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Best learn English software 2021

Best learn English software 2021

If you’re looking to fine tune your speaking and listening abilities, then downloading some of the best learn English software could help you on your mission. Below, we’ve rounded up the best apps, sites and platforms for anyone who wants to brush up on this widely-spoken language.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, that you already have a basic understanding of English. Perhaps you’re reading this guide looking for suggestions for a friend or colleague, who is in need of some basic English lessons. Either way, make sure that you pick the best learn English software for the individual learner – some of these options, below, are completely free and are suitable for absolute beginners. But anyone who needs a deeper grasp of the language would probably benefit from one of the more comprehensive courses offered by the likes of Rosetta Stone

To try and help you pick the perfect platform for your learning needs, we’ve outlined each websites’ teaching methods (visual versus auditory) and given a quick breakdown of its best features. For further details, you can also read our full length reviews, linked below.

Looking to learn more languages? We also have guides on the best learn Spanish online courses and the best learn French online apps and websites. And – for more general learning – we have an in-depth guide to the best online learning platforms.  

1. Rosetta Stone: Best learn English software overall

Rosetta Stone

(Image credit: Rosetta Stone)

Our top pick for English learning software in 2021

Reasons to buy
+Excellent learning method+Comprehensive course+Good for beginners
Reasons to avoid

Rosetta Stone immerses learners in the language. It uses fundamental features such as reading, vocabulary, speech recognition and writing to help students learn and understand English. It doesn't use your native language to translate the English words - it's all done in English. This prevents leaning on the translations to make it through the lessons. In addition, it uses videos to send users into the English language virtually, and it prompts you with images and audio files.

Rosetta Stone English helps its students learn through an interactive system of incremental advancement in the language. Learning English in Rosetta Stone occurs through three core components: You learn, practice, and then play to reinforce what you've learned. The Rosetta Stone learning method is about absorbing English and becoming fully immersed in it, which is why it's so effective. 

It starts by teaching useful phrases, instead of straight vocabulary lists and grammar rules. It doesn't feel overly academic, which is why it's so successful. There's also speech recognition technology to help with English pronunciation, so you get to speak it in addition to just seeing it on a screen.

The app itself works on computers, tablets, and smartphones, so you can learn wherever you are, and only pay for a single subscription. There's a free trial, and regular discounts at the Rosetta Stone store, so you should at least try it out because this is the best learn English software you can get.

2. Rocket Languages: Best for audio learning

Rocket Languages: Best for audio learning

(Image credit: Rocket Languages)

A superb audio course for anyone who prefers to listen and learn

Reasons to buy
+Excellent audio learning+Good for beginners
Reasons to avoid
-App not as solid as others

If you're at beginner level, and you prefer hearing a language rather than seeing it spelled out, then Rocket Languages is the best option for you. The course is split into three parts - the first couple are all about listening, learning, and absorbing information. It's the more traditional learning element. The third is known as a 'survival kit' where you're then placed into a scenario and expected to follow the language and interact where needed.

What makes this method especially great is that you can choose different survival kits to suit real-world situations. So, if you're visiting an English speaking country on business, you can test yourself with a business-focused survival kit. There are some for shopping, speaking to locals, and more - they will suit almost all situations.

The downside is that Rocket Languages is quite expensive, so you need to commit time and money to get value from it. We do recommend this, however, as it'll have you speaking good English in a very short space of time.

3. Duolingo: Best for kids

Duolingo: Best free app

(Image credit: Duolingo)

An excellent free app that will get you started with English at any age

Reasons to buy
+It's free unless you want to pay+Gives you a good vocab overview
Reasons to avoid
-Gets repetitive-You need to motivate yourself to learn

Duolingo is completely free, and while there are pay-for elements, you don't ever have to use them. That's its biggest advantage. And while you'd think Duolingo being free would make it a sub-standard learning experience, you'd be wrong. It's actually very well structured and planned, albeit with one eye on pestering you to pay for upgrades and extras. It's also perfect for kids because it's user-friendly, bright and colorful, and starts out very simple.

The thing Duolingo does best is teach you words and phrases, which you can then use if you visit a country that speaks your chosen language. While it won't teach you much about culture, grammar rules, or structure, it's very useful for anyone looking to get a few key phrases for things like holidays or short visits.

While Duolingo will reward you for logging in each day, and will send you push notifications to prompt you to learn more, it does get very repetitive very fast, and can be a little annoying at times. You'll struggle to progress beyond a certain level unless you start paying money for it, at which point we'd recommend you move on to something like Rosetta Stone, which provides a far superior paid-for learning experience.

4. Memrise: Best English app for busy people

(Image credit: Memrise)

A great app that fits around your daily schedule

Reasons to buy
+Learn at your own pace+Relatively cheap
Reasons to avoid
-Poor long-term learning

If you want to learn English, but find yourself too busy to do so, then Memrise is the app for you. It's designed for smartphones and tablets, so is intended for use on devices that you take everywhere with you. The course itself is also intended to fit around busy lives, to help you make the most of a commute or spare ten minutes when you're cooking, cleaning, or doing other household chores.

It's a largely-free app, although you will be asked to pay for some content, and it uses flash-cards to prompt learning. These flash-cards are great for visual learners, and will reinforce language and phrases through repetition. The downside here is that the app does, indeed, get repetitive if you use it for long periods of time.

We like the app itself, and the interface is good whether you're on iOS or Android. It doesn't quite match Duolingo for content, however, but is a good visual method for those who prefer that kind of learning.

5. Pimsleur: An academic method that gets results

Pimsleur: An academic method that gets results

(Image credit: Pimsleur)

A tried and tested method, which does get results

Reasons to buy
+Academic-based method+Very thorough course
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Repetitive

Pimsleur is an actual method of language learning, and is academically-rooted. It's very effective, as a result, and can have you speaking English in a matter of months. This is primarily an audio-based course, and it's also fairly expensive, so you do have to really want to learn English if you decide to pay for this course.

Pimsleur's method uses sample conversations to help you immerse in the language, and to give you helpful answers and phrases for everyday situations. While there are some visual cues, it largely relies on audio to deliver teaching.

What we don't like is that Pimsleur can be a little too academic in places, and will get boring after a few months of use. Learning can't always be fun, but you will need to motivate yourself to push through from the intermediate to more advanced stages. The high price of the software, however, should motivate most people.

How we tested the best apps and websites for learning English 

We spent a week with each language learning app, testing its features and teaching methods. It’s difficult to directly compare all of the platforms, as they offer vastly different approaches. So to compile this list, we took into account things like how engaged we felt as students, how well certain tools work on the interface, and how in-depth the lessons go (for example, exploring grammar rules rather than just asking students to repeat phrases and vocabulary). 

How to master the English accent 

One of the most difficult aspects of learning English is mastering the accent. While the above apps can offer solid grounding in pronunciation, you’ll likely to spend some time with native speakers to really improve your abilities in this area.

A lot of apps - like Rosetta Stone - give you the chance to purchase live lessons, where an expert can give you direct feedback on your accent. Another option is to purchase some lessons from the best online tutoring services, which have lots of native English speakers available to give lessons.

A final option (and quite a tempting one) is to make sure you’re getting a good dose of English or American TV everyday. There’s some evidence to suggest that you can learn a language by watching TV. Tutors recommend that if you go down this route you actively participate in the activity, jotting down words you don’t recognise and looking them up later. Repeat watching episodes can also help, as you learn to familiarise yourself with new phrases that you didn’t catch the first time. 

Ruth Gaukrodger

Ruth has worked across both print and online media for five years, contributing to national newspaper titles and popular tech sites. She has held a number of journalist roles alongside more senior editorial positions, and is now the Digital Learning and Hobbies editor at Top Ten Reviews.