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Published: Mar 17, 2022 21 min read
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Best for Learning on the Go
Best Comprehensive SoftwareBest Free Course SoftwareBest for Intermediate LearnersBest for Training Vocabulary
PimsleurRosetta StoneDuolingoBabbelLingvist Language Learning Software
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Pimsleur Premium: $19.95/mo Pimsleur All-Access: $20.95/mo

$35.97/3 mos, $95.88/yr, $179 for Lifetime Sub

Duolingo Base: Free Duolingo Plus: $12.99/mo, $79.99/yr

$12.95/mo, $26.85/ 3mos, $44.70/6 mos, $83.40/yr

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37

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5

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TruACCENT® speech engine compares user pronunciation to millions of examples from native speakers

Courses for hard-to-find and constructed languages

Efficacy verified by studies led by researchers at Yale, MSU, CUNY, and USC

Uses neural networks to assess users’ existing vocabulary

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$35.97/3 mos, $95.88/yr, $179 for Lifetime Sub

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TruACCENT® speech engine compares user pronunciation to millions of examples from native speakers

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Duolingo
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Duolingo Base: Free Duolingo Plus: $12.99/mo, $79.99/yr

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37

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Courses for hard-to-find and constructed languages

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Babbel
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$12.95/mo, $26.85/ 3mos, $44.70/6 mos, $83.40/yr

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14 days

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First lesson of every course is free

# of Available Languages

12

Highlights

Efficacy verified by studies led by researchers at Yale, MSU, CUNY, and USC

Best for Training Vocabulary
Lingvist Language Learning Software
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Lingvist Base: Free Lingvist Premium: $9.99/mo, $79.99/yr Family Plan: $119.99/yr

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Uses neural networks to assess users’ existing vocabulary

What’s the best way to learn a new language? Many students around the world would say it’s language learning software, which has experienced a great surge in popularity thanks to the many apps available on our phones today. Each program has its own focus and teaching philosophy, and the best one for you will depend on your motivations and learning goals.

Read on to learn about the different types of language learning software, how they work, and how to choose one.

Our Top Picks for Best Language Learning Software for 2022

  • Duolingo – Best Free Course Software
  • Rosetta Stone – Best Comprehensive Language Learning Software
  • Babbel – Best for Intermediate Learners
  • iTalki – Best for Tutoring
  • Pimsleur – Best for Learning on the Go
  • Sign It! ASL – Best for American Sign Language
  • Lingoda – Best for Group Lessons
  • Lingvist – Best for Training Vocabulary
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The Best Language Learning Software of 2020: Company Reviews

Pros
  • Gamified approach and rankings help keep users on track
  • Lets you test out of lessons you already master
  • Family plan includes up to 6 members
Cons
  • Course quality varies from one language to another
  • Gamified aspects and ads can be stressful
  • Poor conversational practice

Why We Chose It: We chose Duolingo as the best free language learning software because of the depth of its courses and large selection of languages.

Duolingo is one of the most downloaded apps in the Apple and Google stores, with more than 300 million users learning over 37 languages. The software is heavily gamified, with experience points, leaderboards, and other features designed to keep users engaged. The idea is for users to keep a streak going and come back every day to keep their language skills sharp — and their numbers high.

Duolingo’s courses are built as “trees,” where users must clear a certain number of levels in each section before advancing. Some courses remain at the introductory level, whereas others include complex vocabulary and grammatical content. The app also allows users to test out of individual levels or entire sections if they already master the content in them.

Duolingo is also unique in that it offers courses for languages seldom seen elsewhere, such as Hawaiian, Welch, and Navajo. It also supports courses for constructed languages, which currently include Esperanto, Klingon, and High Valyrian.

Pros
  • Learning methodology backed by over two decades of experience
  • Personalized learning plan based on your motivation
  • Real-time pronunciation feedback
Cons
  • Lack of translation exercises may put off beginners
  • Minimum 3-month subscription
  • No placement test

Why We Chose It: We chose Rosetta Stone as the best comprehensive language learning software because of its all-inclusive package and immersive approach.

First released in 1993 as a CD-based program, Rosetta Stone is one of the most well-known language learning programs today. The software is often held as the gold standard of the industry due to a combination of its popularity, long history, and teaching methodology. Listening, reading, writing, speaking — Rosetta combines all the basic elements of language learning into a cohesive, holistic program.

Rosetta Stone also excels at creating an immersive language learning environment. Its courses avoid translation exercises, resorting instead to teaching words and grammar through the use of images, text, and sound alone reinforced with spaced repetition. Moreover, the accuracy and high degree of customizability of its patented speech recognition technology helps students learn how to speak like actual natives.

Pros
  • Build courses based on your learning interests
  • Lessons based in real-world conversations
  • Competitive subscription prices
Cons
  • Less popular languages have noticeably less content
  • Somewhat repetitive lessons

Why We Chose It: We chose Babbel as the best language learning software for intermediate learners because of its wide range of learning topics and extensive grammar lessons.

Babbel is an affordable and well-rounded choice for beginners and intermediate learners alike. The software stands out for the latter group due to its combination of in-depth grammar lessons and personalized courses. New users can skip past the content they have already mastered and craft courses that are tailored to their individual learning goals.

Babbel’s grammar drills are a combination of explanatory and interactive content that detail how specific parts of the language work while asking you to fill in the gaps of the explanation. The grammar lessons ask you to do a wide variety of things, such as conjugating verbs, identifying word types, and forming sentences in specific ways. Grammar tips also pop up during regular lessons, which is a good way of subtly integrating what users learned into other parts of the course.

Pros
  • Specialized tutors for business, exam preparation, conversation practice, more
  • Tutors available for a wide variety of language pairings
  • Free language assessment
Cons
  • Courses have to be booked at least a day in advance
  • Commission fee of 15% on standard lessons
  • Restrictive cancellation policy

Why We Chose It: We chose iTalki as the best language learning software for tutoring because it provides the best online environment and platform functionality for 1-on-1 language sessions.

iTalki started as a language exchange community where users could practice their skills by chatting with learning partners who were target language native speakers. Now, the platform doubles as a teacher marketplace, where users can also contact tutors to book personalized sessions. Users can find 1-on-1 lessons for over 150 languages and study at their preferred pace without worrying about rigid schedules or fixed fees.

Teachers in iTalki set their own rates and prices for sessions, for just about any language one could think of. The software functions with an in-app wallet to which users add credits. These can then be spent on individual lessons and tutoring sessions, which average $10 but can go as low as $5 or as high as $20 depending on the language combination and the popularity of the tutor.

Pros
  • Effective rote-memorization technique
  • Extensive list of available languages
  • Available in over 50 languages
Cons
  • Limited amount of vocabulary in its lessons
  • Expensive relative to the competition
  • Limited reading and writing practice

Why We Chose It: We chose Pimsleur as the best language learning software for learning on the go because of its podcast-like lessons and conversational approach.

Pimsleur excels as a software for individuals who don’t necessarily have the time to sit down and study a language for hours at a time. Named after its creator, the linguist Paul Pimsleur, the software features a suite of audio-based language courses for over 50 languages. Its courses also include a variety of learning tools — reading exercises, vocabulary drills, conversational practice, cultural lessons — to provide a well-rounded learning experience.

The core of Pimsleur’s learning program is its 30-minute audio lessons. These were designed with a conversational methodology to promote active learning and are short enough that users may learn on the road, while on the subway, and during work breaks. All of Pimsleur’s audio lessons are downloadable for offline practice, compatible with Alexa products, and featured in the app’s driving mode.

Pros
  • Lessons taught by numerous well-known ASL experts
  • Quizzes and exams with grade tracking
  • Provides certificates of completion
  • Extensive ASL dictionary
Cons
  • No mobile app

Why We Chose It: We chose Sign It! ASL as the best language learning software for American Sign Language because of its affordability, excellent content, and engaging format.

Sign It! ASL is a series of 20 courses — with 30 more being funded — written by Curt Radford, professor of Deaf Studies at Utah State University, and taught by twelve well-known ASL educators and entertainers. The curriculum is designed to teach over 1,200 vocabulary words, fingerspelling, ASL sentence structure, classifiers, and non-manual markers, as well as introduce users to deaf culture. Lessons include practice exercises, quizzes, a video dictionary, and interviews with famous deaf adults presented through a sketch format, often comedic in nature.

Sign It! also stands out for being a single purchase product, meaning once you buy its courses, you own the content forever. Users can learn at their own pace and revisit old content whenever they want. Moreover, families in the US who have a child 36 months or younger who has any type of hearing loss can request free access to the full course, and group packages are available for other families, classrooms and schools.

Pros
  • Digital materials included with your course package
  • Language classes for small groups and 1-on-1
  • Classes available 24/7
Cons
  • Cannot always choose your teacher
  • Only four languages available

Why We Chose It: We chose Lingoda as the best language learning software for group lessons because of its experienced and highly qualified teachers and the limited number of students per class.

Lingoda is an excellent alternative if you’re looking to recreate a group classroom experience online. Though not a language learning app, the platform provides an environment for small groups of no more than five students to hone their language skills with native-speaking teachers.

The platform’s curriculums are based on 20 years of research by Cambridge and Oxford experts. Classes take place on Zoom and are bought as packages after new students take a placement test.

Lingoda’s curriculum follows the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which means students will be able to identify their exact level of language proficiency. Users can expect to find classes for all levels of proficiency, from A1 (beginner) to C2 (native fluency). Lessons are 60-minutes long and focus on real-life examples and topics that serve as the framework for new words and grammar.

Pros
  • Automatically adjusts to user language level as they progress
  • Learn from general and themed decks, or make your own
  • Upload news articles and text files to generate decks
  • Teaches words in everyday context
Cons
  • Flashcard system does not accept synonyms
  • Not well-suited for complete beginners
  • Grammar section is uninteractive

Why We Chose It: We chose Lingvist as the best language learning software for learning vocabulary because it provides the best toolset for learning and retaining new words fast and at a reasonable price.

Lingvist is an award-winning, “smart” flash card-based software that uses a variety of algorithms to improve the process of learning new terminology. Though users can choose and create decks themselves, the software can spontaneously adjust the vocabulary it shows you based on your current language level. It can also expand on pre-existing decks by identifying and adding semantically related words.

An interesting feature that sets Lingvist aside from other vocabulary trainers is the number of ways users can view and track their progress. The app’s “Insights” tab includes a word list, a calendar, a knowledge center with information on your word acquisition, and a detailed history of your training in the last four weeks. It also features a vocabulary analysis tool that shows a visual example of the percentage of words you’d be able to understand from any given text.

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Other Companies We Considered

Memrise

Pros
  • Multitude of official and user language courses available
  • Translate object names with the camera explore function
  • Short videos from native speakers
Cons
  • User course content varies considerably
  • Highly repetitive practice lessons
  • Crowded mobile interface

Memrise is a solid alternative for a vocabulary training app thanks to its abundance of courses. However, the quality of its user courses naturally varies due to their high volume. Moreover, many of its features lie behind a paywall, which leaves free users with highly repetitive practice exercises.

Drops

Pros
  • Appealing, minimalist design is excellent for visual learners
  • Word banks for a large variety of topics
  • Over 40 language to choose from
Cons
  • Free version can only be used for 5 minutes every 10 hours
  • Focuses solely on vocabulary with little added context
  • Paid version lacks added features

Drops is a fun and engaging vocabulary training app thanks largely in part to its design, which draws the eye and makes for easier word-to-image association. However, the app severely limits free users, and its paid version doesn’t offer much in addition to its basic functionality. There is also no grammar or conversational context for all the words you’ll be learning on the app.

Busuu

Pros
  • Social features allow learners to get help from native speakers
  • Coursework follows CEFR levels A1 to B2
  • Consistent grammar review tool
Cons
  • Corrections from native speakers not always moderated for quality
  • No official certifications provided for CEFR levels
  • Very limited free version of the app

Busuu has several remarkable features, including its personalized study plans and social network of language learners. Unfortunately, its most interesting features are locked behind the highest subscription tier. Busuu is an otherwise solid language learning software, nonetheless.

Yabla

Pros
  • Growing video library with TV shows, music videos, interviews, and documentaries
  • Various games and activities to complement video learning
  • Flashcard reviews with vocabulary from videos
Cons
  • Somewhat expensive compared to more "complete" software
  • Inconsistent audio quality in some lessons
  • Lack of course structure in the software

Yabla is a unique and fun tool for intermediate and advanced learners who have already mastered basic grammar and vocabulary drills and want to hone their listening skills. The program consists of a large video gallery from which users can pick out videos and get tested on their content thereafter. It’s a unique language learning experience, albeit one that is inconsistent in its quality and lacks a defined structure for users to follow.

Lirica

Pros
  • Lessons based on key vocabulary and grammar from hit songs
  • Listening and translation games played to the pace of songs
Cons
  • Only Spanish, English, and German courses available

Lirica is by far one of the most interesting approaches to language learning we have seen, testing users with rapid-fire exercises based on memorable hit songs. The entire app is designed with music in mind, down to users’ ranking (e.g., “Shower Singer”), followers being called “fans,” and achievements called microphones and “Grammar-ys.” Hopefully Lirica will continue to add courses to its offering, as it currently only features Spanish and German for English speakers.

Best Language Learning Software Guide

Language learning software has traditionally been used as a supplement to conventional language learning methods. However, these programs have become more and more comprehensive as of late, to the point where they may replace traditional beginner and intermediate language courses altogether. Language learning software can minimize the impact of learning a language on both your schedule and your wallet.

What is language learning software?

Language learning software are programs designed to teach users the various elements of a given language, such as grammar, vocabulary, and practical phrases.

They are available in physical format as CDs and, more commonly, as software applications for your phone and computer. Programs can be comprehensive and cover most key areas — reading, writing, speaking, and listening — or focus on specific aspects of language learning, like vocabulary or improving conversational proficiency.

How does language learning software work?

Language learning software may feature a large selection of languages to choose from or specialize in as little as three, two, or even one language. They generally provide a framework that allows the widest range of users to reach certain levels of proficiency in their language of choice. They do this via one or more of the following:

  • Vocabulary drills using a spaced repetition system to ensure word retention
  • Grammar lessons, preferably with exercises to show it in practice
  • Cultural bits to integrate language into its real-world context
  • Speaking exercises to improve fluency and pronunciation
  • Video content to improve listening skills
  • Quizzes or tests to evaluate users’ progress

Most programs are self-paced: they provide the tools, and users themselves must choose when and how to use them. Some allow users to skip past content they already know and adjust their lessons or practice based on their learning goals. Unlike traditional teacher/student instruction or book study, this requires greater commitment on the part of the language student.

Types of language learning software

When people think of language learning software, chances are they think of programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, which employ a holistic approach. There are many types of language learning software that exist to cater to different learning styles and goals, though.

  • Online courses

Online course software consists of lessons on various topics and language elements that users must complete to continue down a path. Said path may be linear or branch out, and may allow users to test out of individual lessons. This type of software is best for beginners and intermediate learners, as it aims to provide a well-rounded experience that can stand on its own, but generally does not stray into advanced language topics.

Examples: Rosetta Stone, Babbel, Duolingo, Pimsleur,

  • Vocabulary Training Apps

Also called flashcard apps — indeed, some incorporate literal flashcards — vocabulary training apps are focused on teaching users new words and helping them retain ones they are already familiar with. Good flashcard apps will incorporate spaced repetition systems, which is a fancy way of saying they’ll know when to show you words you recently learned and already know before you forget them. Vocabulary training apps may also feature grammar tips or lessons and phrases to put words in context.

Examples: Memrise, Lingvist, Drops, Lingle, DuoCards

  • Language exchanges

Language exchange apps pair native speakers of two different languages who want to learn their learning partner’s mother tongue. For example, say you are an English speaker who wants to learn French: the app will pair you with French speakers who want to learn English. In some cases, this may simply consist of creating a space for two or more people to converse and share content.

Examples: HelloTalk, Tandem, HiNative, Idyoma

  • Tutoring platforms

Tutoring and private classrooms are different from most other types of language learning software because they are not self-taught. Users need to schedule sessions with teachers on these platforms to participate in 1-on-1 or group lessons. For students who are struggling with self-taught lessons, tutoring platforms allow them to seek out instructors who can help them develop the specific language skills they are lacking.

Examples: iTalki, Langu, Chatterbug, Verbling

  • Other software

Some language learning software is hard to classify because its learning methodology is so unique. There are apps that only teach via video or music, for example. These apps may better suit users who are predisposed to learning a certain way.

Examples: Yabla, Lirica, LingQ, LingoPie

How to choose a language learning software

Before choosing a language learning software, it’s important to establish your motivations for learning. How much you need to learn will depend on whether you want to learn the language because you are going on vacation, are being transferred for work, or hoping to open business channels with a foreign entity.

Once that’s been established, consider the following:

  1. Your goals. Are you looking for a basic introduction to the language, or do you need something more lengthy and comprehensive?
  2. The investment. How much time and money are you willing to spend on learning a new language?
  3. The setting. Are you okay with self-teaching or would you prefer a classroom setting (alone or in a group)?
  4. The methodology. Do you consider yourself more of a visual learner? Do you need higher quality audio content as a result of constantly being on the move?

No one language learning software is the perfect fit for everyone. Remember that while a type of software may focus on one area, such as conversational skills, another may spend more time in others, like reading comprehension and writing.

Nonetheless, make sure that whichever software you choose has a good track record of customer service, a user-friendly interface, and, preferably, a free trial that you can try out before committing to the program.

Language Learning Software FAQ
How long does it take to learn a language?
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How long it takes to learn a new, foreign language depends on three factors: your language learning goals, your native language, and your studying habits. As a rule of thumb, you should not expect to have a basic level of fluency in any language in less than three months. Attaining a native speaker-level of fluency can take many years.
What is the best language learning app?
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The best language learning app must, above all, be practical to use on a handheld device. The app's interface should be easy to navigate and its lessons should be shorter to accommodate the format. Like any good language software, it should also provide explanations or context for whatever it is you are learning, be it common phrases, grammar, or vocabulary.
Why is learning a second language beneficial?
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Learning a second language has been shown to improve a wide array of cognitive functions, including your long- and short-term memory, problem-solving skills, creativity, and attention span. Learning a second language can also enhance your career by making you more competitive in the job market as the demand for bilingual professionals continues to rise. Lastly, a second language opens the doors to new parts of the world and entirely new cultures.
What is the best language learning program?
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The best language learning program depends on your individual learning style and needs. There is no "one-size-fits-all" software, although comprehensive programs will at least cover all the basic areas of language learning. We recommend choosing from one of our top 8 language learning software of 2022.

How We Evaluated the Best Language Learning Software

Finding the right language learning software is hard because their increasing popularity has crowded Apple and Google’s online stores with numerous programs. We picked out 25 language learning software and focused on three elements to identify which ones stood out the most: cost, educational model, and customer experience.

  • Cost - Most language learning software is either subscription-based or purchased via a single payment. The former may be available for monthly, multi-monthly, and yearly plans. When looking at subscription-based programs, we considered both price, their selection of rates, and the amount of content included for their subscription price.
  • Educational model - Every language learning software teaches students how to speak a new language in its own way. However, there are similarities when it comes to the quality of each program’s content. We only compared similar software and looked for essential elements based on the type of program in order to keep comparisons fair. For example, we made sure that all-inclusive software incorporated a combination of reading, writing, listening, and speaking exercises.
  • Customer experience - Customer experience consisted of two main criteria: ease of use and customer support. Many modern language learning software feature engaging interfaces, but not all of them are as easy to navigate as they appear. We also considered each company’s money-back guarantees and the length of their free trial, if they had one.

Summary of Money’s Best Language Learning Software Reviews

  • Duolingo – Best Free Course Software
  • Rosetta Stone – Best Comprehensive Language Learning Software
  • Babbel – Best for Intermediate Learners
  • iTalki – Best for Tutoring
  • Pimsleur – Best for Learning on the Go
  • Sign It! ASL – Best for American Sign Language
  • Lingoda – Best for Group Lessons
  • Lingvist – Best for Training Vocabulary