Best Language Learning Software

Pimsleur offers comprehensive language instruction using time-tested methods

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When you want to learn a new language, you can tap into the power of language learning software to assist in the process. Language learning software often includes a combination of written, video, audio, and interactive content to help participants learn or improve their abilities to communicate in a specific foreign language.

The best language learning software includes intuitive lessons that follow a logical progression, wide compatibility with desktop and mobile devices, and a price-point that’s reasonable given your goals, whether they’re professional or personal. At the end of your language learning software course, you should be able to read, write, and speak in your desired language.

Best Language Learning Software of 2021

Best Overall : Pimsleur


Pimsleur Learn Spanish

 Pimsleur Learn Spanish

  • Cost: $14.95 per month
  • Format: Web and mobile
  • Guarantee: 30-day money-back guarantee
Why We Chose It

Pimsleur uses highly-researched techniques to help you learn as efficiently and effectively as possible with support for more than 50 languages.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Relies on the respected Pimsleur learning method

  • Focus on core vocabulary

  • Free one-week trial

Cons
  • Monthly subscription required

  • Less focused on writing skills

  • Little inclusion of slang or local terms

Overview

Pimsleur, named for a well-known language researcher, is a top choice for language learners due to its heavily researched and well-respected teaching methods. Pimsleur relies on graduated interval recall, which helps you build long-term language memory through repetition and optimally spaced lesson topics. Each lesson focuses on a limited set of core vocabulary, which you build on with future lessons.

Content includes audio lessons, reading lessons, speaking challenges, digital flashcards, and a language game. It works on iOS or Android apps and a web-based experience for any computer or device.

Pimsleur has a seven-day free trial followed by $20.95 per month for an All Access pass which is just $1 more to get all 51 languages rather than just one language for $19.95 per month. If you just need one language with just the audio lessons (no visuals), you take advantage of the lowest-priced tier at $14.95 per month. Pimsleur should help most dedicated students learn a new language as quickly as possible.

Best Free Software : Duolingo


Duolingo

Duolingo

  • Cost: Free to $12.99 per month
  • Format: Web and mobile
  • Guarantee: None
Why We Chose It

Duolingo makes it easy to get started learning a new language for free from your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free lessons in 37 languages

  • Includes lesser-used languages

  • Easy-to-follow interactive lessons

Cons
  • Free version is ad-supported

  • Paid version required to use offline

Overview

Duolingo is a free language learning software best used on mobile, though a web-based version is also available. Once signed up, you can choose between 37 languages, including some not widely spoken, like Yiddish and Navajo. Sci-fi and fiction fans will also be excited to see Klingon and High Valyrian on the menu.

Lessons are easy to click through and build your vocabulary over a series of topic-based lessons, like words for travel or restaurants. If you use the free version, you’ll see ads throughout your learning experience. However, a paid upgrade is available that removes advertisements and enables offline learning on mobile when you don’t have an active connection, among other features.

Duolingo Plus costs $12.99 per month or $6.99 per month when paid annually ($83.88 per year), but you can start for free and try it out before paying to upgrade.

Best for Variety of Languages : Rosetta Stone


Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone

  • Cost: $11.99 per month or $179 for lifetime access
  • Format: Web, mobile, desktop
  • Guarantee: 30-day money-back guarantee
Why We Chose It

We chose Rosetta Stone because it is a well-respected language learning suite with an option for a 25-language pack.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Choose individual languages or a pack of all 25

  • Options for subscription or lifetime access pricing

  • Well-respected learning software used by governments and corporations

Cons
  • Short 3-day free trial

  • Not easy to find all options and packages online

Overview

Rosetta Stone is a well-known language learning software with support for 25 different languages. While most people will learn one at a time, there’s also an option to subscribe to a package of all 25 or buy it with lifetime access, which made it the winner for this category.

Rosetta Stone is popular among businesses and governments sending workers to assignments abroad. One unique feature at Rosetta Stone is the TruAccent speech-recognition system which helps you master pronunciations as locals speak.

Single language courses cost $11.99 per month for three-month access ($35.97 total), $7.99 per month with one-year access ($95.88 total), or $179 for lifetime access with unlimited languages.

Best for the Basics : Rocket Languages


RocketGerman

RocketGerman

  • Cost: $99.95 to $259.90
  • Format: Web and mobile
  • Guarantee: 60-day money-back guarantee
Why We Chose It

We like that Rocket Languages focuses on essential vocabulary and conversation to help you quickly learn basic conversational skills.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Focus on learning local conversational skills

  • Voice-recognition system to improve pronunciation

  • Lifetime access with all packages

Cons
  • Fewer languages than some competitors

  • Less ideal for intermediate to advanced students

Overview

Rocket Languages is a mobile and web-based platform supporting 13 widely-spoken languages. It’s best for beginners who want to learn the basics of a language quickly. The platform uses an immersive learning style aimed at teaching culturally relevant phrases and cultural norms.

The main lessons and tools require an internet connection, though some resources are available as audio or PDF downloads, so you can study anywhere. Rocket Languages supports American Sign Language, plus many spoken languages. It also has an English learning program for Spanish speakers.

There are three levels available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students, though not all languages go beyond level one. The starting cost is $99.95 for level one only. You can buy levels one and two as a package for $249.90 or all three levels together for $259.90.

Best for Casual Language (“Real World” Language) : Memrise


Memrise

 Memrise

  • Cost: $8.99 per month or $139.99 lifetime
  • Format: Web and mobile
  • Guarantee: 30-day money-back guarantee
Why We Chose It

We chose Memrise because it teaches you to navigate common real-life situations with video lessons taught by native speakers.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Learn 24 languages with one purchase

  • Choose monthly, annual, or lifetime access

  • Video lessons taught by locals focus on real-life situations

Cons
  • User-created content isn’t always high quality

  • Less focus on grammar

  • Not ideal for advanced learners

Overview

Memrise is great for casual language learners, as it focuses on teaching basic vocabulary for real-life situations. It’s supported by more than 50,000 videos featuring local speakers which gives you cultural insight in addition to language skills.

One membership or purchase gives you access to the entire Memrise library, which includes 24 languages with courses by category. However, it’s focused more on helping you speak quickly rather than grammar, so it’s better for those who want to learn conversational language than those who need it for professional or academic use. Also, many videos are user-generated, which won’t necessarily have the professional production quality that comes with a paid platform.

You can start for free with limited access. To get everything, you’ll need a Memrise Pro account. Pro accounts cost $8.99 per month or $7.50 per month when paid annually ($90 per year). The best deal is lifetime access for a single payment of $139.99, supported by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Best App : Babbel


Babbel

Babbel

  • Cost: $13.95 per month to $83.40 per year
  • Format: Web and Mobile
  • Guarantee: 20-day money-back guarantee
Why We Chose It

We picked Babbel because its mobile apps are easy-to-use and feature-filled, including a game-like learning experience plus live instruction.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Intuitive mobile app that’s easy to use

  • Learn with a combination of lessons and live instruction

  • Short lessons designed for quick progress

Cons
  • Upgraded subscription required for multiple languages

  • No single-payment lifetime access option

Overview

Babbel is available for the web and mobile, but its mobile app stands out as easy-to-use and feature-filled. In addition to the typical course materials you would see with any language app, Babbel offers options to work with live instructors in a small group class.

The mobile app includes short lessons and real-life dialogues so you can get speaking right away. It’s good for beginner to intermediate speakers, but not advanced students who already grasp the language. In addition, you can customize your learning experience to your interests to keep your course relevant to your needs.

The first lesson is free; then you’ll need a subscription to keep going. One-month subscriptions cost $13.95, and there are discounts for three, six, and 12-month packages. For a full year, the cost is $6.95 per month ($83.40). Live instruction class add-ons cost $30 to $290 per month ($15 to $30 per class).

Best for Visual Learners : Drops


Drops Logo

Drops

  • Cost: $8.49 per month or $149.99 lifetime
  • Format: Web and mobile
  • Guarantee: 14-day refund policy
Why We Chose It

We like Drops for visual learners because it includes a beautiful visual design and includes image-based learning.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Colorful, image-filled course platform

  • Gamified design makes it fun to learn

  • Learn at a rapid pace

Cons
  • No grammar instruction

  • No money-back guarantee

Overview

Drops is a web and mobile app that supports 45 different languages and teaches students five-minute lessons focused on vocabulary. The gamified experience is fun, encouraging, and ties well into the highly visual design.

You can start with basic access for free that includes five minutes per 10 hours, but a subscription or one-time payment is required for full access. It offers a “90 Days with Drops” challenge to get you speaking quickly, though you won’t get any specific instruction on grammar.

Drops Premium costs $8.49 per month when paid monthly, $5 per month when paid annually ($60), or $149.99 for lifetime access. In addition, members get access to all included languages with no advertising and unlimited lesson time.

Best for Auditory Learners : italki


Italki

Italki

  • Cost: Varies to $10+ per Lesson
  • Format: Web and mobile
  • Guarantee: No refunds
Why We Chose It

We like italki for auditory learners because it connects you with a human tutor to learn the language by hearing and speaking one-on-one.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Work with live teachers to learn a language

  • One-on-one lessons with teachers or tutors

  • Pick your teacher by language and ratings

Cons
  • No set course or learning plan

  • No refunds

Overview

italki is good for language learners who learn from hearing and speaking. The program connects you with professional teachers and community tutors to learn a language one-on-one or in small group classes.

When choosing your teacher, you can filter for professional language instructors or community tutors. You’ll pay a price based on what the instructor decides to charge, starting at $10 for teachers or $5 for community tutors. Single lessons or packages are available at a discount.

italki doesn’t give you a language course to follow, but one-on-one learning works better for many auditory learners. There are thousands of teachers on the platform with varying qualifications and rates, so it’s worth taking the time to find someone good for your needs.

Final Verdict

Pimsleur is our top pick overall because it uses tried and true academically proven methods to help you learn a new language as quickly as possible, and pricing is reasonable for in-depth language instruction.

Other courses may be better for different learning styles, technology preferences, and price points, but overall, Pimsleur is an excellent provider of language education. However, depending on your language learning goals, learning style, and budget, any of these language software options could be the right fit for your needs.

Compare the Best Language Learning Software

Company Cost  Platforms Supported  Free Trial or Version Guarantee
Pimsleur
Best Overall
$14.95 per month Web and mobile 7 days 30-day money-back guarantee
Duolingo
Best Free Software
Free to $12.99 per month  Web and mobile  Free version available None
Rosetta Stone
Best for Variety of Languages
From $11.99 per month  Web, mobile, and desktop 3 days 30-day money-back guarantee
Rocket Languages
Best for the Basics
From $99.95  Web and mobile  Limited free trial 60-day money-back guarantee
Memrise
Best for Casual Language (“Real World” Language)
From $8.99 per month  Web and mobile  Free version available 30-day money-back guarantee
Babbel
Best App
From $13.95 per month  Web and mobile  First lesson free 20-day money-back guarantee
Drops
Best for Visual Learners
From $8.49 per month  Web and Mobile  Limited free version available 14-day refund policy
Italki
Best for Auditory Learners
From $5 per lesson  Web and mobile  Three trial lessons None

How to Choose the Best Language Learning Software

While the goal is usually similar, every language learning software takes a unique approach to teach languages and app design. In addition to cost, it’s important to consider your preferred learning style and outcome.

  • Teaching methods: Some apps take a more academic approach, including grammar and writing, while others teach spoken language for casual conversation only.
  • Content styles: Different platforms offer a combination of video, written, audio, and quiz-style content, plus options for live instruction.
  • Learning focus: Some learners need spoken language for travel, some need business or government vocabulary, while others need a formal, academic type education. Each software has a different focus for various needs and goals.
  • Platforms supported: If you want to learn using a specific phone or computer, make sure it’s supported. Most language software reviewed worked on the web or dedicated mobile apps.
  • Cost: From free to hundreds of dollars, there are different apps for various budgets. Paying more may lead to better quality, but not always.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Language Learning Software Do?

Language learning software teaches users to understand, speak and read foreign languages. Typically, the software uses a combination of video, written, audio, and interactive quiz-style content to teach. Most language learning software includes a course for your chosen language, starting with basic content and moving forward as your skills progress.

It’s important to look at what type of language learning is covered when choosing a course, as some focus only on speaking and vocabulary, while others also include lessons on grammar and writing.

When Should You Use Language Learning Software?

If you’re looking to learn a foreign language for any reason, language learning software can be beneficial. Whether you’re traveling long-term, moving to a new country, or taking up a new assignment at work, there are many reasons to learn a new language. Language learning software gives you the ability to take a full foreign language course from the comfort of your home or the convenience of your smartphone.

How Much Does Language Learning Software Cost?

Language learning software varies widely in cost. Some programs are available for free, though you’ll likely see advertising in those cases. Paid programs typically require a monthly subscription of around $10 to $15, an annual cost of around $80 to $100, or a one-time fee of $150 or more. Higher-priced software isn’t necessarily better, so it’s important to consider your goals and learning style before paying.

How Does Language Learning Software Compare to Taking a Language Class?

Learning language software may be very different from a language class or very similar, depending on your chosen software. Most language software follows a course that’s in line with what you would see in a language textbook, but with interactive video lessons. A few language learning software programs connect you with a live instructor for one-on-one tutoring or a group class, just like going to a language class in person but using your device instead.

Methodology

When reviewing language learning software companies for this review, we looked for software that offers comprehensive language instruction for various goals and budgets. Features closely considered include the depth of instruction, type of instruction offered, platforms supported, and how the content is taught.

The cost was reviewed as well but was not the main factor as most software is similarly priced and rarely costs more than $150 for lifetime access. We looked at more than a dozen language software providers, and any in this final list should meet the needs of a typical online or remote language learner.