Unsurprisingly, language barriers are one of the most common problems expats like yourself face, especially in the early phases of living abroad. There are already so many things to attend to, such as adjusting to the culture, customs and environment. You’ll also have a new job, buy a new car, house or even find a new school for your kids. And now it seems like you also need to find solutions for overcoming language barriers, which suddenly makes everything seem a hundred times more difficult and stressful.
Yes, we get the frustration you might be feeling. The inability to speak and comprehend a foreign language could be overwhelming for most of you. It can significantly impact your way of life and the decisions you make. Ultimately, your communication and interaction with others become limited as you are not able to fully express yourself. This may, as a result, be a challenge to your career in a new country as language barriers can affect your work performances if communication is not effective and important information is not relayed properly.
Sometimes, the only way to integrate yourself into a new environment is to be patient. But of course, learning the local lingo will make your life easier as you do not need to worry about conversing with others and expressing yourself. If the country you are moving to speaks English as a common language, then good for you.
If you are not, it’s perfectly fine too. There are plenty of online platforms and different channels you can utilize to master the local lingo even before you move over. Depending on your personal preference, learning style, budget and convenience, here is a list of highly recommended apps that are popular sources of overcoming language barriers in the market.
* This list is not placed in any particular ranking order.
Duolingo offers a wide range of options for you to choose from and has been proven to be effective for many users in terms of reading, speaking and listening skills. With 37 choices, try your hands at some of the most unusual languages around the world, including Swahili and Hebrew.
Besides that, you can also enrol yourself in as many languages as you like at the same time and learn them at your own convenience. The existence of fun challenges and gamification elements where you are prompted to gain experience points for advancing your level are just some of the ways to keep you engaged and stay motivated to complete the lessons.
The best part about Duolingo? It is completely free! This is surprising given that the wealth of content provided is comprehensive and useful for beginners. There is also an option for you to upgrade to Duolingo Plus from $6.99 per month if you want the advertisements removed and to speed up your learning progress.
Babbel offers short, interactive and bite-sized lessons that last for only 10-15 minutes. With 13 choices to choose from, Babbel teaches through real-life dialogues and provides you with a wide variety of tasks in an effective and entertaining manner instead of bombarding you with abstract sentences, vocabulary or grammar rules that you need to remember.
The best part about Babbel? It caters to all learning styles! So whether you learn best by writing, speaking, reading, listening or seeing, there is no reason not to try Babbel as it has taken into consideration both the visionary and auditory learning types.
While it provides free standard lessons to all learners, there are two types of subscriptions you can consider opting for. A paid app subscription (starting from $12.95 per month) entitles you to unlimited lessons that cater specifically to your needs, level of commitment and learning pace. The new Babbel Live subscription (starting from $99 per month) provides you with access to live virtual classes taught by qualified instructors, in addition to what the basic paid app subscription already has to offer.
If you learn well with visual or auditory cues, then Memrise is just right for you! With 23 different languages to pick, Memrise uses a mnemonic learning approach where flashcards with images and wacky sentences are shown at the same time for word associations. The idea is to inspire connection and help you to retain information easily and more effectively.
The best part about Memrise? It has included videos of native speakers speaking their language with a real accent in a casual conversation so you will get an idea of how phrases are used and how the language is really spoken. To help you master the language in a real-life scenario, this ‘Meet The Natives’ feature places great emphasis on the appropriate use of the language. It also adopts a virtual immersive learning that makes you feel like you are right there with the locals, experiencing the culture while taking in the scenery.
While most of the content is free on Memrise, you can sign up for a paid subscription (starting from $8.99 per month) which will give you access to all the official language courses you can possibly learn!
Qlango is perfect for those who learn well through games. With game-like features as one of the main motivations for learning a new language, it encourages you to keep advancing your level, achieving targets and unlocking exclusive content or resources.
The best part about Qlango? We literally play to learn. With 43 languages and 5 difficulty levels to select, be prepared for exciting challenges that come your way because you will only be able to answer questions in the language that you are learning. This form of immersive learning can greatly help to improve your progress.
Specially curated for individuals who have little time to sit through an hour’s worth of lessons, Qlango is 5 minutes at its maximum. Sounds too good to be true, isn’t it? It also allows you to plan your weekly lessons as you wish. Yes, we all get it. There are days we just don’t feel like studying or simply do not have the time for. Ultimately, you will still need to complete them to achieve your weekly target and to monitor your progress.
While Qlango is free for all to start learning, you will need to pay a small fee if you want to unlock content or resources. Unlike many other apps that provide you with the option to choose your paid subscription, Qlango only offers a lifetime subscription fee of $89.99.
With 12 choices of languages to opt for, be ready to get drilled by Busuu on excelling your Grammar and Vocabulary with fun and quick quizzes. From speaking, listening and writing to accurate pronunciation and the appropriate use of Grammar and Vocabulary, Busuu trains you to learn quickly with their interactive lessons and language mini-games.
Every lesson is topic-focused and with an aim in mind to help you build your conversational skills gradually, from learning the basic grammar and vocabulary to writing and voice recording exercises.
The best part about Busuu? It does not require an internet connection (unless you are taking the free basic plan) like most of the other apps do! So the next time you are running out of data or are at places with a bad signal, just download the content beforehand and you are ready to study on the move, anytime and anywhere.
Unlike the free basic plan where you are only entitled to learn 1 language and with very limited features, the premium subscription on Busuu gives you access to some features while the premium plus subscription gives you access to basically everything for all the 12 languages.
Whichever country you are moving to, your life can be made easier with these apps. Despite your busy schedule, try squeezing some time out to start your learning journey as early as possible to avoid being totally clueless about the people and your surroundings when you arrive at your new home.
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