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The 29 Best Apps for Learning English in 2020

Coming out just ahead of Mandarin Chinese, English is the most widely-spoken language in the world. It’s become a lingua franca in many places for tourism and business, and learning the language can pave the way to a mountain of personal and professional opportunities.

Given its popularity, it’s no surprise that there is almost an endless number of ways to learn the language. One of the most accessible and convenient methods is through language apps.

There are so many apps catering to English learners, though, that sifting through them to find the ones that do a great job or offer just the type of practice you’re looking for can be a challenge.

We’ve tried out a ton of these language apps and have come up with this list to help learners narrow the field. The list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but we’ve tried to mention the most popular ones and those that we like the most. They’re sorted into categories by what they do best, though some could admittedly fit into more than one category.

Take your time and good luck! There are sure to be at least a few that meet your needs.

General Courses as Apps

Best Interactive App: Hello English

Best for Oral Communication Skills: Pimsleur

Best Free Gamified App: Duolingo

Best Free Audio Course: Language Transfer

Best for Structured Courses: Babbel

Best Test-Prep App: Magoosh

Apps for Practicing Speaking and Writing

Best for Pronunciation Practice: Elsa Speak

Best for Pronunciation Feedback: Speechling

Best for Grammar Practice: LearnEnglish Grammar

Best for Writing Feedback: italki

Apps for Learning Vocabulary

Best Dictionary App: WordReference

Most Enjoyable Vocabulary Practice: Memrise

Best Mini-Games: Improve English: Word Games

Best Customizable Flashcard App: Anki

Best for Learning Words in Context: Clozemaster & Lingvist

Best Vocabulary App for Kids: Lingokids

Apps for Practicing Reading and Listening

Best BBC App for Learning English: BBC Learning English

Best Podcast-Style Lessons: EnglishClass101

Best Side-By-Side Reading Practice: Beelinguapp

Best for Authentic Content: FluentU & Yabla

Best Reading Content: LingQ & Readlang

Tutors and Language Exchanges

Best for Finding a Tutor: italki

Best for Casual Conversation Practice: Cambly

Best for Quick Questions: HiNative

Best for Language Exchange: HelloTalk & Tandem

General Courses as Apps

The apps in this category cover just about all aspects of English to some degree. They often make good resources for beginners that are looking for a comprehensive resource to start out with. Common features include lessons that build on each other and interactive exercises.

Best Interactive App Hello English Logo

Hello English

This app is a super popular one amongst English learners. Instructions are available in 24 languages including Chinese, Spanish, French, Nepali, and more than ten Indian languages.

The material is presented in an aesthetically pleasing format. There are color-coded menus, cartoon characters, and a variety of interactive practice exercises. The exercises are pretty basic, but the fact that they’re bite-sized makes this an easy app to pick up whenever you have a couple of minutes to spare. There are also short explanations of material and extras like videos and a dictionary.

Visit Hello English

Best for Oral Communication Skills

Pimsleur

Compared to most of the apps on this list, Pimsleur has been around for a very long time. Its tried-and-true method uses audio lessons to teach listeners their target language. You’ll hear native English speakers right away and will be asked to start speaking right away as well. Especially for aural learners, this app can give you a head start with spoken English.

As a tradeoff for the mostly-audio content, learners won’t acquire much in the way of reading or writing skills here. There aren’t really any grammar explanations either. The idea is that you’ll pick up all the grammar you need while actively listening to and producing the language. Courses are available for speakers of fourteen different languages. Review.

Visit Pimsleur

Best Free Gamified App

Duolingo

This is surely one of the most popular language apps for learners of just about any language. The gamified approach to teaching and the fact that it’s totally free make it incredibly appealing. The app is easy to use, and the exercises are all short enough to pick up whenever you’ve got a spare moment. Duolingo also excels at motivating users with frequent reminders to practice.

While its convenience is a major appeal, it’s worth noting that it won’t take you all the way to fluency on its own. Grammar explanations are present but aren’t detailed and don’t play a central role in instruction. You’ll also see nonsensical sentences and won’t get much in the way of pronunciation or speaking practice. Still, it’s an easy way to get exposure to English and build some basic vocabulary. Courses are currently available in over 20 languages. Review.

Visit Duolingo

Best Free Audio Course

Language Transfer

This one’s for Spanish speakers looking to learn English. The app is totally free (there aren’t even ads) and provides thorough instruction via 40 audio lessons. The lessons take a close look at the similarities between Spanish and English, using the relationship between them to outline a unique way of thinking about English.

There are no games, pictures, or videos with this app, but some may really appreciate how straightforward the app is. For Spanish speakers looking to develop a solid foundation in English, this free app is a fantastic place to start. Review.

Visit Language Transfer

Best for Structured Courses

Babbel

This is another very popular language-learning platform. It offers English courses in six languages and teaches through explanations and interactive exercises. The biggest appeal with this app may be how well the course is structured. Lessons are thorough and build on each other in a way that makes for natural and effective progress.

You’ll be exposed to everyday language, short dialogues, and native speaker audio, all of which are accompanied by explanations. The app’s stylings may not be the most exciting, and there might not be anything revolutionary going on, but the no-nonsense approach seems to work for many. Review.

Visit Babbel

Best Test-Prep App

Magoosh Magoosh Logo

English proficiency is a valuable skill in both the professional and academic worlds. In both of these contexts, English ability is often measured by way of standardized tests, whether it’s for admission to an English-speaking university or for a position at a company that requires skills in the language.

Magoosh helps learners prepare for nine important exams, ranging from IELTS to LSAT. The platform allows users to progress at their own pace and includes video lessons, timed practice questions, vocab flashcards, progress tracking, a competitive feature, and more. It’s one of the most popular solutions for learners looking to leverage their English ability in the professional world.

Visit Magoosh

Other Options

The apps below didn’t make our list of favorites for studying English, but they’re still worth considering. It’s also where we’ve included extra popular resources that we aren’t necessarily fond of and those that we just haven’t tried out yet.

Lingodeer

Lingodeer is something like a more mature Duolingo. They both offer language practice through gamification and interactive activities, but Lingodeer’s courses tend to be a bit more thorough and have better audio. The English course on Lingodeer is available in Chinese. Review.

Xeropan

This platform emphasizes the value of a playful approach to learning a language. The app teaches English with videos, audio tracks, and interactive activities. Instructions are available in 14 different languages.

Wlingua

We haven’t tried this app, but it’s got a stellar rating in the Google Play store. It teaches a variety of English courses with instructions in six different languages and uses both British and American accents. The basic version of the app is free, and the premium version unlocks all of the content.

Learn English Daily

This app uses a logically structured course to teach the basics of English. Translations are available in a number of languages, there’s native speaker audio and a ton of essential English phrases, but it’s really only suitable for beginners. The app is free to download, but there are ads.

Busuu

Busuu is known for quality courses (except those teaching Asian languages), a really nice interface, and a cool social feature that’s free to use. Its English course is available in 11 different languages. Review.

Mango Languages

One of Mango Language’s subscription options grants users access to over 70 languages, including English taught in over 20 languages. You can even learn Shakespearean English if that’s what you’re after. You can also pay less if you only need access to one language. The app is easy to use and has a slick design, but it’s really only useful for learners below an intermediate level. Review.

Mondly

Mondly provides English instruction in more than 25 languages, but we think there are better apps to choose from. The design and course material aren’t the best we’ve seen, and you won’t get much practice producing the language. Still, it’s inexpensive and could potentially serve as a basic first-exposure to English. Review.

Rosetta Stone

It’s one of the more notorious language-learning programs, but it’s not our favorite. The immersive approach means you won’t get any explanations and will have to pick up the language passively, and the super repetitive exercises quickly become tiring. Review.

Rocket English

The Rocket Languages series is fairly popular and is known for providing decent language courses, though we don’t think any of them are outstanding. The English course is taught entirely in English, meaning you’ll need some of the basics to actually get started. Review.

edX & Coursera

Both edX and Coursera are online platforms that offer free university courses. A certificate is usually available upon completion for a fee. The platforms offer the structure and quality you can expect from a university course while allowing learners to progress at their own pace. Course topics vary widely; take one of the various English language courses or one on another topic that’s taught in English.

Udemy

Like edX and Coursera, this is an online platform boasting tons of courses in English and for learning English. Udemy is different because courses are created by anyone and they aren’t free. The quality can vary significantly from course to course, so it’s worth checking out reviews to find the right one. It’s also worth waiting for a sale if you’re interested in a course (they’re frequent and significant!).

 

Apps for Practicing Speaking and Writing

The productive language skills are maybe the most exciting. Communicating your thoughts and ideas in English for the first time can be a thrill, and reaching advanced levels in speaking and writing can open lots of doors professionally and personally. The apps below will be most useful for improving these skills.

Best for Pronunciation Practice

Elsa Speak Elsa Speak Logo

Good pronunciation is one of the most important aspects of speaking a language — all the vocabulary and grammar in the world won’t help you if no one can understand what you’re saying. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the hardest to perfect.

Getting personalized instruction from an instructor may be the most effective way to practice, but apps like Elsa Speak are leveraging technology to make practice more accessible. The basic version of Elsa Speak is free, and it uses voice recognition technology to provide detailed feedback on your pronunciation. Record yourself reading example sentences to see what individual sounds you need more practice with and take focused practice lessons. Review.

Save 10% on a subscription to ELSA Speak with the coupon code ‘ALRELSA’. 

Visit ELSA Speak

Best for Pronunciation Feedback

Speechling

Like Elsa Speak, this app’s focus is helping learners improve their pronunciation. They both provide detailed feedback but take a different approach. Speechling provides even more personalized instruction by involving real teachers. Record yourself speaking English and submit the recording for a native English speaker to evaluate and provide feedback.

Practice happens through mimicking exercises, and you can send a limited number of recordings to be evaluated each month for free. A subscription to the platform allows you to submit an unlimited number of recordings. Review.

You can save 10% on a subscription with the coupon code ‘ALR123’.

Visit Speechling

Best for Grammar Practice

LearnEnglish Grammar British Council Logo

This app from the British Council aims to provide you with accessible and comprehensive grammar practice. The app is supported by ads, meaning it’s otherwise free to use, and there are both US and UK versions.

You should be able to find relevant grammar practice no matter what your level of English — there are over 1000 practice questions covering CEFR levels from A1 to C2. Practice happens in the form of interactive activities like multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blank exercises, and matching. You’ll also be able to find your grammar level by taking tests.

The complete app is available in English, Spanish, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese, though there is also supporting material available in Italian and Arabic.

Visit LearnEnglish Grammar

Best for Writing Feedback

italki

This popular platform is probably best known for being an online tutor directory with literally thousands of available English tutors. It’s also, however, got some nifty extra features. One of these is its Notebooks feature, which is available for free. The Notebooks section is a great place to get feedback on writing of any kind from native English speakers.

To use the feature, simply write something and post it for the community to see. You can write anything you like as long as you’re comfortable with sharing. Other users will then have the chance to read what you wrote and provide corrections and feedback. The system works well and it doesn’t usually take long to get a response. Review.

Visit italki

Other Options

Check out these other options if you still haven’t found the right app for improving your speaking and writing skills. They might not have made our list of top choices, but they’ve got their own unique strengths.

English Conversation Practice

This app will get you used to producing some basic utterances in English through a conversation activity where you record yourself speaking part of the dialogue. The app is fairly basic, and you won’t get feedback on your pronunciation, but it’s free to use!

Grammarly

Grammarly is a popular online grammar checker that’s also available as a keyboard app for your mobile device. It can be a big help with simple mistakes that learners are especially prone to make, but it won’t catch all of your mistakes, and it may make some faulty suggestions. Use it for free to improve your accuracy, but don’t count on it to be perfect.

Johnny Grammar Word Challenge

Another one from British Council, this gamified app is free and uses 60-second quizzes to test learners on vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. There’s a US version and a UK version to account for differences in spelling and vocabulary between the two.

 

Apps for Learning Vocabulary

For many people, vocabulary is the first thing that comes to mind when considering studying a new language. After all, what is a language if not words? The apps in this category will help you learn new words, know how to use them, and commit them to long-term memory.

One thing to look for in vocabulary apps is a spaced repetition system (SRS), which makes memorization more efficient.

Best Dictionary App

WordReference

This is one of the most versatile and comprehensive multi-language dictionary apps out there. It makes it easy to perform translations in a wide range of language pairs with extensive dictionaries, and it’s free. It also has an active language forum where learners can get answers to nuanced questions or for language they can’t find in a dictionary.

There are also some WordReference extras that add some value to the resource. It’s got a Word of the Day function that teaches new words each day at varying difficulty levels and a verb conjugation tool. There are also English usage and collocation dictionaries available.

Visit WordReference

Most Enjoyable Vocabulary Practice

Memrise

Gamified flashcards and SRS are part of what makes this app so popular. It’s also popular for the fact that there are tons of courses available for free. The official Memrise courses for English require a paid subscription for full access, but they come with videos of native speakers and high-quality audio.

The free, user-created courses are of varying quality, but there are certainly some good ones available. There are so many that you should be able to find one to suit just about any difficulty level. You’ll also be able to study specific language related to certain grammar points or categories and be able to choose between US and British English. Review.

Visit Memrise

Best Mini-Games

Improve English: Word Games Improve English Logo

With activities like Space Pursuit, Jelly Fizz, Panda’s Trail, and Fly High, this app takes gamification to a new level. Participate in bite-sized activities to get enjoyable English practice whenever it’s convenient for you.

Though the focus here may be on making English practice fun, the app doesn’t fall short on educational value. There’s a Vocabulary Builder feature available for learners at different levels, idiom practice, grammar exercises, IELTS test-prep, and even games for practicing math. There’s a reason this one’s got over three million downloads and a high rating in app stores.

Visit Knudge

Best Customizable Flashcard App

Anki

This app can do just about anything you want it to when it comes to memorization practice. It’s an SRS flashcard app that’s lightweight, powerful, and totally customizable. You can create flashcards with images, audio, example sentences, and tags, as well as program how many new items you’d like to learn each day.

There is a bit of a learning curve with Anki — its design definitely puts function over form. For those that aren’t interested in spending the time to create their own decks, there are also plenty of premade decks for studying English. Anki is free most places but costs $25 in the Apple App Store.

Visit Anki

Best for Learning Words in Context

Clozemaster & Lingvist

Both of these apps use SRS flashcards to teach English, and they present new language items in context sentences. This is helpful for seeing new words as they’re actually used in English and helps learners get accustomed to the flow of the language.

Clozemaster is mostly free, and it’s the more game-like of the two. There’s an arcade feel, leaderboards, points, and levels to keep things interesting. Translations are available in more than ten languages, but it’s not best for absolute beginners. Clozemaster review.

Lingvist is like Clozemaster’s grown-up cousin, although much less of it is available for free. The interface is slick, and there are actually some language explanations to go along with the material. You’ll also be able to get some extra practice in the form of challenges that test various language skills. Instructions are available in nine languages. Lingvist review.

Visit Clozemaster                Visit Lingvist

Best Vocabulary App for Kids

Lingokids lingokids logo

This app is aimed at teaching kids aged 2-8 years old, but parents can certainly learn along with their children. The curriculum focuses on building vocabulary through engaging games that will catch the attention of kids. The app also aims to teach skills beyond English, such as critical thinking and collaboration.

The basic version of this app is completely free and includes three games, songs, or videos each day. With a paid subscription, you’ll have access to the full library of content as well as a progress tracker and offline capability.

Visit Lingokids

Other Options

Here are some more useful apps for learning vocabulary. We don’t rate them as highly as our favorites, but they might have something you’re looking for.

uTalk

uTalk teaches English through some basic interactive exercises and allows users to record themselves speaking in order to practice pronunciation. The app doesn’t cover any grammar explanations, however, and is really only suitable for memorizing some set phrases Review.

Drops

This app is visually appealing, uses native speaker audio, and utilizes spaced repetition. As such, it’s a decent place to get some basic vocabulary practice, but it won’t give you any detailed practice with English. Review.

 

Apps for Practicing Reading and Listening

These are the receptive English skills. They might not initially be as impressive as speaking and writing ability, but they’re essential all the same. The apps here will help you improve your listening and reading comprehension through focused practice and interaction with authentic content.

Best BBC App for Learning English BBC Learning English Logo

BBC Learning English

The BBC has been producing content for learners of English for over 75 years! This app acts as a portal for accessing a wide range of BBC English learning material. You’ll find audio series covering things like topical events as well as favorites like the 6-Minute English audio programs.

The app also comes with transcripts and quizzes for added value, and it’s free to download for Android or iOS. This is an especially good option for learners interested in British English.

Visit BBC Learning English

Best Side-By-Side Reading Practice

Beelinguapp

Beelinguapp is a solid option for getting good reading practice. It takes a unique approach to helping learners read English by presenting a translation of the text side-by-side with the original. You can toggle the translation on and off, but having a translation of the full text so easily accessible while you read is super helpful.

There’s also a “karaoke function” which highlights text as it’s read aloud for listening practice. There’s a variety of content available on the app and new material is always being added. 13 languages are currently supported in the app.

Visit Beelinguapp

Best for Authentic Content

FluentU & Yabla

Yabla Logo

FluentU Chinese Review

One of the most exciting things about learning a new language is being able to interact with authentic content, whether it’s music, movies, or interviews on interesting subjects. In addition to being exciting, exposure to authentic native speech in a language is also a powerful way to speed up your journey to fluency. FluentU and Yabla both use videos with interactive subtitles to make this possible.

FluentU has a higher price point, but it’s got a nice interface and a subscription grants access to multiple languages. FluentU review.

Yabla is the less expensive of the two, though English is the only language you’ll be able to study if you sign up for a subscription. The course also offers a greater variety of exercises to accompany the videos than FluentU. Yabla review.

Visit Fluentu                          Visit Yabla

Best Reading Content

LingQ & Readlang

Both of these resources work really well for getting interesting reading practice. LingQ is an app that makes translating

unknown words as you read very easy. It also keeps track of which words you know and which words you have to look up, using this information to color-code the text you’re reading. It’s cool to be able to visualize how difficult a given piece of reading will be.

One of the reasons there’s interesting content on LingQ is that uploading your own content is quite easy. LingQ review.

Readlang is a free browser extension that works well on mobile devices and does many of the same things as LingQ.

Visit Lingq                     Visit Readlang

 

Tutors and Language Exchanges

Interacting with other people that speak English is an important part of becoming proficient in the language. This can be difficult if you don’t live in an English-speaking country or just don’t have anyone to connect with. Fortunately, as with just about everything else, there are apps that try to solve this problem for people.

Best for Finding a Tutor

italki

italki is a fantastic online tutor platform that connects learners to language teachers. For English, there are well over 4,000 tutors available. Each teacher sets their own schedule and price, meaning you’ll have almost unlimited flexibility in finding a teacher that suits your needs. You’re also able to filter results by type of class as well as where your teacher is from or what other languages they speak.

italki also has a neat language exchange feature that’s free to use. Simply search for other users that are learning your native language to start chatting and helping each other. You can also get free feedback on pieces of writing by submitting them via the Notebooks feature. Review.

Visit Italki

Best for Casual Conversation Practice Cambly Logo

Cambly

If longer lessons aren’t what you’re after, or if you want the ability to pick up your phone and start talking with a native English speaker at a moment’s notice, Cambly might be more your speed. The app also lets users schedule classes with their favorite teachers once they’ve found some favorites.

The flexibility is the main draw here, along with inexpensive one-on-one tutor time and loads of authentic speaking practice. Classes can take pretty much any form depending on your level and whether you’re looking for more structure or general conversation practice; you can even study for IELTS or TOEFL exams.

Visit Cambly

Best for Quick Questions

HiNative

In your journey learning English, you’ll inevitably come across some hard-to-answer questions. While there’s no shortage of quality online resources to answer most questions learners have, there are some things you simply can’t look up in a dictionary or conjugation table.

Maybe you’re interested in the subtleties of Australian slang, or you’ve got a question about daily life in the southern United States. HiNative aims to be the place to go for all of these questions, and it makes for a pretty convenient solution. The app is mostly free to use and lets you post questions for native speakers to see and respond to. The HiNative community is active and usually quick to respond. Review.

Visit HiNative

Best for Language Exchange

HelloTalk & TandemTandem Logo

Both of these apps make it easy to get in touch with native English speakers no matter where you are in the world. Language exchange happens on the apps via text, audio messages, and even video calls. The platforms have active communities of language learners that are ready and willing to help you practice English in exchange for help with a language that you’re proficient in.

The built-in language tools are an integral part of these apps — they make it possible to communicate with an English speaker even with a low level of English. They also turn the experience into an efficient learning opportunity.

The apps are mostly similar in functionality, but they each have their own aesthetic. HelloTalk is the more playful of the two and may appeal more to learners that enjoy emojis. Tandem is a little bit slicker and might be right for someone looking for an app that’s more serious. HelloTalk review. Tandem review.

Visit Hellotalk               Visit Tandem

Other Options

Below are a few more options that are worth checking out, even if they didn’t make our list of favorites.

Verbling

This is another good place for finding English tutors online. There aren’t quite as many here as on italki, and the teacher requirements are stricter, meaning prices are slightly higher. Review.

Lingbe

This app does language exchange in a unique and interesting way — it gets users connected to each other in a call with the touch of a button. You can earn credits by speaking to learners of your native language and then use those credits to talk with native English speakers.

 

Final Thoughts

There are lots of great resources for learning English on this list, but they’re all apps. There are plenty of excellent resources that aren’t listed here simply because they aren’t available as an app.

If you’re an aural learner or like the flexibility offered by audio lessons, be sure to see our favorite podcasts for Learning English.

Whatever your English goals are, there’s definitely a resource that’s right for you. Don’t see your favorite app on this list? Let us know about it!

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