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November 2018

Smartphone Apps that Gamify Language Learning

Turn language learning into a fun experience

Language learning doesn’t have to be boring. With the proliferation of language learning apps for smartphones on the market today, there is increased competition in developing the best and most enjoyable learning experience. It seems that there’s a new language app each month. In other words, it’s an exciting time to learn a new language, especially with the gamification of language learning.

Gamification refers to how developers turn an experience into a game. For better or worse, gamification has been used for a variety of purposes, from monitoring customer service metrics to calculating progress in language learning. It’s the latter that we’re concerned with, and, for the most part, gamification in language learning has been a good thing, transforming the learning process into a fun and ultimately more effective process for many learners.

Which are the gamified apps to look out for? Let’s take a look at some of the top fun language learning apps available today.


Drops is a visual learning app that features over 30 languages for students, including rare languages like Hawaiian and Icelandic. With over 7.5 million downloads, this app has already gained much popularity, teaching users languages, as they say, “drop by drop”. Using word puzzles and mnemonic association, learning is turned into a fun experience through games.

More recently, the team at Drops developed their Scripts app, which gamifies the process of learning Asian characters, teaching learners how to draw characters stroke by stroke. For many non-Asian language learners, memorising characters of Asian languages can be a confusing experience. Turning the experience into a game can help develop the physical art of drawing these characters.

Drops is available for iOS and Android phones. The app is free but offers in-app purchases.


MindSnacks is an app that includes nothing but games. The organisation touts that not a single boring quiz, class, or lesson is involved in their learning process. With nine languages and “math” coming soon, MindSnacks breaks learning into a series of games, each designed to teach vocabulary and grammar.

Each language includes over 1000 words and phrases available to learn, as well as around 50 lessons designed by Ivy League instructors. MindSnacks is better suited for beginner and intermediate students, and it’s currently available only for iOS. Paid upgrades are available to access all lessons.


One of the top learning language services, Memrise is an app you’ve no doubt heard about. With a foundation based on science, Memrise uses their “colourful garden of memory” to help you learn a new language. Each new word learned helps your garden grow, and you can watch the seeds of your memory flourish in this “guiltless video game”. The app also includes 20,000 native speaker videos, chatbots, and over 200 courses created by expert linguists.

Memrise is available for iOS and Android phones, with both free and paid (“pro”) accounts.


Duolingo needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular and effective language learning apps available. Each lesson offered by Duolingo is gamified, helping you learn to read, listen, and speak a selection of 33 available languages (Klingon is still in beta). The most popular language, Spanish, alone has 21.2 million active users. With such a large user base, you can be sure that they will continue to develop their app to be better and better.

The best part of Duolingo is that it can be utilised in its entirety for free. There is an option to upgrade to Duolingo Plus, which turns the experience ad free and gives the user the ability to download lessons for offline access. Duolingo is available for iOS, Android, and Windows phones.

What is your favorite language app with games? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on language study tips!