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COMPARISON OF LANGUAGE LEARNING APPS


We may be biased but we really tried to give a useful comparison of the leading language learning apps out there.



QUANTITY OF COURSE CONTENT

APP LanguageCourse.net
Vocabulary Trainer
Babbel Busuu Duolingo
NUMBER OF WORDS
   - Free >9.500 approx. 300 approx. 400 3.000
   - PAID - 1700-2700 2600 -
NUMBER OF PHRASES
   - Free 450 0 ? ?
   - PAID - - - -
SPECIAL CONTENT COURSES Yes
  • Travel phrasebook (~450)
  • Travel vocabulary (~400)
  • Slang vocabulary (~200)
  • Dating phrases (~40)
  • Business (~300)
  • Vocabulary for medical professions (~300)
  • Vocabulary for tourism (~300)
  • Survival syllabus (~120)
  • TOEFL (~700)
  • IELTS (~500)
  • TOEIC (~500)
No
Just some general topics such as numbers, animals, food etc.
Yes
  • Vocabulary for Kids (150 words – 7,99€)
  • Travel Course (400 words - from 3,49€)
No
LANGUAGES TO LEARN 34
Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
13
Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
11
Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish
10
Irish, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish

FUNCTIONS

APP LanguageCourse.net
Vocabulary Trainer
Babbel Busuu Duolingo
AUDIO BY NATIVE SPEAKER Yes Yes Yes Yes
IMAGE OF WORD Yes Yes Yes Some
Some
ARTICLES OF NOUNS Yes Yes Yes Yes
TEACHER ADMIN PANEL Yes
Facilitates vocabulary learning at school. More
No No Yes
OPTION TO CHOOSE LEARNING MODE Yes No
Fixed type and number of learning modes
No
Fixed type and number of learning modes
No
Fixed type and number of learning modes
ADJUSTABLE FREQUENCY OF REPETITION Yes No No No
SPACED REPETITIONS Yes
Progressive intervals
Yes
Progressive intervals
no info about repetitions
No info about repetition
no info about repetitions
No info about repetition
LISTEN-ONLY MODE Yes No No No
CREATE PERSONALIZED WORD LISTS Yes No No No
AUDIO AND IMAGES FOR OWN WORDS Yes No No No
SYNCHRONIZATION WITH WEB AND OTHER DEVICES Yes Yes Yes Yes
OFFLINE MODE Yes Yes Yes Yes
LEARNING MODES
  • Superlearning
  • Multiple Choice
  • Writing
  • Dictation
  • Fast: Yes/No
  • Word puzzle
  • First letter multiple choice
  • Image multiple choice
  • Pronounce word
  • Image multiple choice
  • First letter multiple choice
  • Letter order
  • Cloze test
  • Listen & multiple choice
  • Revision
  • Word puzzle
  • Word matching
  • Multiple Choice
  • Dialogues
  • Writing texts
  • Translate with word puzzle
  • Transcribe audio in foreign language
  • Transcribe audio in native language
  • Pronounce word
  • Translate foreign language to native language
  • Multiple Choice
SPEED OF PROGRESS/WORDS PER LESSON About 11 seconds per word
28 words per 5 minute lesson
(* can be personalized)
About 18 seconds per word
10 words per 3 minute lesson
About 21 seconds per word
14 words per 5 minute lesson
About 37 seconds per word
5 minutes per 8 words
DIFFERENT LANGUAGE LEVELS 5
Beginner (A1)-Advanced (C1)
1
No different levels in app
2
Beginner; Intermediate
4
You have to pass an exam before accessing higher levels
OTHER FEATURES
  • Option of words ordered by real frequency
  • Memo images for articles
  • Optional background music (superlearning)
  • High score lists
  • Coaching tips for better language learning
  • Lots of customization options (speed, number of repetitions, learning mode, language direction)
  • Learning plan
  • Add own vocabulary
  • Overview of all learned words
  • Log of daily and cumulative learning time
  • Speech recognition (inconsistent in our test)
  • Mobile app has vocabulary only, but web version also has some basic grammar
  • You revise written text exercises by other learners and in exchange they revise your text exercises
  • Learning plan
  • Speech recognition (inconsistent in our test)
  • Several grammar exercises at higher levels
LANGUAGES OF USER INTERFACE 34
Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
13
Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
11
Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish
10
Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish
MOBILE OPERATING SYSTEMS
  • AndroidAndroid
  • iOSiOS
  • Windows PhoneWindows Phone
  • WindowsWindows
  • AndroidAndroid
  • iOSiOS
  • AndroidAndroid
  • iOSiOS
COMMENTS
  • Phrases were well adapted to vocabulary of lesson.
  • Drills were faster than most other apps since not so much writing was necessary.
  • Option to choose vocabulary by topics.
  • Interesting feature of speech recognition, but a bit slow. It got stuck occasionally with words that would not be recognized at all.
  • Good motivational elements.
  • For advanced learners interesting option to have texts translated by other students. Quality of corrections depends on the motivation of other learners and are not always explained. You have to spend time as well to correct texts written by others.
  • Nice design and well structured.
  • Numerous grammar drills.
  • Requires more typing exercises than the other apps (to bear in mind if you dislike typing on the phone).
  • Business model is based on learners doing crowd sourced translations.
  • Typing requires more time than other response modes and slower progress.
  • Android app missing integrated keyboard for special characters in a language. May require installation of a keyboard in new language version.
  • Rigid order of lessons and time consuming tests to start at higher levels.

CONCLUSION

All these apps are using different approaches to teaching language as indicated in the section of learning modes. The core part of basically all apps is the vocabulary learning part. Some apps also add dialogues, writing exercises, or basic grammar drills.

Apps can be excellent tools for building your vocabulary and it is in vocabulary learning where technology-based learning has the highest benefits compared to traditional learning methods and can be superior to traditional techniques.

If you are already at a more advanced level with a solid vocabulary base and your objective is to learn to speak a foreign language fluently, other learning methods must also be used, such as immersing yourself in the language by reading, watching movies and attending a language course, ideally in a country where the language is spoken, to be forced to actively articulate yourself in interactions with native speakers.

Within the apps, learning is generally based on an iterative series of 5-6 different learning drills per word, which may be useful to memorize words for absolute beginners. However, with some former knowledge we found it a bit tedious to have to go through a rigid order of numerous drills for each word again and again without the option to reduce the number of quizzes and progress faster. Here the flash card system approach of the Vocabulary Trainer with its numerous customization options allows for faster progress and words you know well automatically appear less frequently due to the spaced repetition methodology.

In most cases the apps were stripped down versions of web learning platforms. Some interesting functions of the web versions were not integrated into the app. Among the paid (freemium) apps, the pricing and limitations of the free versions could be communicated more transparently upfront.

Date of comparison: 10 February 2015 (tested on Android phone)

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