Learning a language is definitely one of those painful, long-term commitments that is suitable for your New Year’s resolution list. Quite apart from understanding an alien form of grammar, there is a ton of new words to learn. Many aids now exist for this, but as a multi-language veteran of questionable fluency, I can personally recommend a couple to you: Mindsnacks (iOS only) and Lingua.ly (iOS, Android and desktop).
Mindsnacks (iOS; Android version planned)
The Mindsnacks series of apps is aimed as much at kids as us (…ahem…) grown-ups, but that doesn’t mean it’s “kiddy.” Sure, it gets you to learn through a collection of mini-games, but it works beautifully as a proper language-learning tool.
Each of the nine games reinforces the current group of words you are learning in a slightly different way. Tapping letter-carrying birds teaches you to spell new words. Popping balloons with words that match the theme speeds up your recognition. As you master one “level” of words, you move on to the next. If it were all in English, it would undoubtedly be a bore-fest. But the challenge of a foreign tongue makes it genuine fun, despite the repetition.
I say a foreign tongue, because this app actually helps you to speak your new vocabulary, too. While revising new words, you can tap them to hear them spoken by a native.
Six languages are covered by the series, along with a number of other subjects. They are all free to download, although a modest in-app upgrade is required to unlock the entire vocabulary each title has to offer. You can see the full range here.
Lingua.ly (iOS, Android, Chrome extension and website)
If you’re not in possession of a mobile Apple device, the next best thing to Mindsnacks is Lingua.ly. Instead of using games, this platform replaces words in articles around the web with foreign words you’re trying to learn. This works particularly nicely with the Chrome extension, which means you don’t even have to change your reading habits.
It must be said that the system still needs work — it is reliant on Google Translate’s hit-and-miss conversions, for one thing — but as another free way of speeding your learning, it works nicely.
You can check out Lingua.ly here.