It’s easy to forget how amazingly lucky we are to live in the age of language apps. They have revolutionized the way we learn languages! For the first time in history, students can practice their listening, writing, reading and even speaking skills and receive instant feedback — without a teacher and from anywhere in the world.
You (probably) can’t learn English entirely on your phone, but there are plenty of apps (including free apps!) on Android and iOS that can enrich your learning experience andthat can help you along the journey to fluency. This ultimate guide will set out the prices and features of fifteen of the best apps for learning English and suggest where they might fit into your study plan.
What are the best apps to learn English?
The tutor search feature allows you to choose what you pay. Prices start from $5 per hour. If you are not satisfied with a lesson, Preply will refund you or replace your tutor for free.
Preply connects students with expert English tutors for 1-on-1 lessons over online video chat. You can choose your own tutor based on factors including their country of origin, specialty, availability, reviews and the price they charge. All new signups take a placement test and are given an estimate of how many study hours they will need to move up a CEFR level. From there, you can either choose to work through Preply Learning plans, ready-to-go English courses designed to perfection, or to focus only on the skills and vocabulary you need personally. Students get speaking in English from the first lesson.
The first session with a tutor is one hour long. After that, you can choose how long you want classes to be. Lessons are bought in packs of 6, 12 or 24, but can be scheduled for any time. You don’t have to stick to the same time slot every week – or every fortnight! – and you can expect a full refund if you cancel a lesson (as long as four hours’ notice is given).
When to use it
Preply combines the most effective aspects of classroom English lessons with all the convenience of a language app. When you make mistakes, you get instant feedback. Students learn at their own pace, tutors are free to wait to move on until their student has fully understood a concept.
Crucially, students get live speaking practice with a real speaker. You can overcome the fear barrier of speaking English aloud and can start putting what you have learned into practice — this is when real leaps are made. Preply is a great choice as your primary app for learning English.
Rosetta Stone used to be an expensive one-off purchase. As of 2020, it has moved to a subscription model. Three months costs $35.97, twelve months costs $119.88, and twenty-four months costs $167.76. A lifetime package costs $199. Subscriptions come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Rosetta Stone can be used on your desktop or as a mobile app. Its courses are divided into units, which are meant to be used for 30 minutes per day for six weeks. In most of the lessons, you’re shown a word or sentence in English and have to match it to the correct picture. Almost all of the content is in English rather than your native language, so it’s a real immersive experience!
Rosetta Stone uses speech recognition software to give you tips on your accent. There are also optional games, and a chat room feature where you can meet other English learners to share tips and frustrations with.
As an added bonus, each subscriber can take up to four 25 minute sessions per month with a language tutor over video chat. Lessons take place in a class of up to four people, so be prepared! If you don’t use your time wisely and speak up, you may not get the conversation practice you need. Interested? Check out our full review of Rosetta Stone.
When to use it
Rosetta Stone is designed to be your primary method for learning English. It requires a high level of commitment and is one of the most expensive options on this list! However, it has been one of the leading language software packages for twenty-five years, so its methods draw on a lot of experience. Top tip: If you really want to speak fluently, combine it with methods that allow for more speaking practice.
Free! You can subscribe for extra content. Memrise Pro costs $8.99 per month, $18.99 for three months, or $59.99 per year.
Memrise is a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to help new words and phrases “stick” in your long-term memory. Lots of its flashcards are generated by users, so there are plenty to choose from.
For paying users, there’s also a speech recognition feature that allows you to practice pronunciation, and a collection of videos with native speakers saying words or phrases called “learn with locals.”
When to use it
This is a vocabulary boosting app you can use while you’re waiting for your friend to arrive. You won’t get fluent by using Memrise alone, but that’s not what it’s designed for. It’s an effective way to improve your vocabulary, and it’s free!
Babbel operates on a subscription model. A month costs $12.95, three months costs $26.85, six months costs $44.70 and a year costs $83.40.
There are courses for English learners of every level, and all are available on desktop and mobile. Lessons are 20 minutes long, and feature a mix of speaking practice (with automatic voice recognition), grammar practice, and memorization of new sentences. There’s also an effective flashcard section to remember sentences and words from other lessons.
When to use it
Babbel is a very useful tool for English learners, especially those who need additional practice learning grammar rules. It strikes a good balance between fun, game-like apps and rigorous learning courses. However, it is best supplemented with live speaking practice, so that students can draw their new skills together.
Not sure how to get those hours of speaking practice in? Improve your English speaking skills at home with these tips and apps.
Duolingo’s basic features are free, but Duolingo Plus costs $6.99 per month.
Duolingo is the most popular language-learning app out there — the chances are, you’ve used it many, many times before now, maybe even to learn more than one language. It gives users 5-minute long games to learn English words and a little bit of grammar. Mostly, the games involve translating a word into or from English, or speaking an English phrase into your microphone.
When to use it
Duolingo’s famous owl is highly persuasive! If you forget to take a lesson, the app will pester you, send emails, and tell you your learning “streak” is in danger. This means it’s great for building a consistent daily learning habit.
The app’s methodology is primarily based on memorizing phrases. This means that learners will probably need to turn to other methods to understand the structure of English.
The first unit of LingoDeer’s English course can be accessed for free. After that, users must buy a subscription. This costs $11.99 for one month, $29.99 for three months, $55.99 for a year or $119.99 for life.
LingoDeer’s courses are designed to take learners from absolute beginner to intermediate level. Unlike many learning apps, there is an emphasis on learning new words in context, so that grammar can be understood easier. Lessons are short and set out as a series of games, videos and puzzles. Each lesson comes with “learning tips” to study beforehand, and you can customize your lessons with a quiz, or make them harder in “challenge mode.”
When to use it
Lingodeer is a more rigorous learning program than some of its more famous, game-orientated competitors, and it’s worth trying out the free version to see if it works for you. It is better known as a platform to learn Japanese, Korean and Mandarin than English. As with almost all apps, you will need to supplement your learning with conversational practice with a fluent speaker to see real progress.
Mondly is free for a basic membership, but the premium version costs $9.99 per month or $49.99 for a year.
Mondly is an app designed to help improve English speaking skills. It uses speech-recognition technology to give automatic feedback on students’ spoken English. The app plays audio clips of native speakers asking questions, and users are given a list of possible responses to speak into the microphone.
Recently, Mondly has introduced a VR immersion tool for its premium users, to be able to “meet” virtual speakers in your own house! There is also a chatbot, which is a fun feature: you can send messages to a robot English speaker who has all the time in the world to text you back.
When to use it
For intermediate English speakers, the conversations on Mondly might be too simple. If you are a beginner, however, it’s a great tool for getting over the fear of talking aloud in English! In April 2020, C-net judged it “best for helping to remember specific phrases.”
Some users have complained that grammar explanations are not clear, so it will probably be necessary to use other learning materials too.
Busuu has a free version, but many more features are available to paying members. If billed monthly, Busuu Premium costs $9.99 and Premium Plus $13.99. For three months, Busuu Premium costs $24.99 and Premium Plus costs $28.98. For six months, Busuu Premium costs $34.92 and Premium plus costs $39.96.
The free version of Busuu is a flashcard app with recorded dialogue. There’s a speech recognition tool for you to practice saying the English phrases back. Lessons are designed to last ten minutes at a time.
Premium members get a lot more benefits. There are advanced grammar lessons and content is tailored to your own reasons for learning English. You can make your own study plan, and choose when the app should remind you to study. There’s also a forum for finding language exchange partners. You can chat with people learning your native language who speak English, and swap tips.
When to use it
Like Mondly, Busuu is great for getting comfortable with speaking basic English sentences out loud. Since premium users can choose what they learn (to an extent) it’s a great app for learning a few pieces of relevant vocabulary on the go. However, as with all apps, it will not be sufficient to use Busuu alone if you want to get fluent.
Fluentu starts all users off with a 14-day free trial. After that, a basic plan costs $15 per month, or a premium plan $30 for one month. If you buy a yearly subscription, this costs $120 and $240 respectively.
Fluentu has been called “YouTube for language learners.” It is a bank of videos in English with English subtitles (along with many other different languages), with the option to turn on extra subtitles in your own language. If you don’t understand an English word, you can hover over it and a definition will appear. You can rewind or rewatch videos as many times as you need. There are a wide range of videos to choose from, and you can search them by category, topic or even the word you want to learn.
After watching the video, there is a quiz to check how much you understood, which comes with its own video snippets. New words you learn are automatically input into a flashcard feature, so that you can remember them again later.
Unfortunately, Fluentu’s English course is only currently available to native speakers of Spanish, Korean or Japanese.
When to use it
Fluentu can be very helpful for intermediate to upper-intermediate English learners who need to develop their vocabulary. Some people find that it really works for their learning style, so it’s definitely worth a try.
It is on the expensive side, however. The standard YouTube player can already slow the speed of a video and provide subtitles. We also have plenty of tips for learning English with tv series and films. If you have a limited budget, it’s probably better to invest in skills that are more difficult to learn for free, such as speaking practice.
10. Hello English
The free version has very useful lessons, but the adverts can be disruptive. There are three tiers of membership. The basic plan costs ₹1,550 (about $21) for three months, the certified plan costs ₹2,200 ($30) for three months and comes with the potential to work towards an accredited certificate, and the experiential plan costs ₹ 12,000 9about ($160) for three months and comes with the certificate and live video chat lessons and a dedicated personal coach.
Hello English aims to cover all of the main language learning skills including listening, writing, reading, grammar, and even speaking. Like Duolingo, the app is good at persuading you to work on your English a little each day. You are assigned daily “homework” — video and audio lessons to complete which are relevant to your level. If you complete your homework, you can unlock new lessons. There are also a number of addictive learning games, and a feature to practice English using subjects of the day’s news.
Unlike most other apps, there are several opportunities to connect with English speakers. There is a 24-hour helpline which allows you to ask any questions you have about learning English. You can also pay a one-time fee of anywhere between $1 and $140 to video chat with an English tutor. There are also user forums to connect with other learners and practice messaging in English.
With Hello English, you can learn English from twenty-five different native languages. It is most popular with students in Asian countries, particularly India, where the company is based.
When to use it
Hello English is a good app for practicing all of your language skills, and is well worth downloading if it is available in your native language. You might need clearer explanations of grammar rules, so it could be worth finding another resource for that. Hello English’s video chat lessons can quickly become expensive, so you might need to consider other options for that too.
The free version is very good and works for most people. Beyond that, it gets a little complicated. You can buy individual stories for a price of about $1, you can subscribe for $1.99 per month to unlock all stories, or you can buy a lifetime subscription to view all stories for $24.99.
It is worth mentioning that Beelinguapp is only available in twelve languages at the moment: Spanish, German, Portuguese, Korean, French, Hindi, Russian, Turkish, Chinese, Arabic, Italian, Japanese, and English.
Beelinguapp is a collection of free stories that you can read in English, with translations in your native language shown at the same time. As we discussed in our article on how to memorize new words, reading is one of the best ways to gain English vocabulary! All texts come with an audio feature, so you can hear the English words said allowed. You can also use it as an audiobook app, without reading along to the story.
When to use it
Beelinguapp is a fast-growing new learning app which is great for English learners of all stages to work on their listening and reading skills. It won’t help you with writing or speaking practice, but it’s a useful, free tool to have in your collection.
Hundreds of courses are offered and prices vary. Expect to pay between $20 and $200 for a well-reviewed course, depending on how many resources are included.
Udemy is a vast catalog of online courses designed for users to pick up new skills. It’s not just for learning languages: you can learn everything from HTML coding, to photography, to how to talk to ghosts. There are many different English courses, and each comes with its own unique focus and strengths. They are mostly made up of pre-recorded video lessons and accompanying exercises, which can be downloaded and used on a phone or a computer. Courses are reviewed, so you can see which ones were most helpful to other users.
When to use it
If you know what aspect of the English language you want to work on, then Udemy can help you focus on them. There are specific courses for perfecting your grammar, others for learning business vocabulary, and others still for practicing your spelling and punctuation. However, without a teacher to guide you through the courses, you may not realize where you are going wrong. It’s a great resource when used alongside more speaking practice.
A basic version is free and most users find that enough. Grammarly Premium costs $29.95 for one month, $59.95 for three months or $139.95 for a year.
If you are an intermediate to advanced ESL learner, then you might be at a point where you are using your phone to write in English a lot. Perhaps you are messaging your friends, tweeting, or writing work emails in English. Grammarly is a tool which automatically corrects your spelling and grammar mistakes, no matter what application you are using. The tool uses AI so it doesn’t always get it right, but it can help prevent embarrassing errors.
Want to brush up on your grammar skills? Check out What is the past simple tense in English?
When to use it
This is a tool for students who have been studying English long enough to be using it in casual conversation. Even some native English speakers use Grammarly just to double-check their spellings. It won’t help with listening, speaking or reading skills, but it might highlight the grammar mistakes you make often.
Tandem is free to download, and most users find this version meets their needs fine. There are, however, a number of upgrades available. If you are struggling to read messages, you can get unlimited message translations for $2.99. Tandem Pro costs $6.99 for one month, $21.99 for six months or $34.99 for a year. You can also book video lessons with private tutors through tandem at various prices.
Tandem is a language exchange app — in 2020, it’s probably the most popular one in the Western world. The concept is simple: it connects ESL learners with fluent English speakers who are trying to learn that ESL learner’s native language. The idea is that you and your English-speaking partner swap language skills. You spend half the time messaging in your native language and half the time messaging in English, so that both parties can get some practice for free. You can text, send voice messages, or even video chat (if you trust your new friend!)
Tandem Pro allows users to connect with members in a specific city or their hometown, so they can meet in person, and removes adverts from the platform. However, the main benefit of Tandem Pro is in supporting this useful, free learning tool.
Tandem has also recently introduced a feature to connect with a language tutor through the app for sessions between twenty minutes and one hour long.
When to use it
Tandem gives you practice at interacting with fluent English speakers. You can test your language skills with real people without leaving your house, or spending money! It is highly recommended for intermediate-level students to cement all that they have learned. Language exchanges through Tandem can be hard to organize at first, but they are definitely worth it.
Finding your language exchange inefficient, but keen to practice engaging with a fluent English speaker? Book an hour with a Preply English tutor to focus on exactly the skills you need.
Interested in learning more about language exchange apps? Check out our article on the 10 Best language exchange apps & websites of 2020.
Free — it is paid for by the many adverts in the app.
This popular app is solely dedicated to teaching English grammar. Users can work from Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced level topics, with each stage containing 12 grammar topics. There are over 1000 example questions to help you practice, so it is well worth your time investment.
Although it is from the British Council, there is also a US version.
Where it fits in your plan to learn English
This app makes no claim to teach you anything else except English grammar. You’ll need other resources to learn the many other necessary skills, but as a free course on the very confusing structure of English, it is worth using.
How to learn English with apps
English learning apps have a reputation for being ineffective. We have all met someone who plays language games daily for months, but can still barely speak a word! There are ways to avoid this trap.
Successful students create a study plan which helps them practice all the English language skills they need. Apps can certainly be a part of this. Here’s how…
Combine apps (and other methods, if possible!)
There isn’t one app (yet) that teaches all language skills perfectly. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and you may want to combine them when trying to learn a new language. Try to balance your time between apps that develop different skills. Memrise, for example, is great at helping you learn new vocabulary quickly, but won’t help you to connect those words into sentences. For that, you might need an app which focuses on developing your grammar skills like The British Council Learn English Grammar App, or one that shows words in their contexts, like Fluentu. Many apps send students reminders to use them every day “in order to see progress.” If these notifications are distracting you from your multi-app study plan, turn them off!
Apps are most effective when combined with other methods of learning. If you can afford to, mix up your app-based learning with language classes, either online with a service like Preply, or in a traditional classroom setting.
Focus on the areas you struggle most
There are so many apps to choose from, each with its own benefits. Don’t overwhelm yourself by splitting your study time between all of them. Pick one or two English skills you struggle with, and download apps designed to develop those. For instance, if you really need some speaking practice, try using Busuu or Mondly; if you are looking for help writing English in a texting context, try Tandem and Grammarly.
The golden rule: prioritize speaking practice
As a general rule, many English learning apps can push your vocabulary, reading and spelling skills to new heights pretty easily. Some of them are even helpful for developing your understanding of grammar. But without a decent amount of practice in conversation with an English speaker, you risk never learning to draw new skills together.
If you want to learn to speak English, there’s no substitute for practicing talking to a fluent English speaker. Luckily, the Preply app makes finding practice opportunities easier than ever before.
With even a few hours of speaking practice with a tutor per week, you’ll be amazed at how much faster you progress. Try searching Preply for a tutor who matches your needs, and you could be taking your first lesson this afternoon!