Debbie Nogueira
By Debbie Nogueira on December 06, 2021

5 Most Downloaded Language Learning Apps in 2021

 

In your language-learning journey, you have, no doubt, searched for an app to assist you in your quest for fluency. Upon entering the app store on your phone and searching for “language learning apps”, the first two apps you probably laid eyes on were Rosetta Stone and Babbel. But those are not the two most downloaded apps for language learning. If you will notice, those are ads. Keep reading to find out what the top downloaded language learning apps are and my take on why each one is so popular.

Portrait of positive asian male in glasses with laptop in cafe

Most Downloaded App #5

When you open the Busuu app, the look is very clean and aesthetically pleasing. There are a few details that you will notice, right off the bat. First, each activity is downloadable, so you can complete it either on or offline. Great for trips through the mountains with no access to hotspots or wifi. Avoid the boredom and inject some language learning into your car ride!

A second unique feature to Busuu is that each activity has an estimated time needed for completion clearly listed under the title. Knowing how long an activity will take is so convenient for a busy schedule. Need a five minute brain break while at work? Find a language activity or two that will fit in that time frame. You can improve your language skills while taking your mind off the task at hand. Maximize your brain breaks and improve your language skills on Busuu.

A third feature of Busuu that I find very helpful is that the activities are titled in a way that you can know, at a glance, exactly what you will be learning in that exercise. Other apps give unit titles instead of individually listing lesson titles. A broad overview is nice, but more specifics are nice as well. By breaking skills down even further like Busuu does, it is easier to complete lessons in the small pockets of time you may have in between your everyday tasks.

One downside to the Busuu app applies only to those who wish to learn more than two languages or do not know which language they are interested in. If you are in either of those two cases, you will need to pay for a premium membership. They are currently offering a 30% off deal, which brings the cost down to $5/month for a yearly subscription. If you are a good salesman or have a lot of friends who would do anything for you, you can actually earn a 30 day free trial of the premium features and your friend will as well. 

Most Downloaded App #4

You might be surprised at this one, but the fourth most downloaded language-learning app is Rosetta Stone. As with Busuu, the app is very pleasing to the eye. If learning with pictures is your jam, Rosetta Stone is the app for you. All vocabulary is introduced with professionally done pictures. The pictures are as diverse as the languages. The app layout has 5 main icons: home, units, extended learning, on-demand, and subscription. The most unique of these features is the on-demand feature. It includes short video clips of a language learner in various situations abroad where he or she would have to use the language learned to interact with people.

Rosetta Stone is more unit orientated and each lesson is called a Core Lesson, so you will not really know what to expect until you get into the lesson. The lessons are laid out by week, so you can see what you need to do for each week. For those who have a goal in mind as to how fluent you want to be by a certain date, this layout will be helpful. For others, this may create pressure and a feeling of failure, if you do not complete the particular lesson for a particular day. Depending on which type of person you are, this may not be the right language-learning app for you. 

A unique feature included in the free version of Rosetta Stone is the pronunciation grading when you do the spoken exercises. It will fill in a green circle entirely if you pronounced it completely correct or partially if not. The circle will appear in red if the pronunciation is not close. You are not required to complete pronunciation exercises in order to advance in the unit. You can skip pronunciation exercises entirely, if you are not somewhere conducive to speaking out loud.

The biggest drawback of the Rosetta Stone app is the cost. As soon as you start to make an account, Rosetta starts asking for money for the premium features, which you start needing with the first language. The yearly subscription option comes out to $9.17/month which is almost double the price of Busuu, and they are not giving free months for referrals. You can, however, get a 3 day free trial, and then be charged the full yearly amount of $109.99, if you fail to cancel within the three days. Not the cheapest option for forgetful souls like myself. 

Most Downloaded App #3

Babbel finds itself at number 3 for the most downloaded language app. As the app starts up, you are visually greeted in German, French, Spanish, and English. Once you reach the home screen you will see your course with a description of what you will learn in each lesson. You will also see live and practice icons. You can download the lessons as with Busuu. However, you will not see the estimated time needed to complete each lesson. Babbel is more sparing with the amount of pictures it uses. You will see more text than you saw in Rosetta Stone. 

A feature not seen on the previous two apps that you will see once all the vocabulary has been covered is the vocabulary in the context of a dialogue. The dialogue includes additional vocabulary that will give the dialogue a natural flow rather than a stilted novice conversation feel. The English translation of the dialogue is located right below each line. For review of the new vocabulary, you can choose to do a speaking or writing exercise. You can also do flashcards.

Another feature not seen so far is the option of live practice with native speakers. You can choose from a number of live teachers any time of the day that is convenient for you. Conversation with a speaker of the language is the best way to improve fluency, and you can do it for free for one class per month. There are materials included to review before you participate in the class, so that you can take full advantage of the class by being prepared to participate. This feature definitely deserves placement above Busuu and Rosetta Stone as far as the non-paid version goes.

Babbel finds itself halfway in between Rosetta Stone and Busuu for a yearly subscription. It sits right at $7/month. You must pay the subscription to access the full features of your chosen language course. Gift the present of language learning to you and yours this year. 

Most Downloaded App #2

Memrise is runner up for the most downloaded app. Memrise is like Rosetta Stone in its cryptic description of what is included in lessons on its main screen. If you actually click on the lesson, however, it will give you the detail you need by listing all the phrases that will be covered. The main screen does include the number of phrases that need to be mastered before moving onto the next lesson. Unfortunately, no estimated time is included.

A feature not seen in the previous three apps is video with the introduction of new terms. This is the next best thing to having a live teacher. Inherent in the videos are gestures and body language with each expression. These features will give you an edge in your cultural awareness that you will not get from Busuu, Rosetta Stone, nor Babbel. The genius is real with this one. If you download Memrise for no other reason, do it for the video term introduction. When you learn that Italians do more than shake duck hands, you will see exactly why I am impressed by the video feature.

Memrise also has a pronunciation grading feature like Rosetta Stone. It also has a live language feature to practice with native speakers. Unfortunately, neither feature is available without paying for the pro version. But with the price being so accessible, why not go pro? Memrise is by far the cheapest option for the pro membership. With the 50% off offer, the price comes out to $2.50 per month for a yearly price of $29.99. For half a daily Starbucks order, you can access a month of pro service on Memrise. Drink a latte or talk a latte. You decide.

Most Downloaded App #1

While the previous four apps are described as having been downloaded over 10 million times, Duolingo tops out with over 100 million downloads. Released in 2012, this is the newest of all five of the language learning companies we have looked at so far. Let’s dive into some reasons why so many people have downloaded this app.

A big reason to download the app is the sheer number of language courses offered on Duolingo. They range from your normal English, Spanish, and German courses to Navajo, Hawaiian, and Klingon. Duolingo offers 14 languages that the previous four apps do not. This app is the stuff of a language nerd's dreams! 

The best part of the Duolingo app is that you can access as many languages you want, free of charge. You have access to all the learning material at no cost to you. Paying for the plus version will remove ads. It also allows you unlimited hearts, meaning you do not need to start a particular lesson over after making three mistakes.

A feature you will not see in Duolingo are pictures with the vocabulary being presented. The animated characters celebrating or lamenting your progress almost make up for it though. If you are a picture-oriented person, Duolingo might not be for you. Its activities are almost entirely word-oriented. You also will not see live sessions offered with native speakers. This feature is currently in beta testing.

Duolingo beats the other four apps with its competition-oriented approach to learning. Each complete lesson earns points and lingots. Your points earn you a place in the standings, hopefully even on the leaderboard. Lingots can buy you things in the virtual store, such as a streak freeze, which allows you to miss a day of practice and still keep your study streak. You can earn extra lingots by watching ads as well, if that interests you. The game-like feel of Duolingo keeps people coming back for more language learning.

 

Which of these apps have you used before? Which one is your favorite?

Published by Debbie Nogueira December 6, 2021
Debbie Nogueira