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Best Language Learning Apps For Kids
Our comprehensive guide to the best language apps for kids based on our team's testing and research
Although language learning apps geared toward children have come a long way in the last 20 years, most of the fundamental features have not changed. When considering language apps for kids, there are a number of factors to consider, including your child’s age, the underlying content in the app, teaching framework, engagement factor, and a lot more. We’ve done the homework for you and have ranked the best language learning apps for kids in this guide.
To quickly navigate through this guide, simply use the helpful jump-to links above.
Team member John runs down our list of the best language learning apps for kids in under 10 minutes. Continue reading more for more detail.
Opening Thoughts On Children’s Language Apps
Because we typically focus on reviewing and comparing language apps for adults, we actually had to step back and come at this project from a slightly different angle. We did a bunch of research into how children learn differently than adults, tried out some new apps geared specifically towards kids, saw first hand what works and doesn’t work, and generally speaking, had some fun doing it. There are a bunch of fun apps on the market for kids these days.
Yet, one of the most important things we discovered along the way is that a lot of the language programs we really like for adults, including programs like Rocket Languages, Pimsleur and Babbel, don’t necessarily translate for kids. Whether based on methodology or content, some of our otherwise favorite language apps just weren’t a good match.
The other thing we quickly learned is that within this segment of language learning for “kids,” there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For example, a 4-year old will need a very different app than a 12-year old. They are simply at different bands on the learning spectrum and need different things from an app.
As such, in this post, we outline the top three language apps for kids that we think are worthy of mention based on our rating system, with specific commentary on which apps are best based on age and learning style. So with that in mind, let’s get to the first app.
For the very early development period of age 2 to 6, when you’re just trying to get your child acquainted with their new language and teach them some basics, we like an app called Gus on the Go.
This is a children-only app that has been around forever, and it is very good at what it does—teaching your kid some basic vocabulary in a fun and engaging way.
In short, the app uses a main character named Gus (an owl) to travel around and teach new words and phrases along the way. Most of the vocab your child will learn is related to animals, modes of transportation, body parts, clothes, and other basic things. In this respect, it’s very simple and straightforward.
Gus takes a short trip, which your child can direct on the map, and there are little games and obstacles along the way. In total, the app will teach your child about 100 words across 10 lessons. It’s clearly geared towards small children with its cartoons and storylines, and we had a really good experience with it.
When you finish the 10 lessons, you can then advance to their secondary app called Stories. This app takes a classic fairytale or story, and puts a silly little twist on it to teach more advanced phrases, and even some basic sentences. Stories is a nice add-on once your child gets a little older and gets through the basic app.
For us, in this early language development period, we were big fans of Gus on the Go, and graded it out as the best in this segment. It keeps kids engaged, is content-appropriate, and teaches in a straightforward way with the added benefit of spaced repetition.
Plus, each app only costs $4 to purchase, so it definitely isn’t going to break the bank. In short, it’s a great starter app.
Once you move past the early language development stage and your kids are in school, things get a little more complicated. From age 7 or 8 onward, you need a more robust program which they won’t burn through quickly. Not to mention, it needs to fit their evolving learning style.
To this end, of all the programs we’ve tested, we found Rosetta Stone for Kids to be the best. This is especially true for parents looking for a curriculum for their homeschooler.
Of all the programs we’ve looked at and used, Rosetta Stone is the most comprehensive, has the best learning methodology for kids, and is built for the long term, where they won’t complete the app in just a few short weeks or months like they will with Gus on the Go.
The greatest advantage of using Rosetta Stone for children is the teaching methodology and learning framework. Where other apps focus on audio lessons or using foreign language cartoons with subtitles to teach, we like that Rosetta Stone is picture-based and more interactive.
The basis of the Rosetta Stone program is learning through images, which in a way, somewhat mirrors how kids learn when they’re first learning English as a toddler. They associate the new words they’re learning with objects and images directly, rather than using another language as a go-between.
Then, doubling down on that learning framework, Rosetta Stone has the added benefit of leveraging immersion. There is very little use of English in the program, so children are forced to learn whatever language they’re learning as they go. They can’t fall back on English, which again, is how they learned English as babies.
Another advantage of the Rosetta Stone program is that the drills are very interactive. Kids have to be engaged with the program as they match images to phrases and complete flashcard-like exercises.
This is a much more active form of learning than simply watching cartoons with subtitles, and this has been shown to increase language retention. And to reiterate, one of the other factors why we give Rosetta Stone such a high grade in the category of kids apps is that there is a ton behind this program.
Children won’t run of material for a long time, and they can take this app with them from grade to grade, which we really like.
Bottom line, for school-aged kids (likely 7 and older), Rosetta Stone for Kids is our highest-rated app.
Before we move on though, it is also worth mentioning that in terms of cost, Rosetta Stone is actually fairly reasonable compared to other apps. The entire program costs just $180 for lifetime access, and that includes access to all languages. Therefore, if you plan on teaching or encouraging your kid to learn multiple languages, it’s a great value for the price.
Now that we’ve covered our favorite app for the two big age groups, I want to highlight one other app that might work well for your child. For kids that demonstrate a capacity for learning visually and need to expand their vocabulary, Memrise is a great option.
Memrise is a very simple, vocab-based app that teaches language essentials. It’s not necessarily geared towards children specifically, but it fits the mold for them perfectly.
There are no lengthy audio lessons, nor detailed grammar notes or instruction, nor any other elements which would generally be designed with adults-only in mind. It’s a simple, straightforward app aimed at teaching basic vocab.
One of the main reasons we think it would work particularly well for children is that Memrise incorporates short video clips of native speakers speaking the words and phrases you’re learning into their drills. Seeing fluent speakers actually speak new words offers a ton of benefits.
This gives kids a mental image to anchor the vocab they’re learning to, plus the non-verbal aspects of communication can be really important for children. It’s good that they get to see facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language.
Plus, the clips aren’t too long, where your child might zone out. Each video is only a few second long. Additionally, Memrise has a really kid-friendly interface, with cartoony graphics and little flower icons.
It is a great app for kids, just as it is for adults trying to learn vocab. Not to mention, because Memrise is a little more focused in terms of scope and what it teaches, it’s also a cheaper app. Monthly subscription plans range from just $5 to $8, or, like Rosetta Stone, you can buy the lifetime plan for $120 total.
As discussed above, which language learning app is best really depends on your child’s age and learning style. For kids 6 and under, we like Gus on the Go. It’s a great starter app for children learning vocabulary basics and getting acquainted with their new language. With their Stories companion app, it’s a nice package.
Then, once kids hit school-age and need something with a little more depth, Memrise could be a nice option. For those looking for a vocab-based tool to causally expand their kid’s vocabulary, and help them work on fundamentals with a program powered by bite-sized video clips, it might work nicely. We give Memrise a solid grade.
However, if you’re looking for the best all-around app for your school-aged children to learn a new language, we really like Rosetta Stone for kids. Between their image-based teaching framework, immersion methodology, comprehensive curriculum, and hands-on drills, they’re an excellent app for kids—especially homeschoolers needing a foreign language curriculum.
What are the best language learning apps for kids?
Of the more than dozen language learning apps we purchased and tested out, three rose to the top. Rosetta Stone, Memrise and Gus On The Go received our highest grades. They are each well-suited for children for differing reasons.
Which language program for children should I use to teach my kids?
For kids under the age of 6, we recommend Gus On The Go. It’s a great starter app. However, for children aged 7 and older, Rosetta Stone is the best app. With it’s image-based teaching framework and immersive environment, we were big fans.
Are there any free language learning apps for kids?
There are a handful of free apps for children to learn a new language, but generally speaking, we rate the free apps pretty poorly. Even modestly-priced apps like Memrise and Rosetta Stone are far superior.