easier and activates your visual memory. Meanwhile, on your phone, you can tap the subtitles to get the English translation of any word or phrase.
Download — Lingvo TV for Chrome (Free)
5. Duolir (iOS): Human-Crafted Subtitles for Foreign Language Books
Subtitles in foreign languages can get messy, after all. When left to a computer algorithm, it sometimes loses the nuance of the language, which is essential for books. That’s why all Duolir’s translations are curated by humans who know both the languages.
Only a few of the books on Duolir are free though. Once you finish with those, which can be a decent trial of the app, you’ll need to buy the rest to read them.
Download — Duolir for iPhone or iPad (Free)
How Has Learning a Language Helped You?
All right linguists of MakeUseOf, let’s weigh in here. Which of the above or other apps do you swear by when you want to learn a new language? More importantly, we would love to know what effect it had on you.
Did you learn something new about yourself? Did it help you think outside the box or think more creatively in general? Was it useful when you travelled?