5 of my favourite apps for learning English


Photo by Dawid Liberadzki on Unsplash

Every day I discover new apps for learning languages, I test them out to the best of my ability, but at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. I don't think any of them are a complete resource on their own yet but they certainly have their merits when used in combination with each other and with a good language coach/practise partner!


Duolingo is one of the most popular free language learning apps in the world, if you're starting a language from the beginning or want to review the basics again then it's a great resource. If your level is B2 or above I would suggest starting an online course in your language with skill share or getting involved in a social group. You need to be reading and communicating to get beyond the dreaded B2 plateau that so many of my students arrive stuck on!


Like Duolingo, Memrise is free, and like Duolingo it has a fairly great backstory to it, I heard a podcast with the founder Ed Cooke about how he came up with the idea and it's great. It still feels like a game, and you very much respond like Pavlov's dog to the reward system built into the app. That's ok with me though if I'm learning! For me, Memrise is best used for targeted learning, imagine you need to memorise vocabulary for a finance meeting suddenly, well here's a course with all the words you could ever need. Or you're off to London for a week and realise you don't know any slang, you can download a quick course to complete on the flight there and you'll be less lost when you arrive.


I got very excited about Lingvist when it first appeared last year, waited anxiously for the English to Spanish course to come out, and then when it finally did, I stopped using it within a week, so I guess that doesn't bode particularly well. After reading other peoples' reviews about it however for this blogpost, I feel inspired to start again. I remember the clean layout really appealed to me the first time I tested it, so I'm going to set myself the challenge of completing it in the next 100 days and I'll keep you updated!


This one isn't free but you can trial it for 15 days without paying, it's interesting as it uses authentic (real) videos from the web and then teaches you vocabulary and grammar from them. It means you're learning with context and the way native speakers use the language. Which is perfect really :)


This app is a nice allrounder, you have listening activities, speaking, reading and writing. Another thing I like about it is that like the tree in Duolingo you can see where you are in the course which can be a good motivator! You have the option to have your answers corrected by native speakers also using the app and of course, you can get involved and correct theirs too which adds to the feeling of being part of a community.

So what do you think of these apps? Are there any more that you've used or have heard good things about? 








Essentials for studying


I'm from North Wales, a lush green corner of the UK which owes it's greenness to the rather wet climate. While that's never been a problem for me, for Gonz (so very Spanish) it's a different story! 

The last time we visited Wales, my dad took us to a bog. The largest bog in Europe in fact! Gonza's had trainers and I had wellies - guess who was the most miserable after my dads animated tour of the bog? 

We British have a saying 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.' Which basically means that if you have inappropriate clothes or 'kit' for an experience you're probably not going to be very successful at it or very happy at the end of it!

This made me think about the kit you need to enjoy the process of learning English.

So here is a suggested checklist for you:

1. A vocabulary book, small, with good quality paper and a nice pen attached to it if possible.
2. A small, specific list of achievable goals
3. A good dictionary
4. The Macmillan 'Sound' App
5. A magazine/book/blog in English - that you LOVE
6. A nice cup of tea or even a coffee or glass of wine.
7. A diary

1. A vocabulary book, small, with good quality paper and a nice pen attached to it if possible.

The vocabulary book is your anchor when learning English. It's a home for your English brain and personality to develop. I'll talk about this in more detail in a later post but it's important to remember some things when you are using another language. To begin with it's definitely exhausting and depending on the individual can also be very  frustrating.

You lose yourself. You can't make the jokes you make in your first language. It's difficult to be creative and show your character. Your vocabulary book is where you record and build your vocabulary and phrases. So that you can choose how to express yourself and find your personality again!

2. A small, specific list of achievable goals.

A list of achievable goals mean you have a measure for your progress. I can't even begin to describe how important this is. Do you remember when you were a child and you had a long car journey? You had NO IDEA how long it was, it was horrible! So you ended up saying 'are we there yet? How far is it? When do we get there?'

Now imagine sitting in the back of the car with a colourful checklist on it. You're looking out of the window eagerly to tick off the things you see. The old farmhouse, the petrol station with the blue sign, the field that has three bathtubs and a lazy sheep in it. You're excited and happy because you know EXACTLY where you are and where you're going. And it's interesting! The process should be the same with learning English.

3. A good dictionary

I use the online Cambridge English Dictionary.
You can listen to a recording of the correct pronunciation of the word which is really useful. You get a definition of the word in English and within a sentence. This means that you get the sense of the word in it's natural habitat. You will also save precious thinking time so that you aren't translating.

4. The Macmillan 'Sound' App

The Macmillan sound app - I will go into detail about how to use this app another day. For now let me point you in the direction of Adrian Underhill

5. A magazine/book/blog in English - that you LOVE
It's so important to have a magazine, or a book or blog that interests you. If you're not reading in English you're making life much harder for yourself. I say this whilst looking guiltily at my stack of Spanish Vogues which I need to start.

6. A nice cup of tea.

it's a great idea to make a positive association with your language learning. When I started to pick up my french again I liked to have a fancy Mariage Frères tea to put me in the mood. You could go for a Twinings Earl Grey or my current absolute favourites are the higher living teas !

7. A diary.

 This goes hand in hand with the cup of tea. By taking 5 minutes a day to journal, either in the morning or before bed you can consolidate your learning for the day. It helps to solidify your new vocabulary and also it's a meditative way to start or end the day. You can use a journal app or a traditional moleskine diary - my favourite!