As you might know, Patrick and I are planning a trip to Europe. Though we haven’t completely nailed down our itinerary, we know we’re going to be spending a good long time in France. And from what I hear, the French really appreciate it if you at least attempt to speak their language.
Ergo… I need to whip out the old textbooks.
Thankfully, now that we live in the digital age, there are plenty of options when it comes to brushing up on your parlance that don’t include workbooks. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve tried out a handful of different apps (some free and some not-so-free) that guarantee you’ll learn French. And the results are in. Here are my favorites from least to greatest.
This app is game oriented, and expensive—but fun. The “free” version gives you one set of vocabulary (PG body parts), and three different games to play over and over again until you’ve mastered each word. It’s repetitive but effective, and the visuals work like flashcards to help you memorize. Soon enough, you’ll want to upgrade to the $5 version, and you’ll realize it’s just more of the same with other vocabulary.
PRO: Games that can be played in “silent” mode so your husband doesn’t want to throw your phone out the window.
CON: Very little grammar integration or speaking practice, which is the point, right?
Incroyable! An app suited for those of us who “say” we want to learn French, but really just want to get around Paris without looking like an American idiot. This app can be a handy quick-reference for tight situations. Need to get on a train fast? click the “Railway Trains” tab, and you’ll find all the relevant questions—plus, if you’re really in a pinch, you can just click the question, and Siri will read it aloud for you. Although I guess that doesn’t really help the whole “lazy American” stereotype. Drat.
PRO: Free, quick-referernce for real-life situations: missed trains, convenience store items you forgot, and important life questions like “Ou sont les toilette?”
CON: Unappealing/disorganized design. Some of the lists are long, which means you may be scrolling a while to find what you’re looking for. Also, this doesn’t teach you French. It’s just a cheat sheet, albeit a helpful one.
As you can tell from the photo and its place on my list, Duolingo is by far the best app for actually learning how to speak French (or Spanish, Italian, German, or Portuguese). The app walks you through countless free lessons, that include grammar explanations, new vocabulary, and practical speaking practice. Each lesson includes steps that record you speaking into your phone’s microphone. Then, some computer program checks that you don’t sound absurd! Nice right? Plus, every time you do something right it rings this beautiful sound that makes you feel like you’re conquering the world.
PRO: Free app that actually helps teach the language basics, with good design and helpful explanations.
ADDITIONAL PRO: This app lets you “jump” levels if you’ve studied French in the past and want to start with what you already remember.
CON: Entirely addictive. Also, it requires sound, which can easily annoy the people around you.
ADDITIONAL CON: This app does not offer Chinese. So I can’t brush up on the language I actually spent three years studying. Get cracking on that Mandarin version Duolingo!
So there you have it folks. My favorite French apps, reviewed. Did I miss any? What apps have you used for language that are helpful? I’d love to hear!
Au revoir mon frère!