Ready to finally learn a second language like you've been meaning to for years? Feel bad about letting all that Russian you studied in college lapse? Then try out one of the fun, free apps that will help get you to your language goals! Mango Languages is available through the RPL website and as a free app on iPhone and Android. You can access 77 languages (77!) and 15 ESL courses with your library card. For the app to work you must first set up your account through the library's website, then you are ready to download the app and get learning. Whether you choose a live or dead language, you are in good hands with Mango.
The Mango app takes a very structured approach to teaching a language and offers "basic" and "complete" lessons. Basic doesn't focus as much on the fundamentals of a language, including reading and writing, as it does on speaking and listening, making it especially well suited for the traveler. Complete spends more time on explaining grammar, but both challenge the student to listen and speak. There don't seem to be lessons requiring writing or reading. Consider this if embarking on a language with non Latin characters (e,g. Russian, Chinese, etc.) The lessons gradually increase in difficulty as the student moves through the lessons and any lesson can be repeated.
Duolingo, also available on the web and as an app, works a little bit differently. The program offers 6 languages:
Duolingo is free because users, or "students", are actually translating real-world documents on the web as they learn. The app is very engaging and a little addictive, owing to the deliberately game-like structure. Students must keep all of their hearts as they move through each lesson in order to win. Win what? I suppose the prize is a new language which, if you ask me, is pretty swell. I wish there had been something like this when I was a Russian major in college. I had to make my own flash cards. On paper!
As you can see from these screen grabs, Duolingo looks like any simple game app you might be used to, and varies the lesson between modes of communication. In one screen you will type, the next you may talk, listen, or read. The app even taught me how to type accented letters on my iPhone! Duolingo will also send you a daily reminder to practice your Spanish and I personally find that kind of gentle robot guilt to be effective.