Have you ever tried to learn a new language through an app?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| December 17, 2013

It's amazing what our phones can do. I try to remind myself every day how far we've come when it comes to our favorite mobile devices, and there are still some features on the handset I'm using at the time that still manage to blow me away when I get around to using them. Sure, I get frustrated with my phone sometimes, but more often than not I'm a pretty happy camper.

Just look at the Lumia 1520. A giant device, with a ridiculous camera tucked inside next to a fast processor and a stable OS. Several years ago we were still arguing which flip-phone was better than the next flip-phone. Now we get to argue about a totally different breed of device, and that's just amazing on every level.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine that lives up in Canada and we were talking about languages. His sister knows French fluently, and while he's tried to learn it in the past he has never been all that interested in picking up the second language. He knows a few words here and there, but since he lives in the Vancouver area, it's never been all that essential.

He has recently changed his mind, though, thanks to an app he won't stop talking about. It's called Duolingo, and if you're a fan of owls then the icon for the app should make you pretty happy. The actual app is pretty nice, too, though. It makes learning a different language, which include Spanish, Italian, French, and others, more of a social experience than just buckling down and learning words with pictures.

There's a lot of that, too. But, overall, the application's design is really nice, and while I haven't really dug into it quite yet, I could see myself making some good use of it. Plus, as far as I've been able to tell it's free, and that's pretty huge in today's language learning market.

Of course, this app isn't the only one out there. There are a lot of different ways you can go about learning a different language, but this is one of those reasons that gets me so enthusiastic about our phones. Our *phone* is able to help us *learn a new language*. Now you don't have to call your pen-pal in a different country to learn how to say a word or phrase (did you do that, by the way?). It's just an app, or a different service away -- right from our phone.

And there are a lot of options out there. I've done some searching in the past, but when I looked through the apps and other services available on Windows Phone and iOS, I was kind of shocked. And yes, more so on the former than the latter. But there are a lot of ways to go about learning a different language on your device.

I'm not sure which is more popular these days, though, and that's why I'm curious. There are a metric ton of apps out there that you could choose from, with a laundry list from language to language. Just doing a quick search of "Learn to speak Japanese" on Windows Phone brings up a nice list, and doing the same in iOS's App Store will drown you in options.

There are several apps that were created for a specific language, and there are others that try to give you options right out of the gate. Apps like Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, and others all have different languages for you to choose within the app, but tout their ability to give you the same results no matter what.

I could see where someone might want to use an app that focuses on just one language, like Human Japanese, where the brunt of the work for the app was obviously geared towards just a single language. After all, it takes hard work to learn something new, especially something as complex as an entirely different language.

Apps aren't your only course of action, though. I couldn't help but notice that there are a lot of podcasts out there that want you to learn a language through them. I've actually used a podcast in the past, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results. With the layout of a podcast (not a visual one, mind you), just having a native speaker in your ear going over the words, and phrases and whatever else is really handy. It's like the days of cassette tapes, but a lot easier.

This is just another reason why our phones are so great, and why I love to see this technology keep advancing. I can't wait for the day when I can lift up my phone and just get something translated, and have what I say translated for someone else, on the fly and with 100 percent accuracy. I know we're working towards that, so I can't wait for that to actually take hold.

So, tell me, have you ever learned a different language thanks to your phone, or even tried it? Are you currently going through lessons via an app or podcast to learn a new way to speak your thoughts? Or have you tried to use your phone, and just gone with a different method altogether? If so, why? Let me know!

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