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Top 10 free mobile apps for learning English

One of the keys to improving fluency in English is regular practice and contact with the language.

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Using mobile apps for learning English can help you develop your skills on the move while saving you time and money. A little extra study each day using English apps on your mobile device can greatly enhance your fluency in just a few months. In this study guide, we take a look at the top 10 free ESL apps available for smart phones and tablets today.

Duolingo

With over 100 million registered users, Duolingo is one of the most popular ESL apps currently available for download. This free service is available as a website as well as an app for iOS and Android devices. Duolingo employs a gamified learning system to make studying English (and other languages) more engaging and fun for its users. A unique feature of Duolingo is that users are presented with a “skill tree” rather than a standard list of lessons to work through and are given points for correctly completing tasks and making progress on the learning platform. This ESL app is great for learning new vocabulary and improving your written translation skills, which can be rated by other users.

iOS / Android

Memrise

As its name might suggest, this English app helps you memorise words and other information. It is mostly used for learning languages via flashcards and other interactive exercises, although there are sections dedicated to trivia, popular culture and other subjects. Courses are produced by other users in the online community and the app integrates with your account on the Memrise website. This ESL app uses some features of gamified learning and also includes a points system. This is a great app for learning English vocabulary.

iOS / Android

Wordsteps

This ESL app is designed to help users learn lists of English vocabulary on the go. Like with Memrise, Wordsteps allows its online community to produce and share content to help others. This content comes in the form of vocabulary lists, which cover every imaginable subject area – from basic adjectives to technical terminology. There are a variety of different test formats, including: translation to/from English, listening comprehension, spelling, etc. Wordsteps also allows you to schedule automated notifications and tests to ensure you never miss your next study slot.

iOS / Android

LinguaLeo

LinguaLeo is a freemium ESL app that focuses on a gamified approach to learning English with a points system and progress markers. Following an initial level test, this English app will generate an individual study programme based on your existing skills, objectives and preferences. Users complete exercises designed to improve their grammar, expand vocabulary and enhance reading and listening comprehension.  One plus of this ESL app is that it uses real-life material, including 200,000 pieces of content like news items, popular songs, jokes and short videos. LinguaLeo is arguably more suited to younger learners, given its game-like presentation and emphasis on having fun while learning.

iOS / Android

British Council apps

For many years, the British Council has been promoting British language and culture around the world and now this famous UK institution has some useful apps for learning English. There are a number of ESL apps on the British Council website that offer podcasts, videos, a pronunciation chart, games for kids and more. One of the best apps is LearnEnglish Grammar – a dedicated application with separate UK and US versions to help improve your grammar from beginner up to advanced level. Every difficulty level consists of 12 grammar sections, each containing 20 tasks. There are also clues to help if you are struggling to answer any tricky grammar questions.

Englishly

This ESL app is currently only available for Android and has one simple purpose – to help users practise their English pronunciation. The app has over 900 phrases across a range of everyday conversation topics. Users can listen to a voice demonstration and then repeat and record the phrase. Englishly then rates the user’s pronunciation on a 5-star scale. You can also store your voice recordings and compare your progress over time. The voice recognition is not perfect, but this English app provides a fun way of practising your pronunciation skills on the move.

Android

Google Translate app

This app has been around for a while, but it’s the latest functionality that makes it exciting. Google have now added a conversation mode, which allows you to interact via your mobile device with another person who does not speak your language. This two-way conversation mode supports 40 languages, including English. The second new mode to be added is camera translation, which allows you to translate signs and other written text just by pointing your phone in the right direction. As in earlier versions, the app still provides text translation in 90 languages and offers downloadable travel packs that can be used offline.

iOS / Android

Busuu

This ESL app for learning English and other languages links users up via online accounts, which can also be accessed via the company’s main website. Busuu is the largest social network for learning languages online and caters for free and paying learners from beginner to upper-intermediate level. The free version gives you access to just 20 units, but there are 150 available to paid users. These units contain speaking tasks, short written assignments and multiple-choice questions. Users of the Busuu social network can help one another – playing the role of both teacher and student. They can also interact with each other using a webcam, microphone and live chatbox. One advantage of Busuu is that it can give you better access to native English speakers, who may be on the network learning your language.

iOS / Android

Lingua.ly

Reading is a great way of improving your English vocabulary and this ESL app is designed to select the right content for you. Lingua.ly tries to recommend real native English texts from the internet based on your interests and the results of vocabulary tests done via the app. You can click on new words in the texts and articles you read to add them to your personal dictionary and learn later. As the content is selected individually, based on its relevance to your level of English and personal interests, motivation should never be an issue. This free app also allows you to create your own flashcards with audio/images and learn new vocabulary through a variety of games.

iOS / Android

Urban Dictionary

This massive online slang dictionary provides more advanced learners with insights into the real English being used on the streets of Britain and the USA today. With over 7 million definitions and more than 2,000 new entries added daily by UD’s growing online community, this app really offers everything you need to know about modern English slang. Note that some content may only be suitable for adults.

iOS / Android

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