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Best Language Learning Apps for 2023

Learning a new language is a breeze with these apps.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
8 min read
See at Duolingo
Duolingo language education app logo
Best for learning multiple languages
See at Babbel
babbel logo
Best for an online school-type experience
See at Drops
Drops logo
Best for visual learners
See at Mondly
Mondly home screen
Best for helping you remember specific phrases
See at Memrise
Memrise logo
Best for learning to speak casually in a new language
See at Busuu
Busuu interface on smartphone
Best for goal-oriented users
See at Lirica
Lirica interface on smartphones
Best for learning language musically
See at Netflix
Language Learning with Netflix
Language Learning with Netflix
Best for breaking down how a language works
See at Pimsleur
pimsleur app interface
Best for learning on the go
See at Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone logo
Rosetta Stone
Best for auditory learners

Learning a foreign language can feel overwhelming, especially if you live somewhere without a lot of native speakers. But fortunately, language learners have access to more resources than ever before, including tons of language apps that allow you to teach yourself at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home. There's quite a few different options out there right now, and the best language learning apps will help you work on your vocabulary, pronunciation and comprehension so you'll be fluent in no time. 

With so many different language apps out there, there's likely a program that best suits your learning style and schedule. The best language learning apps are also economical, especially when compared with formal schooling or tutoring with a language expert. Many have speech recognition, which is key to ensuring you have the right pronunciation. Others offer several language options, which is ideal when you want to pick up multiple languages.

Below, we've rounded up some of our absolute favorite language learning apps so you can find the one that's best for your needs. 

Duolingo language education app logo
Duolingo/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

As a regular Duolingo user, I enjoy the app's colorful interface and short, game-like exercises. The app doesn't restrict how many languages you can try to learn at the same time (personally, I think two is a good maximum if you want to retain anything). I use Duolingo to practice Spanish and German.

To make sure you don't get rusty on the basics, even if you've "mastered" a skill by reaching a higher level, the skill can still "crack" if you don't review it consistently. Practice the skill again and it'll repair itself. 

I like Duolingo's user-friendly layout, and the "streak" feature, which motivates you to keep going by tracking the number of days you've reached your point goal. In the app, you can access resources such as Duolingo Stories, which are short audio stories that allow you to check your comprehension skills as you go. Super Duolingo, the ad-free premium version of the app, costs $7 a month and includes progress quizzes, monthly streak repairs and more.

I found Babbel to be the most like a foreign language course you'd see in an online school curriculum. The minimalist layout of the Babbel app helps prevent a new language (French for me) from seeming overwhelming, without making it boring. Each lesson takes you through translations, and includes variations of the word or phrase, pictures and whether it's formal or informal. If it asks you to spell a phrase, the letters are included.

You also get to see the new words you're learning used in common conversations, listen to them (if you choose to have audio on), repeat the phrases, and learn more about verb groups. The 15-minute language lessons are easy to work into your day -- whether it's on your commute, before bed or on your lunch break. The My Activity module lets you track all your progress. 

Babbel is free to sign up for and the first lesson of every course is free. A monthly subscription costs $14.95. You can also choose to renew every three months ($37.95), every six months ($66.90), annually ($89.40) or a one-time payment of $349 for lifetime access. Babbel is also currently having a Labor Day sale where you can sign up for up to 60% off. 

Drops logo
Drops/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

I tried my hand at Greek on the Drops app. The app's fun, colorful layout definitely made the language (which has its own alphabet) less intimidating. The app shows users each word in the Greek alphabet and the English alphabet, and says the word and shows an image of it. Drops is constantly adding new languages, most recently, the app brought on Ainu, an indigenous Japanese language. 

You can subscribe to Drops Premium for $13 a month, $70 annually or a one-time purchase of $160, and the yearly and lifetime subscriptions are 50% off right now. If you stick with the free version, you have to wait 10 hours to access another lesson, but you can check out your statistics after completing the lesson (correct answers, wrong answers and words learned) and tap on the words you've learned to hear them pronounced again (and see them written in the Greek alphabet). This can give you a leg up when your next lesson starts. 

Similar to Drops, Mondly is a fun, colorful app that has multiple features to take advantage of even if you don't subscribe to premium. I tried beginner Hungarian on this app, and I liked how it offered to show you different conjugations if you tapped on verbs. The app packs images, translations and auditory aids to help your specific learning style. 

The instructor also speaks the words and phrases in a rather melodic way. That made it easier for me to recall them (even after trying different languages on different apps). 

Mondly is free to use, but you can subscribe to the Premium tier to unlock all content. You can subscribe for $10 a month or $48 annually for access to one language. You can also get lifetime access to all 41 languages on sale for $100 right now. 

One of my favorite parts of Memrise is the app's use of short videos to show how real locals express different phrases in conversation. I tried the French course, and the first lesson alone let me listen to the tone of voice and casual pronunciation, as well as showing me the phrase's literal translation and explained its gendered usage. The app also helps you spot patterns in the language to make it easier to improve your skills. If you're brushing up on a language you're familiar with, you have the option to skip phrases you already know.

A few lessons are available for free daily, or you can upgrade to a Pro membership for $15 per month, $90 per year or $200 for lifetime access.

Busuu interface on smartphone
Busuu/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

When you sign up for Busuu, you select the language you want to learn, and the app helps you determine how advanced you are with it and why you want to learn it, and to what level. From there, you set a daily study goal, and if you subscribe to the premium plan, it creates a study plan so you'll reach your goal by a set date. For example, Busuu says if I study three times a week for 10 minutes a day, I'll be pretty fluent in my chosen language in about eight months.  

Busuu's Basic plan is free, but you can subscribe to Premium for $13.95 per month, $59.70 for six months or get a full year for $41.70, half off the usual price. 

I tried Italian with Busuu and I liked the clean, bright layout of the app. Busuu also offers helpful reminders: The second time I logged in, it reminded me about "weak words" I needed to review to improve my vocabulary. In addition to listening to a phrase paired with a photo of the corresponding action, Busuu included helpful vocabulary tips (like that "ciao" can mean "hello" or "goodbye").

Lirica interface on smartphones
Lirica/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

If you listen to any song enough, you'll learn all the words through repetition -- even if they're in a different language. But how do you figure out what they mean? This is where the Lirica app comes in. This app is unique in how it approaches teaching Spanish and German. Instead of traditional teaching methods for learning a language, Lirica uses popular music by Latin and reggaeton artists to help you learn language and grammar. On top of learning the language, you're also immersing yourself in the culture behind it. The app also includes facts about the artist while you're learning.

Lirica has a one-week free trial and then it's $9 a month, $20 every six months or $30 annually. For now, the app only offers Spanish, French, German and English. 

While not technically an app, the free Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension can be helpful on your journey to becoming multilingual. Install the extension and click the icon to launch the catalog of movie and TV show options. You do need a subscription to Netflix though. 

Once you launch the catalog, you can pick from hundreds of titles that use movies on Netflix to help teach different languages. For example, if you wanted to work on your Spanish, select the language in the dropdown menu, along with the country where you're using Netflix. If you're watching in the US, the extension generates 306 titles. To watch one of the films, just click the red "Watch on Netflix" button. Depending on the language you want to learn, you might have fewer titles to pick from.

As the series or movie plays, two sets of subtitles display at the bottom of the screen. One set is your native language and the other is the one you want to learn. The words highlight as they're spoken, like a karaoke sing-a-long. You can listen to the dialogue phrase by phrase, pause and replay as needed, access a built-in dictionary and more. 

Pimsleur is an app that offers 51 languages to learn, but delivers the information in what is basically the form of a podcast. Essentially, you'll choose the language you want to learn and begin a 30-minute auditory lesson (which are downloadable and Alexa-compatible). The app also has a driving mode, so you can improve your language skills during long commutes without looking at a screen. 

You get a seven-day free trial. An All-Access subscription costs $21 a month, while a Premium subscription, which only includes one of the 50 available languages, is about $20 a month. Features include reading lessons, roleplaying challenges and digital flashcards. 

Perhaps the best-known language learning service, Rosetta Stone has come a long way since it started in the '90s. My parents still have a box set of discs for learning Spanish somewhere in their house. It's a lot easier now with the Rosetta Stone app, but you still need at least 30 minutes to complete a Core Lesson. 

I tried Rosetta Stone's first Irish lesson, which was primarily auditory with images, though there are ways to customize the app to your learning preferences. The lesson started out fairly challenging, especially since I was completely new to the Irish language. But it did get easier as I went along. 

The iOS app got an update in 2021 that brought augmented reality into the mix. This enables Seek and Speak, which is a scavenger-hunt-style challenge. Point the phone camera at an object and get a translation in the language you're learning. 

Rosetta Stone subscription options include $35.97 every three months, $95.88 annually, or a one-time payment of $179 for a lifetime subscription with access to all 25 languages.