Hola! Bonjour! Shalom! If introducing your kids to a new language is on your list of learning, use your tablet or phone to make it happen. From sign language apps to Rosetta Stone and even an Eric Carle word app, scroll down to see our picks for the best apps to learn a language.
Kids as young as preschool age can get in on the learning fun with one app that offers multiple languages. Each language has 90 new vocabulary words that are practical, everyday words around subjects like the body, nature, clothing, etc. It’s playful and you’ll be surprised how quickly the kids start picking it up.
For ages 4 and up.
Available on iTunes, a bundle of 4 languages for $3.99
For older kiddos (or even adults!), Babbel is an app based on real-world conversations to get started speaking fast. Whether you learn best with games, videos, podcasts, or another way entirely, Babbel is dedicated to all learners. Plus, learners are immersed in the culture, history, and people who speak the language, so you get to appreciate all aspects!
Babbel is suggested for 8+ years.
Montessori Letter Sounds
This phonics program teaches basic letter sounds in English, French, Spanish and Italian and, like the Montessori approach itself, is not full of loud noises, bells and whistles. It’s very simple, which makes it great for younger kids and nice for parents sitting in the same room with their learners as well as sensitive kids. Very self-directed (again, Montessori approach) but also very effective.
Rated for ages 4 and up (but we think 3-year-olds would gain from it, too).
Available on iTunes for $3.99
Little Pim Word Bag
Kids can play along with a panda bear named Pim as he teaches common words via flashcard drills set to music. Using everyday activities to teach kids and available in 12 languages—including Chinese, German, Spanish and Italian—you can browse the whole catalog online at littlepim.com. They even offer streaming now offer streaming videos you can download to your device for offline travel.
For ages 4 and up.
Available on iTunes, Free.
Want your English-speaking child to learn a little Spanish? Or one of 23 other languages? Rosetta Stone allows you to download lessons for the kids and will give you a personalized plan.
For ages 4 & up.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar First Words App
Smaller linguists will enjoy this colorful app that uses familiar Eric Carle illustrations to teach a handful of basic words in different languages. The app is simple enough for little kids to use on their own, though it's meant for parents and kids to peruse together. Language options include English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and German.
For ages 2 and up.
Got a brood of kids who need language practice? Up to four kids at a time can play this game-show-style app that asks players to pick which word matches the given picture. The first to hit the correct button wins. Along with a roster of basic K-3 school subjects (math, geography, sight words), Futaba (which means "seedling" in Japanese) also has a Spanish and Japanese word game. It is also customizable, so you can add words and pictures to suit your language-learning fancy.
For ages 4 and up.
Available on iTunes, $0.99
The Wanderful Collection
Kids will recognize some of their favorite characters (Berenstain Bears! Arthur!) with this nine-app bundle of interactive storybooks read in French, Spanish, or English (one app also offers Portuguese). Through songs, stories, and interactive pages, kids can learn proper pronunciation, recognition and meaning. Kids can navigate the stories themselves—all the pages are animated with characters and features that "come to life" with a touch—or choose the "Read to me" option.
Available on iTunes for $29.99.
American Sign Language Kids App
Not all languages are spoken. Kids will love watching other kids use common signs from the American Sign Language dictionary. Some of the "expert" signers on here are still toddlers themselves, so as long as your kiddo's got the attention span to follow along, he's old enough to play. The layout is simple enough for kids to navigate without a parent and includes fun quiz games with 21 free signs (an optional pack of 87 more signs is available for $1.99).
Gus on the Go
Kids will think they're just playing a memory game as Gus the friendly owl schools them on numbers, colors, shapes and more. Got time to spare? Conquering basic lessons "unlocks" more games, so the more they play, the more they'll learn. More screen time? OK!
There are 28 language apps available. Check out Gus On the Go to browse more options.
—Melissa Heckscher & Amber Guetebier
Feature photo: iStock