Want to impress this summer holiday and feel truly connected to the locals in a foreign country? Here’s how to learn a new language with apps...

There’s no doubt that having access to the internet at your fingertips, at anytime, anywhere, opens up a world of new possibilities in discovery and learning. One task that’s been made infinitely easier as a result is learning a new language – where apps can help you learn at your own pace, and in convenient chunks.

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But just how easy is it to pick up a whole new vocabulary on the go? With summer holidays just around the corner, we’ve been speaking to language app experts, Babbel, to find out…

Why mobile matters

A decade or two ago, learning a new language meant either attending a course, sticking your head in a pile of books, or sitting in front of a PC at the end of hard day’s work. And while that’s still all possible, being able to learn a language on your smartphone means you can do it when and wherever you want.

“Babbel’s goal is to make learning a language possible for everyone,” said Babbel’s Megan Toon. “So we build courses that fit into everyone’s schedule. Bite-size lessons on mobile mean people can learn anywhere, anytime.”

As ever, the proof is in the pudding (or le dessert, if you will): out of Babbel’s more than one million active paying subscribers, 70% are solely using mobile – including iOS, Android, and mobile web – to learn a new language.

It means there’s now no need to wait until the end of your shift, commute, or kids’ bedtime routine to learn a foreign lingo; you can fit it right into your day. Phew!

“According to a recent user survey of British Babbel users,” Megan adds, “over 80% of mobile users learn at home. The next highest percentage of users – 10% – learn during travel time or on transportation. We also see that around 40% of users learn in the evening, 30% in the morning, and 20% in the afternoon.”

Never too late

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? When it comes to language apps you might be inclined to think that the biggest users are predominantly younger users, but you’d be mistaken.

Whilst Megan does admit that younger learners have apps like Babbel “at front of mind,” she also reveals that in a recent user survey, the results showed that “over half of our British users are over 55 – which is quite remarkable for a digital product.”

It just goes to show it’s never too late to pick up a new skill. What’s more, if you’re worried that your summer holiday is coming up too fast to get to grips with something new, then there’s solace to be had in the way that apps help us learn. According to Babbel, having these kinds of language tools right on your smartphone actually encourages us to learn more frequently – resulting in speedier learning.

Don’t believe us? Megan says that 73% of users felt able to have a conversation within five hours of using the app. Fantastico!

Alternative apps

Babbel is available on both iOS and Android – with a subscription required – but what other options are out there? Here are just a few quick and easy ways to avoid any awkward miscommunication situations this summer:

Google Translate | iOS, Android, FREE
Provides type to translate, a camera mode that translates menus and signage in real time, and speech-to-speech translation.

Microsoft Translator | iOS, Android, FREE
Offers a real-time conversation mode, type to translate, and speech translation among many other features…

WayGo | iOS, Android, FREE
Instantly translates Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters using the camera on your smartphone.

But remember: nothing beats being able to have a fluid conversation with somebody in another language. Thankfully, however you plan to learn a new language, your smartphone will be there to talk you through it – literally. Viel Glück!

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