Confession: I started learning Spanish when I was 12 years old, and I'm still not fluent. Granted, my earnestness to master the language has wavered over the years, but now that I'm 28 (shudder), it's time to take it seriously. I wish I could say this newfound motivation was all in the name of self-improvement, but the truth is that my boyfriend is a native Spanish speaker, and I desperately need to break the language barrier so I can communicate with his friends and family. Because listening to "Despacito" on repeat isn't going to cut it, I've been testing out pretty much every language learning app on the market in preparation for our upcoming trip to Colombia.
Whether you're hoping to finally reach fluency in Spanish like me or looking to brush up on your French before a much-deserved vacation, apps are great, affordable alternatives to traditional language learning software programs, which can be insanely pricey. If you're feeling motivated to take your fluency to the next level, you're going to want to keep scrolling. After much trial and error, I've found that these are the best language learning apps, hands down.
iTunes Store rating: 4.7 stars (with over 348K ratings)
Why they love it: "I love that Duolingo incorporates reading, listening, translating, and speaking. Each facet is woven into every lesson. I promise you, if you really commit to spending time and effort in Duolingo, you'll make significant progress in learning a new language." — Jimbo438
Why I love it: Duolingo is great for practicing on the go. Each lesson is short and effective and touches on elements of reading, listening, translating, and speaking, ensuring that you're strengthening all your skills at once. I also love the streak-count feature, which keeps me motivated to practice every day.
iTunes Store rating: 4.8 stars (with over 96.4K ratings)
Why they love it: "I have tried many apps … and this one is the best by far. You can tell they are trying to bring you toward fluency by having the app encompass all manner of language learning such as conversation, memorization, grammar, listening, and refreshing what you learn." — carlynro
Why I love it: Unlike most apps, Memrise features recordings with native speakers so you can better recognize words when you hear them used in real conversations. To take full advantage of the app's offerings, I would recommend opting for Memrise Pro (the paid version of the app, which will set you back $9 a month).
iTunes Store rating: 4.7 (with over 51.1K ratings)
Why they love it: "I have to say I'm extraordinarily pleased with this app for the comprehensive nature of the lessons and the social interaction component they've built in. I also like that there is a nontraditional mix of material where some more advanced knowledge is mixed in to the beginner's levels. I might actually become fluent this time!" — sud0ku
Why I love it: If you want to sound like a local, Busuu is definitely the app you should download. Part language learning app, part social media, Busuu is designed so your speaking and writing exercises are corrected by an actual native speaker.
iTunes Store rating: 4.5 (with over 22.9K ratings)
Why they love it: "I have been wanted to learn Spanish for a very long time but programs were all so expensive and there were limited programs as it was. Well, when I got my iPhone I discovered several great programs at a really great and reasonable price. I tried several of them through their trial periods and decided on this one and Duolingo. Combined I feel like I am learning faster than if I had gone with the one program that's so popular, I think everyone knows which I'm talking about." — bast3200bc
Why I love it: If you're looking to gain confidence in your skills, Babbel is a great option. With comprehensive lessons that immerse you in practical, everyday conversations, Babbel will have you ready to book a trip to Mexico City in no time.
iTunes Store rating: 4.8 (with over 16K ratings)
Why they love it: "This app is the greatest thing to happen to language learning ever. Seriously. I've been studying one language or another my entire life and I have never looked forward to vocab drills before. I actually get excited to do my Drops review every evening." — Spykitten
Why I love it: To make learning a new language less intimidating, Drops limits each session to just five minutes. If you feel like you're too busy to start learning Spanish, French, Arabic, or Japanese, this app will prove you wrong.
This story was originally published on November 12, 2017, and has since been updated.
Up next: Trust me, meeting the parents is even more intimidating with a language barrier.