For me, every time I start studying a new language, I need to find the perfect resource to learn it through. Unfortunately, these are usually very different depending on the target language. Let’s face it: languages vary in a multitude of ways. For this reason, our approaches to learning new languages must also be varied.
From European languages with similar grammar structures, to Sino-Tibetan languages with pictorial alphabets, from Classical languages and scripts, to unstandardized dialects, each approach must be unique and focused.
When I begin learning a language, I usually use one of three apps; what I call the “Holy Trinity” of language learning.
This one is pretty self-explanatory; millions of people use Duolingo every day to learn simple phrases and grammar of their target language. I use Duolingo for any language in which the grammar or alphabet are not going to be huge issues. The strength of this app is in building a strong repertoire of sentences and formulations of different scenarios.
Duolingo also contains fun activities and word spills (as you can see above), and one can start competitions with friends to learn a language.
(I use Duolingo for Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, and German)
Memrise, on the other hand, is an app that works best with pictorial alphabets or languages with otherwise ‘strange’ characters. The platform allows you to take courses in very specific subjects and it is easy to start building up knowledge in your target language.
Memrise’s focus is strengthening the core vocabulary, and will usually not teach grammar or sentence structures.
(I use Memrise for Japanese Kanji)
- Mango Languages
Mango Languages (a free program offered by public libraries around the United States) is similar to Memrise in that it does not focus on grammar or sentence structure, but rather conversational and spoken dialogue. Each lesson is comprised of audio clips and you can record and compare yourself to native speakers. I usually use Mango in combination with one of the other two in order to build a native tone in my language ability.
(I use Mango for Conversational Japanese, Levantine Arabic, and Portuguese)
Each one of these apps has its own special niche in the market, and it truly depends on the goals of the learner to determine which one is the most useful.
Which one is your favorite?