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4 best iPad apps to learn a new language and keep you interested

by Derek Walter

December 11 2013

MindSnacks looks to make language learning fun
MindSnacks looks to make language learning fun

The booming education app market has given developers opportunity to build learning applications in just about every field.

One area getting such attention is language learning. Several options allow those seeking to learn or touch up on a language to do that all from an iPad. If you are considering taking the leap and strengthening your second language skills, give some of these apps a go.

Duolingo

Duolingo has risen to be near the top of choices when it comes to language learning on a tablet. It uses gamification, which is a strategy for rewarding users for their progress much like one would in a video game. For example, “players” lose hearts for incorrect answers but level up for successful responses.

Unlike other apps or desktop software, Duolingo is completely free (no upgrades or in-app purchases to get more features). In fact the company's motto is: "Free language education for the world."

To make this work, each user essentially becomes a translator, as their responses are used for translating other web sites. A short video at Duolingo's website explains this in more detail (think crowdsourcing). 

Mindsnacks

Furthering the learning by gaming trend is Mindsnacks, which has separate apps focused on teaching Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.

Instead of rote memorization or digital worksheets, Mindsnacks has several games that are said to be designed by Ivy League professors. Each game focuses on a specific component of the language in order to round things out.

After trying it out for free, users can upgrade to get the entire group of 50 lessons and additional side quests for $4.99. Getting an all language pass is $19.99.

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Rosetta Course

Rosetta Stone has become the benchmark software for language learning on the desktop. The Rosetta Course is designed as a companion to the company’s software with additional practice and learning courses.

Unfortunately those looking for a more detailed solution can only get a sample until they are willing to make the leap and purchase a full version of the Rosetta Stone desktop software. Those who have done so can sync their progress from their iPad while using the mobile apps.

Busuu

Busuu downloads activities for later offline use, enabling you to do practice even without an Internet connection. This app alternates vocabulary and grammar lessons with comprehension tests that are crowdsourced with other Busuu users.

It also has a rather innovative visual lesson strategy, which may appeal to those who prefer visuals when trying to learn. Courses are available in 12 languages.

(For more educational apps and tips, sign up for the free Tablets in Education monthly newsletter)

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