Last updated Oct 24, 2023
German’s bad rap is entirely undeserved. Some of Europe’s greatest thinkers and writers spoke German. What’s more, it’s simultaneously fun and poetic, expressive and logical, and incredibly useful.…
Comics, manga, graphic novels: whatever you call them, they’re fun, interesting and can be a great tool for learning a language.
If you raised an eyebrow at that last phrase, I understand why. Comic books might not come with homework or, in most cases, grammar lessons. They don’t feel like serious learning. In fact, you might even consider them a distraction from proper studies.…
Looking for listening comprehension activities in Spanish and Basque? Irakaslea, which means teacher in Basque, has two podcasts dedicated to this: Comprensión oral – Castellano and Ahozko ulermena – Euskera. Each channel features short, slowly spoken narratives in the target language: stories, mock news broadcasts, and more. The tone is humorous but at times cynical. Unfortunately, there aren’t any transcripts, but the text is slow enough that it’s fairly easy to identify what is being said and look it up in a dictionary. Many of the episodes are targeted at children in primary school aged roughly 5–11, and the audio quality can vary, so Spanish learners might find that they prefer other channels. For Basque learners, however, this podcast could be a useful addition to their study routine.
This Greek vocabulary app caters for beginners through to advanced learners, but what impressed us the most was the customizability. You can study 5,000+ pieces of vocabulary organised by level (A1–C1) or theme, plus there’s the option to add your own vocabulary. First, you’ll be introduced to a series of words and phrases. As well as the text and translation, there’s a picture and an audio file. Spaced-repetition reviews will also help you remember vocabulary, and you can adjust how big the gap between reviews is, too. Next stop: games. You’ll practise translating audio recordings, spelling the words, answering multiple choice quizzes, unravelling anagrams and more. These should better help you remember the vocabulary, compared to just doing flashcard-style tasks. Something not to your liking? Go to the settings. The types of games, the frequency of reviews, the amount of vocabulary you learn, the difficulty: it’s all customisable. That said, you’ll only ever learn vocabulary out of context, which means you’ll want to use the app alongside a course, textbook or lessons.
This Dutch vocabulary app has a wide range of words and phrases for all levels, and pairs a fairly extensive range of teaching methods with impressive customizability. The vocabulary is organised by level (A1–C1) or by theme (dating, slang, restaurants, opinions and feelings…). In total, there are 5,000+ words and phrases for you to learn. You can also add your own vocabulary to create personalised or specialised courses. Once you’ve selected your course or topic, it’s time to start learning. The app will introduce you to 14 pieces of vocabulary, with nouns accompanied by the definite article (de/het). You’ll see a picture, the text and the translation, while audio recordings from different speakers will help you familiarise yourself with the pronunciation. Then, you’ll do a series of games to reinforce your memory. These include matching the translation to the audio recording, spelling the word(s), multiple choice quizzes, anagrams and more. If you get a question wrong, you get extra attempts. Spaced-repetition reviews will help you remember words over the long term, and you can adjust how big the gap between reviews is, too. The most impressive thing about this app is the customisability. Want to work on your spelling? Go to the settings, and change it so that the only game is a spelling one. Want something a little easier? Switch it to only give you multiple choice questions, and reduce the amount of vocabulary you learn prior to doing reviews. Since this app only teaches you vocabulary out of context, it’s best to use it as a supplementary resource. However, it can be a decent, if dry, addition to your language-learning arsenal.
Dutch Listening & Speaking/Learn Dutch is an app-based course with tons of lessons for you to work through. Unfortunately, it left us disappointed. It’s focused on memorising specific phrases and dialogues instead of building your own sentences. Each lesson begins with a dialogue. Next, you’ll listen to the phrases individually and get a chance to record yourself saying them. Now it’s time for the exercises. You’ll match the writing to the audio, put words in the right order, fill in the gaps and pick the right translations for audio clips. In most of these exercises, you’ll hear an audio recording with the answer before you do them. Finally, it’s time to recreate the dialogue – but don’t get too excited. Either you’ll listen to the correct phrase before selecting it from a choice of three, or you’ll see the correct phrase and then practise speaking it. With the latter, speech-recognition software means you’ll get some feedback on how good your pronunciation is. The most frustrating think about this course is the fact that you’re only taught set phrases from one specific dialogue, with no opportunity to customise them. For example, in the lesson “Where are you from?”, the only answer you learn is “I am from California.” You’re also unlikely to pick up a good understanding of Dutch grammar from these exercises. This app has an immense amount of content, with over 200 lessons at the elementary level alone, as well as listening tasks with short stories and news stories. But it comes across as quantity over quality. We would opt for Babbel (review) or DutchPod101 (review) over this course.
This flashcard-based app will in theory teach you 3,500 Dutch nouns, adjectives and verbs. It’s slickly designed, but we found it slightly dull and demotivating. The vocabulary is broken into 50-word sections, some of which are only available via collecting points or paying for premium access. In each 50-word section, you’ll see a series of flashcards and choose whether to mark them as remembered/learned or needing further review. There are also a small number of games to support your learning: Hive, De Het, and Fallee. These are a fun addition and, if you ask us, the best part of the app. Frustratingly, though, you have to watch two video ads every time you get an answer wrong – or you can give up and start over again, in which case you just have to watch one video. This isn’t a badly designed app, but we would be inclined to just use it for the games. For flashcard-based learning, we would opt for Learn Dutch Vocabulary Free or Drops instead. The first is more customisable; the second is more engaging.
Oxford Dictionary has published numerous bilingual dictionaries over the years, many of which are not designed to be comprehensive. While some are “complete” dictionaries, others are called “mini”, “concise”, “essential” or even “shorter”. Even the smaller ones are pretty thorough, however. The Oxford Mini Greek dictionary contains 40,000 words and phrases, many of which also contain multiple translations. It’s a lot shorter than the Oxford Hindi dictionary, at 100,000 entries, or the New Oxford American English Dictionary at 350,000 – but it’s still got a wider vocabulary than the average English speaker. You can purchase the books themselves, but most learners will prefer the convenience of the apps with their regular updates and learner-friendly features. Search Autocomplete, Fuzzy Filter, Wild Card and Voice Search help you find words you don’t know how to spell. Favourites help you save useful words and phrases, while Word of the Day will introduce you to new words. Some dictionaries also contain audio recordings and thesauruses. And the freemium Oxford Dictionary with Translator will translate words and paragraphs to and from 14 languages. For some languages, learners already have plenty of free, thorough dictionaries available to them. Spanish learners, for example, will probably prefer to combine the free apps SpanishDict and Diccionario RAE (Google Play, App Store). Mandarin Chinese learners will likely find Pleco more useful. But for some languages, these dictionaries may well be the most thorough and reliable ones available.
The rating is our best guess, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully test and review this resource.
Bagoaz’s Basque course makes a great first impression. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t live up to expectations. It contains lessons, exercises and a Spanish–Basque dictionary. The lessons are the most useful part: they contain a Spanish-language explanation of key Basque grammar and vocabulary with some example sentences. Some lessons introduce a lot of material at once, and the presentation isn’t ideal, either: it’s dense and the text is very small on mobile. However, the information is clearly explained. The exercises make up the bulk of the app, but they’re the most disappointing part. They’re entirely based on translating Basque sentences to and from Spanish, and the questions often include vocabulary that wasn’t in the lesson. The dictionary features snippets from the free dictionary Elhuyar, but you would be better off going directly there: Bagoaz often only includes the first definition listed in Elhuyar. Words like rico only translate to the Basque word for wealthy, not delicious. Bagoaz isn’t without value, but it works better as a reference guide to beginner-level Basque than as a course.