From grammar quizzes and games to conversations and interactive flashcards, there’s a brilliant range of apps to choose from if you’re looking to improve your English skills. Here’s our pick of the best:
Duolingo (free, iOS/Android)
With no paid-for extras, Duolingo really is free and highly rated by many – Apple chose it as its App of the Year in 2013. You learn through listening, matching words with photos and speaking. The set-up is all about progressing through levels – make too many mistakes and you have to repeat the whole lesson (there are eight or nine lessons per level). There are currently 21 languages available.
Memrise (free, iOS/Android)
Memrise is great for beginners. Lessons usually start with an English word or phrase, its definition in your own language and a recording of how it’s pronounced. Then there are funny pictures or mnemonics (something to remind you of the word) to help you remember, multiple choice questions and the chance to put words together to make a phrase. When you’ve done a few words, things are mixed up to see if you’ve really learned them – or ‘grown’ them, as Memrise puts it.
MyWordBook (free, with in-app purchases, iOS/Android)
This app from the British Council is all about vocabulary. You learn new words via interactive flashcards: there’s a definition, translation (with a wide choice of languages), sound, information on the word, along with practice tests and reviews, and the chance to create your own flashcards. There are 75 words installed and the chance to acquire many more (75p or £1.49 per set).
LearnEnglishGrammar (free, with in-app purchases, iOS/Android)
This sister app to MyWordBook (see above) features grammar questions for all levels. Activities include reordering words, filling in the blanks and labelling parts of speech – all aimed at getting your grammar up to scratch. Start with the free sample questions covering 12 topics, with over 20 activities per topic. You can buy more as you improve (£1.49 per set).
Learn English, Speak English (free, with in-app purchases, iOS/Android)
This app gives you a voice. First, you watch a conversation between two actors with their words written on screen. Then you take one of the roles. The app then grades you on your efforts. There’s listening, too, with comprehension questions. It’s interactive and fun – as long as you don’t mind learning English with an American accent. It’s free to download but you won’t get far without the in-app purchases: the all-lessons package is £4.49 a month, £18.99 a year.
Learn English Listening (free, with in-app purchases, iOS/Android)
Six-minute chunks of conversation (with subtitles) from BBC Learning English on a range of topics. Harder words and phrases are explained as part of the conversation and there’s a useful summary at the end. Other features include short news broadcast downloads, with a useful screen to teach you the vocabulary from the report. You can get a long way on the app without the need for extra purchases (£2.99 per item).
English Vocabulary TFLAT (free, with in-app purchases, iOS/Android)
Fun and games while you learn new words. Levels 1-3 are free, and there are lots of games on every level. The only free game, though, is Save Panda, where you zap wrongly spelled words falling to earth on parachutes to save a cute panda. So you’re going to need the in-app purchases (£1.48-£4.33) to get the best from the app. There’s reading practice, too, where you record your voice and compare it with the app’s own audio version.
Busuu (free, with in-app purchases, iOS/Android)
Busuu is an online community of language learners, where students interact with each other and native speakers. The app also allows students to practise when they’re offline. You explore topics – like ‘a normal day’ – with interactive exercises including audio and pictures, and sentence practice where you write in a box. There’s also lots of grammar help. You can download the app for free, but you’ll find yourself locked out of a lot of content if you don’t pay for ‘premium’ (£4.17-£7.99 per month).
Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge (free, iOS/Android)
This fun app from the British Council lets you compete with others on a global leaderboard as you complete 60-second quizzes in words, grammar and spelling, across three levels. There are ten vocabulary topics (themes like food and restaurants, travel and so on) and 12 grammar topics to challenge you.