Learning a new language isn’t always easy, but with repeated practice and exposure through a variety of different methods — like these foreign language learning apps — parents can help foster bilingualism.
These days there really is an app for everything — and every language! — but the best ones are always: easy to use, feature native speakers so kids can hear the correct pronunciation of words, and engage through interactive content that reinforces what is being learned at school, after-school clubs, and language classes.
10 Foreign Language Learning Apps to Foster Bilingualism 1 of 10
Gus on the Go 2 of 10
What it is: Developed by two parents, Gus on the Go allows kids to learn 14 different languages, including Spanish, French, and Hebrew.
Why we like it: Gus, an animated traveling owl, guides children on an interactive series of 10 vocabulary activities for each language. After completing each lesson, Gus playfully encourages them to unlock the next adventure by reviewing what they have learned. Delightful animal noises, transportation sounds, and vibrant animations motivate children to see, hear, and touch objects in a simply creative way. Most importantly, Gus on the Go helps children improve their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and basic vocabulary proficiency.
Why it works: Featuring adorable animations and fun exercises, Gus on the Go teaches children the basic concepts of 14 languages, with exciting visual and auditory lessons on numbers, colors, shapes, and more.
Image courtesy of Gus on the Go
Sign Language: Fun Learning for Kids by Handcrafted Web Solutions 3 of 10
What it is: Experienced sign language instructor, Rachel Briley, teaches kids a range of signs, including proper American Sign Language for letters, numbers, animals, family members, transportation modes, nature scenes, and salutations through the Sign Language: Fun Learning for Kids app, featuring high definition video.
Why we like it: Briley's 20 years of experience working with kids shines through this app as she teaches them how to sign through popular songs like "The Wheels on the Bus," "5 Little Monkeys," and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." She also teaches them how to combine facial expressions with signs to ask questions.
Why it works: Briley makes learning sign language engaging and fun thanks to the video component — that really is key for teaching young ages American Sign Language.
Download it here: Sign Language: Fun Learning for Kids is available for iOS devices through the iTunes Store for $4.99.
Images courtesy of Handcrafted Web Solutions
Little Pim Spanish, French, and Chinese 4 of 10
What it is: Little Pim, the company that's well known for products designed to teach children foreign languages at a young age has developed apps in Spanish, French, and Chinese for iOS devices.
Why we like it: Little Pim realizes that kids learn in different ways. They've created books, DVDs, and CDs to help kids master new languages, and the app version is another way kids can engage with a foreign language through an interactive experience.
Why it works: Each app introduces 60 vocabulary words and a multitude of phrases through interactive learning. The newest Little Pim app, Little Pim Spanish Colors, still features Pim the Panda, who provides consistency for kids, and stories that can be read independently or with the help of a narrator. The app has lots of fun interactive game play that appeals to kids as they hunt for balloons while discovering new words, and a question and answer feature that helps reinforce vocabulary while teaching basic sentence structure.
Download it here: The Little Pim app page on their website directs Android, iOS, and LeapPad owners to the downloads for different mobile devices.
Image courtesy of Little Pim
Kids Learn Mandarin 5 of 10
What it is: Kids Learn Mandarin is designed to provide kids ages 2-8 with exposure to 240 Mandarin words through 12 fully interactive lessons that cover numbers, colors, animals, food, sports, transportation, and more through 96 mini-games, 12 lively music videos, and 12 Chinese character writing lessons with Pei Pei the Panda.
Why we like it: According to the U.S. State Department, Mandarin is the second most popular language in the world, spoken by over 1 billion people, and this app can help reinforce what is being taught at home, through school, or through after-school Mandarin lessons.
Why it works: This app is designed to engage early childhood learners in interactive matching activities to reinforce Mandarin. Activities include listening to the word in Mandarin and tapping the turtle with the corresponding animal; hearing the word and tilting the device to catch the matching picture in the hot air balloon basket; or playing tic tac toe to match three pictures in a row. It may seem repetitive but repetition is one of the best ways young children can learn a foreign language.
Download it here: Kids Learn Mandarin is designed for iOS devices and is available to download from the iTunes Store for free but there are in-app purchases depending on what additional vocabulary content you want your child to learn. The full pack is $7.99 and includes colors, shapes, sports, hobbies, body parts, fruits, vegetables, and animals, or add on content as needed. Be sure to talk to your children about in-app purchases before using this app.
Image courtesy of Fingerprint
PicPocket Books 6 of 10
What are they: Designed for ages 4-12, PicPocket Books has five interactive picture book titles in Spanish including:
- Eric y la Hoja Encatada: una Noche con Eco
- Eric y la Hoja Encatada: La Primera Aventura
- Eric y la Hoja Encatada: Una Visita con Canis Lupis
- Huggybird y la caja de los sueÃ±os
- ¡Ay, Caramba!
Why we like them: PicPocket's Spanish titles feature the beauty of picture books, with audio recording and interactive visual text for bilingual learners. Just like other titles from PicPocket Books, the Spanish titles allow kids to play and pause the story at any time, and fast forward or go back to replay images and listen to audio. Each downloaded story can be listened to endlessly.
Why they work: Children need various opportunities to practice a new language, and the ability to listen to words in context is helpful for those mastering a new language. Vibrant illustrations plus interactive elements on each page keep learning fun.
Download them here: The affordable iOS apps are $1.99 each. Learn more about them through the PicPocket Books site and click through to download them from iTunes.
Image courtesy of PicPocket Books
French Words for Kids 7 of 10
What it is: Featured by Apple in the "Apps for Kids" list in France, French Words for Kids provides 240 word-picture-audio combinations to learn to spell and pronounce French words, by dragging and dropping letters on their iOS device.
Why we like it: The app provides differentiated instruction through 3 levels of difficulty, and kids start with words that are easiest to spell since the app developer classified words according to difficulty. Those beginning to learn French receive positive reinforcement when words are completed, thanks to 21 interactive visual elements. The app also features 3 types of letters to meet the needs of different learners by including cursive, lowercase, and capital print.
Why it works: A native French speaker has recorded the audio for letter sounds and words, and since sounds associated with each letter are played when the letter is touched, the app reinforces correct pronunciation. The app is also based on a Montessori method that uses a Moveable Alphabet to spell words of increasing difficulty, by associating the phonetic sounds of letters with their written symbol.
Download it here: French Words for Kids is available for iOS devices for $3.99 from the iTunes Store.
Image courtesy of L'Escapadou
KinderApp 8 of 10
What it is: KinderApp is the No.1 bestselling app in education and kids games in the German App Store, because it helps kids who are toddler aged and older learn to speak German and Hungarian in a fun and interactive way.
Why we like it: Beautiful colors found in the whimsical illustrations draw kids in, while two levels of game play target children according to their age and development. Younger toddlers play Level 1 to familiarize themselves with the names of basic objects, while preschoolers can play Level 2 to find the objects being asked for by the app.
Why it works: The differentiation aspect of the app works well to provide early learners with age-appropriate bilingual learning experiences, where they can practice language skills in a way that's just right for them. They can also build upon their skills — thanks to the next level that's slightly more advanced and challenging, yet still allows for success.
Image courtesy of Kornelia Erdelyi and KinderApp
Learn Arabic for Kids or Learn Hindi for Kids 9 of 10
What is it: Learn Arabic for Kids and Learn Hindi for Kids features over 400 Arabic Flashcards containing commonly used Arabic words such as colors, numbers, food, drink, animals, and more — all illustrated and professionally recorded by a native Arabic speaker.
Why we like it: This easy-to-navigate app teaches kids how to pronounce and recognize words, thanks to hundreds of audio files that include words, sound effects, and musical themes.
Why it works: The flashcard format provides early learners with an introduction to commonly used words in the Arabic or Hindi languages.
Download it here: Learn Arabic for Kids is available for iOS devices through the iTunes Store (free for a limited version or $2.99 for the full version) or through Google Play for Android devices for $1.99. The Hindi version can also be downloaded from Google Play and iTunes Store for the same price as the Arabic version.
Image courtesy of INKids
Dic-Dic: Multilingual dictation to practice spelling, writing, and sound-letter matching 10 of 10
What is it: Dic-Dic is an educational game designed for kids ages 3-8 to learn to spell commonly-used words in several languages, including Spanish and French. The audiovisual dictation at 3 levels of difficulty allows them to learn spelling and vocabulary in a fun way.
Why we like it: Kids have options when learning through Dic-Dic, because the app lets the user choose the level of difficulty, the language they want to practice, and whether to be given clues. Clues allow the youngest children to reinforce their learning of letters, in association with their sound — an important early literacy skill. There's also the option to spell using the keyboard that pops up in the app, which helps children learn letter placement on a keyboard.
Why it works: This app works as a learning tool because the languages are spoken by native speakers, it auto-corrects incorrect responses to correct responses to reinforce learning, and it is ad-free.
Download it here: Dic-Dic is available from iTunes from $1.99.
Image courtesy of Perception Technologies, S.L.