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Best Apps to Learn Malayalam Online For Beginners and English Speakers

Best Apps Malayalam

Learning Malayalam can be a rewarding experience. Whether you’re drawn to its rich history, planning to travel to Kerala, or simply want to impress your friends, this language journey opens doors to a lot of opportunities.

Yet, looking for quality resources to kickstart your journey of learning Malayalam can be quite challenging. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and spent hundreds of hours testing various resources to come up with a list of the best apps to learn Malayalam.

Check out these handpicked beginner-friendly best apps, courses, classes, YouTube, podcasts, and other media for learning Malayalam and see what fits you best.

Resources for Learning Malayalam

Courses, apps, textbooks, online classes, podcasts, videos: there are plenty of options out there for learning Malayalam, whether you’re in Kerala, Dubai, or New York.

Learn the Malayalam Script

Even if you’re not planning to read novels or write emails in Malayalam, you’ll still need to learn the script. After all, how else are you going to understand a bus timetable, read a map, or work out how much your shopping costs?

While some courses teach you the Malayalam script, others will expect you to already know it. And besides, you’ll likely benefit from some extra exercises to help you memorize all the different symbols. Luckily, there are a few workbooks and apps that will help you out.

Workbooks

Malayalam Alphabet: Practice Workbook by Lissy J. Kunnathu and John D. Kunnathu breaks down stroke order and direction. We like how the exercises ask you to write the alphabet smaller as the weeks go by.

However, you’ll need to pair this workbook with another resource to learn the pronunciation: there are written descriptions, but this won’t compensate for not having heard them. Also, you’ll never get to practice writing the symbols independently, so you could overestimate the quality of your handwriting.

With Malayalam Alphabet Tracing Book, you can trace the symbol the first five times, but then you’re expected to do it independently. It doesn’t explain stroke order or direction, but it does help you understand positioning and alignment. While designed for children, we think adults could also benefit from using it alongside the Kunnathus’ book.

Malayalam Letter Tracing: Learn to write Malayalam Aksharamala Alphabets, by Mamma Margaret is a child-friendly book with fun illustrations, but it actually provides less support in writing the scripts than the other options.

Apps

Malayalam Aksharamala is designed for children, but we think it’s also a pretty good option for adults. It clearly shows stroke direction, although number and order are a bit more ambiguous. It will also test you on your ability to distinguish the symbols, although the games are pretty basic and childish.

Malayalam Alphabets from Times Hunt does an excellent job of demonstrating the stroke number, order, and direction. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have audio recordings and there aren’t any quizzes.

Write Malayalam Alphabets is let down by the lack of information about stroke number and direction. It doesn’t have any quizzes, either. We would skip it.

We wouldn’t waste our time with Malayalam Alphabets Audio or Malayalam Smart Slate from BigKnol, unless you’re using them alongside a workbook. We don’t think either of them will teach you how to write or recognize the script.

A driver stops for a break in Kanchiyar, Kerala. Credit: AJITH S

Online Malayalam Classes and Language Exchanges

No matter how much you study from a textbook or use an app, the best way to practice spoken Malayalam is with other people. And that’s where online classes and language exchanges come into play.

Online Classes

italki is the most well-known online classes marketplace, which allows it to be pretty competitive: it has several Malayalam tutors for you to choose from, and prices are relatively low. At the time of publishing, however, all teachers are “Community Tutors,” which means they’re not actually qualified teachers. Still, you can’t call them inexperienced: some have thousands of classes under their belt.

While we’re not overly impressed with italki’s payment processing options, we’re a big fan of the app. It gives you access to community features including a forum and community corrections on your Malayalam. Unfortunately, you might find there’s a shortage of people able to give you feedback.

Unimpressed by italki? Try Verbling. It has fewer choices and prices, which are set by the teachers, are often higher. However, we prefer the lesson platform and payment processing options.

AmazingTalker also has a small selection of Malayalam teachers. The platform claims it has a “rigorous selection process,” and it’s true that teachers tend to be highly reviewed, but they also accept teachers without qualifications.

The silhouette of a bird on a tree and its reflection in a lake at dusk

Kochi, Kerala. Credit: Vickson D

TeacherOn has by far and away the greatest variety of Malayalam teachers. However, many of the teachers are unreviewed, meaning it can be hard to choose between them or get an insight into other students’ experiences. You may have to pay to contact teachers.

Justlearn offers subscription-based Malayalam classes, allowing you to sign up for two, four, or six classes a month. Bear in mind that the lessons are only 25 minutes long and the prices are the same across all languages. This means it works out pricier on average than other platforms. We haven’t yet had a chance to try out Justlearn and see if that adds up to higher-quality teaching, but around half the subscription fee goes to the platform rather than the teachers.

If you’re looking for online classes specifically designed for children, you might like the Bangalore-based Akshharam. They offer both group and private online classes and post the learning materials to your house beforehand. However, they don’t state if they will send them internationally.

A girl asks a question in an online Malayalam class

Using online classes to ask questions.

Community Feedback

Looking for someone to correct your Malayalam or answer a quick question? You need community feedback. In addition to the italki Community feedback features we mentioned under Online Classes, a small number of apps and websites also facilitate this.

Just remember to give as much to the community as you take out. Stick around, and answer a question or two, if you can.

HiNative is a social media site for language learners. You can post your Malayalam-related questions in the feed or search for existing queries. We think it’s a useful tool for any language learner.

LangCorrect is a newer platform that lets you share texts you’ve written for review. You might struggle to find other Malayalam speakers, but hopefully, as the number of users grows it will get easier.

The Malayalam sub on Reddit isn’t designed for language learners, but people are generally happy to answer questions there.

Language Exchanges

Ready to throw yourself into the deep end and start socializing in Malayalam? It’s time for a language exchange.

You could try a language exchange app, like Tandem (reviewed here), HelloTalk (reviewed here), or Speaky (reviewed here). You’ll benefit from being connected with language learners from around the world, so it doesn’t matter if you live in rural Idaho or the Isles of Scilly: you can still chat with a Malayalam speaker. There are significant differences between these apps, however, so check out the reviews and our comparison of HelloTalk and Tandem to help you choose between them.

Alternatively, try an in-person language exchange. You might be able to find a Malayalam exchange on MeetUp, or you could start your own group. If that doesn’t appeal, head to a general language exchange to see if a Malayalam speaker turns up, or browse Facebook groups near you.

Just remember: if you’re meeting up with strangers, be sensibly cautious. Meet up in a public place, leave if you feel uncomfortable, and don’t feel pressured to give out your contact details.

A man sits in front of a Varia café sign

Arriving early for a language exchange at Varia Café, Thiruvananthapuram. Credit: Anubhav Shekhar

Malayalam Language Courses: Online, App-Based, & Audio

You won’t find Malayalam on Rosetta Stone, Busuu, or Babbel, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t online courses.

For beginner and lower-intermediate students, the Mango Languages course and app will quickly get you making your own sentences in Malayalam. We like its heavy focus on speaking, listening, and pronunciation. You can record yourself and lay the audio over that of a native speaker, making it easier to spot where your pronunciation isn’t quite right. However, you’ll need to use an alternative resource to practice reading and writing.

Looking for something like Duolingo? Try Ling. This gamified app is fun and varied and also offers speaking and writing exercises. We like its native-speaker audio, which is generally far better than Duolingo’s computerized text-to-speech audio.

Alternatively, you might like Memrise, another Duolingo-esque app. While there isn’t an official Malayalam course on Memrise, there are several community-made ones. Most of them are designed for beginners. We think using Memrise is an effective way to memorize words and phrases, although we recommend using it as a supplementary resource alongside Mango Languages or Ling. It’s unlikely to get you confidently making your own sentences.

A tablet with the Ling app teaching a Malayalam conversation

Formal Malayalam conversations on Ling.

Instant Immersion bills itself as a budget Rosetta Stone. It comes with workbooks, MP3 files, and computer software. We’re normally not a fan of Instant Immersion’s products, as we feel that they can be pricey and that there are better options available for most languages. They’re also a tad dated. However, if you would prefer a course that you can buy outright rather than a subscription, the Instant Immersion Malayalam courses may be worth looking at. The website promises a 90-day money-back refund if you’re not satisfied.

You’ll also find at least one Malayalam course on the course marketplace Udemy (although they may be incorrectly categorized as Malay language courses). Since Udemy just hosts the courses, all of which are made by individual teachers, the course quality and content can vary. Check out the preview videos, syllabus, and reviews before adding a course to your cart. It’s also probably worth waiting for a sale before buying.

If you’re looking for something for children, you could try Malayalam Mission’s online course, which is designed to teach kids aged 9–16 listening, reading, and writing. It adopts the theme of a child who lives outside of India visiting her grandparents in Kerala. The course and website are entirely in Malayalam, which can make navigating it tricky. To register, click the green button on this webpage and fill out the detailed form.

You can also download the Malayalam Mission app (Google Play, App Store) without registering to access the textbooks, as well as some supplementary resources. Studying via the app, however, might require the help of a parent or teacher – especially if you or your child is a complete beginner. It doesn’t use any English and expects you to be able to read the Malayalam script.

Language Courses You Should (Probably) Avoid

Some courses aren’t worth your time. They teach you incorrect Malayalam or leave you demotivated and frustrated thanks to their poor structure. Here are some that we would use with caution.

We think the freemium app Bluebird Languages is generally a fairly decent supplementary option for learning a language. It’s also the closest we could find to a Pimsleur alternative for Malayalam. However, we’ve noticed major grammatical errors for languages that tend to be under-resourced and under-funded, as well as odd word choices. If you’re tempted by this app, we would suggest asking a Malayalam teacher to take a look at it first.

As for Cudoo, we would steer clear of this online course. When we tried it out, we found it completely ineffective at teaching a language. It offers no explanations, has barely any content, and yet somehow still overwhelms you by asking complete beginners to memorize 14-word phrases with very little relevance. If we’re honest, it feels like someone took a phrase list, made a basic PowerPoint presentation, and stuck a price tag on it.

A woman reviews a Malayalam course online and takes notes

Combining textbooks and online courses for a productive study session.

Malayalam Vocabulary Builders and Word Games

All courses and textbooks include some vocabulary, yet they rarely teach you enough. Studying extra words and phrases can help you express yourself on more topics and with greater depth. It can also be the difference between participating in a conversation or listening in silence, thinking about the anecdote you’d like to share… if only you knew how to say “porch.”

The pay-to-use app uTalk will teach you words and phrases for everything from asking for directions and going shopping through to maintaining military peace and natural disasters. It has a variety of games to help you drill the new material, including ones where you record yourself speaking. If you’re a perfectionist, however, this might not be the tool for you: it can be surprisingly hard to get 100% on all the games.

Learn Malayalam Quickly is a free alternative to uTalk, although it teaches you a more limited range of phrases and has a smaller variety of practice drills. Our favorite thing about this app is that you can learn Malayalam phrases through numerous Indian, European, and East Asian languages, including Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, and Telugu.

The website Language Reef has some basic word lists and simple games to help you drill them. However, it doesn’t have audio files.

Learn Malayalam Grammar has several word lists organized by grammatical function. This website also provides brief grammar explanations and some exercises, although we think it works best as a vocabulary builder rather than a course or grammar guide. All the grammatical topics are pretty basic.

A phone with the uTalk app open and showing Malayalam vocabulary

Drilling Malayalam words on uTalk, which teaches Malayalam phrases through several different languages.

Tamil speakers might like Learn Malayalam through Tamil. This app sets out to teach you 175 Malayalam words and 150 Malayalam sentences, all with Tamil translations. It doesn’t use the Malayalam script.

The free app Speak Malayalam 360 has plenty of word lists that you can drill. However, not all the lists have audio and we found the tests ineffective. It’s not our first choice of resource.

The website Languages Home has a short Malayalam word list, complete with native audio files.

With Sublearning, you can test your understanding of lines from movies. We’re not convinced that all the translations will be accurate, but movie lovers might find it a fun way to pass the time.

You’ll find Malayalam word lists on Learn101, iLanguages, and MyLanguages. We would avoid these, though: they have a reputation for lots of errors.

According to the authors, the Learn Malayalam Audio Book contains 500 Malayalam phrases. We haven’t had a chance to try it and would be hesitant to do so, given how many alternatives there are. The MP3 files are pretty pricey, and the website is dated.

Snacks in plastic for sale at a market in Kerala

Guruvayoor Market, Kerala. Credit: Ganesh Partheeban

Create Your Own Malayalam Flash Cards

Whether you want to find better ways to memorize the vocabulary in the apps and word lists above, or you simply want to create personalized word lists, sometimes there’s no better option than making your own flash cards.

You might prefer pen-and-paper ones, especially if you find writing things out helps you remember them. Alternately, app-based flash cards are easier to carry around with you, and sometimes you can add audio files, images, and photos to them.

With Anki, you can create your own flash card decks or use someone else’s, if they’ve shared it with the community. For example, this deck will help you drill the Malayalam script and pronunciation. We’re a fan of how Anki adapts to how difficult you find the flash cards. If a word or phrase is more challenging, you’ll see it more frequently. As you start to find it easy, it will come up less often.

You can also try an Anki competitor, such as Brainscape. There’s not much difference between the two apps, although we think Brainscape has a slightly more modern interface.

With Readlang, you won’t even have to make the flash cards. This Google Chrome extension will translate words for you as you read and save the most common ones to flashcard decks that you can drill later. The free version of Readlang is decent, but we also consider the premium one to be a good investment.

A man sits outside a building with communist motifs and writing in English and Malayalam, flags, and images of Che Guevara

Kochi, Kerala, where communist politics and beliefs have strong influence. Credit: AJITH S

Learning Malayalam via YouTube

If you’re a more audiovisual learner, YouTube videos can be a great way to supplement your Malayalam courses and classes. Even though the teaching quality tends to be lower, the material is free.

Fluent in Malayalam has playlists for grammar, slang, vocabulary, and more. Some of their videos will teach you Malayalam through Hindi, but most teach Malayalam through English. The audio quality could be better, however.

Learn Malayalam with EliKutty is regularly updated and has lots of helpful content. Her One Minute Malayalam series is a short-and-sweet option for picking up different ways to say “no” or “because,” how to make conditional sentences, and more. The content can seem unstructured, so it’s not ideal for complete beginners.

NoNa TV has basic children’s Malayalam lessons. Although they’re designed for children, we found their videos quite dull. A lot of them use Malayalam to teach, so complete beginners might struggle.

Ready to challenge yourself with videos designed for fluent speakers? We’ve got some suggestions of kids’ shows hosted on YouTube in the Malayalam Movies and TV section.

A rowing boat's prow and sunset over the water in Munroe Island, Kerala

Sailing into the sunset at Munroe Island, Kerala. Credit: Marieke Weller

Malayalam Podcasts

Want to practice your listening with a topic that you find interesting? You need a Malayalam-language podcast. Not only is it good listening practice, but you’ll glean insights into Malayali culture and pick up new vocabulary.

Use the Storiyoh app to discover new podcasters, or check out some of these ones:

The Malayali Malayalam podcast features interviews with Malayalis around the world. At just 5–20 minutes per episode, it’s easy to find the time for one.

kaecawdo takes a deep dive into current affairs, technology, and culture. Recent episodes are 45–60 minutes long, but if you haven’t got much time, check out the earlier ones – they’re much shorter.

Dream Malayalam Podcast also focuses on current affairs and cultures. Episodes range from 30–75 minutes long.

Interested in the crossroads of science, feminism, and the environment? Try Salosa Varthamanangal. More than half the episodes are shorter than 10 minutes.

Malayalam Podcast on Psychology and Mental Health might tackle heavy topics, but the short episode lengths make this a fairly accessible podcast.

Looking for a more personality-oriented podcast? Try Ennodoppam Malayalam Podcast by voiceover artist Reneshia or Pahayan’s Malayalam Podcast by poet and blogger Vinod Narayan.

A smiling woman listens to a Malayalam podcast while walking down the street

Listening to Malayalam podcasts while on the go.

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