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Foreign Language Apps for All Ages

Foreign Language Apps for All Ages

Foreign Language Apps

Does your child want to learn how to say “hi” in Vietnamese? There are some really great foreign language apps for that!

Now more than ever, increasing numbers of children are learning foreign languages through apps. Duolingo, Mango Languages, and Busuu are some of the most popular, but given all of the options available, how can you know which one is right for your child?

As a foreign language educator and mom, I know there are many factors you’re likely considering, but cost, educational value, and safety are likely at the top of your list. And so, keeping those in mind, I’d like to offer my recommendations for three different foreign language apps that are both effective and appropriate for children aged preschool through teens.

Quick Guide: Parental Controls for iOS Devices

Foreign Language Apps

Little Pim

Little Pim is an app that teaches foreign language to young children through short videos focused around a particular theme, such as a trip to the park, dinnertime, or animals. The videos, which can be viewed on a PC or other device, narrate real-life scenes featuring other children—an approach that kids at this age particularly enjoy.

Young children learn languages best through this kind of natural immersion and will pick up new words almost effortlessly watching the Little Pim videos. Using the app regularly, they should be able to make some real progress in the language.

If you’d like to check it out for yourself, Little Pim has made some of its videos available on YouTube for review. It is a somewhat pricey app, but is a great structured program for young language learners, and I myself am using it in our family to introduce Portuguese to my preschooler.

Age range: 2-6 years old

Cost: approximately $65 for a full curriculum, but videos can also be purchased individually through the app

Available for: Apple and Android devices

Duolingo

If you’ve already done some research on language learning apps, you’ve likely heard of Duolingo. This popular app was released to the public in 2012, and just one year later, was recognized by Apple as the iPhone “App of the Year.” Since then, it’s grown to over 30 million users studying more than 20 different languages.

This app’s most unique feature is its gamification—it is built around carefully structured game-like activities that immerse users in the new language and encourage them to practice new vocabulary and grammar from the start.

Just like a video game, Duolingo rewards progress, so students are promoted to new levels as they grow in their language proficiency and can even compete against other users to log practice sessions and complete special challenges.

While I believe that Duolingo’s gamified approach is excellent for motivating students, parents should be aware that there are some social media elements embedded within the game-like structure. Duolingo users can communicate with each other on special forums and exchange messages, so I do recommend some supervision for teens using the app.

Age range: 13 and up

Cost: free (paid upgrade available to remove ads)

Available for: Apple and Android devices

Mango Languages

Mango Languages is another popular app that teaches foreign languages, though it takes a very different approach than the other two apps I’ve profiled here. In contrast to Little Pim and Duolingo, Mango is focused on explicit grammar instruction—meaning that it teaches language using a strong translation component.

This is a great tool for older children, particularly those at the high school level, who already have some familiarity with English grammar and will understand Mango’s comparisons of English and the target language.

It is also notable for its focus on cultural education—which is absent from Little Pim and Duolingo. Unlike those apps, Mango teaches culture alongside grammar and vocabulary, which is essential to helping students understand the “why” behind language learning (and it helps keep their interest).

And finally, no matter what language your child wants to learn, chances are good that it’s available through Mango—the app offers more than 60 languages total, including “just for fun” ones like Pirate and Shakespearean English. It has no social media features, so parents can rest easy regarding their teens’ use of the app.

Age range: 13 and up

Cost: free through many public libraries, or available in a homeschool edition for $20/month

Available for: Apple and Android devices

I hope that you’ve found these recommendations helpful—and by the way, if you’d like to read more, I have even more in-depth reviews of foreign language apps at my blog, Language Learning at Home. Thanks for reading, and happy language learning!


Anne GuarneraAnne Guarnera is a mother of two young boys and the creator of Language Learning at Home, a blog dedicated to helping families support language learning. She has a PhD in Spanish from the University of Virginia and has taught at both the high school and college levels. She lives with her family outside Washington, DC, where she and her husband are raising their kids bilingually and enjoying all of the cultural diversity that the DC area has to offer.

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