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3 apps for mobile language learning (roundup)

Want to make use of your free time by learning a new language? Check out these three apps that help get the job done.

There's a lot of language Web sites out there. Some are definitely more well-known than others, but what if you want something that works really well on your device? That's when it's time to use an Android app instead of just a Web site. Here are three of the top language-learning apps on Android.

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Babbel mobile for Android

Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

Most of Babbel's language packs feature 3,000 vocabulary words (though you'll need to download more data to complete the language pack). The vocabulary is divided into categories, so if you need to learn words related to the body (especially for medical personnel) or just common communication phrases, you can get right to them. They also offer speech recognition (so you don't embarrass yourself) and an offline mode. Babbel mobile is available for smartphones and tablets. The only drawback? Each language pack is considered a separate app, which can crowd the application menu on your device a bit, but does offer quick access if you're learning more than one at a time.


Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

Language selection in Duolingo is very Eurocentric; you'll find Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Italian as your choices. Reminders that the app sends to your e-mail and device are probably one of its best features (aside from teaching you a new language, of course). If the reminders are too naggy, they can be disabled. The vocabulary sections are similar to other apps with picture-matching, but there is also a heavy focus on grammar. When using Duolingo, you'll be putting together entire sentences in the first lesson, even if you haven't really had a lot of time to learn all the words needed for the sentence. The makers of this app say it will be free forever, so hopefully that remains true. Unfortunately, there is no tablet version at this time.

Rosetta Course

Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

Undoubtedly one of the most-recognized brand names in language learning software, the Rosetta Course app offers a stepping stone demo of what you can expect for big money. Picture and word matching is the primary focus of early lessons, as well as masculine or feminine article determination (where applicable). The speech recognition makes sure you're saying the words correctly, not insulting someone's mother. There is an extremely large language selection, and you can sample multiple languages from the same demo app. None of that uninstall/reinstall fuss in order to try something else.