The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

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The Best Apps and Tools for Seniors to Learn a New Language

Bonjour. Ciao. Hola. Have you ever wanted to learn a new language but were overwhelmed by the number of choices that are available? Perhaps you’ll be traveling soon and want to pick up a few key phrases, or maybe you studied French in college but haven’t touched it since.

Whatever your reason, learning a new language has never been easier. A plethora of apps, software, and other tools are now available to help you practice those conjugations and enhance your vocabulary. 

First, we’ll take a quick look at why studying a new language can benefit you. Then, we’ll provide a recommended list of apps and tools to try.

Benefits of Studying a New Language for Seniors

Conventional wisdom says it can be harder to learn new skills later in life. However, learning a new language as an older adult can be easier in some ways. For example, you’ll likely have more free time and disposable income to travel and study the language than you did when you were younger.

Additional benefits may include:

  • It keeps your mind healthy. Learning, at any age, is one of the best ways to keep your brain sharp and active. According to a recent study, it can even slow cognitive aging.
  • Increased appreciation for other cultures. Learning a language can be an immersive experience. Not only will you better understand how people speak, but getting a taste of their food, music, and customs can open up a new world for you.
  • Easier travel. If you frequently travel to non-English-speaking countries, learning even a bit of the native language may make your trip easier and will often show goodwill toward the local residents. 
  • It’s fun and can be a social activity. Choosing a language you’ve always wanted to learn can be empowering and give you a new hobby. It can also become a group activity if you join a class or speaking group. 

Whatever motivates you to learn a new language, keep your goal in mind as you work through your studies.

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Best Ways for Older Adults To Learn a New Language

Phone and tablet apps, as well as computer software programs, make learning a language simpler than ever before. With the wealth of technological advancement, you’re no longer limited to the languages conventionally spoken and taught at your local university campus.

We’ve collected the best methods to learn a new language you can use today. 

Best Apps for Learning a Language

If you want to learn a new language or refresh what you already know, apps can be a great solution. Some are free, and others offer premium or paid versions. All are convenient and can travel along with you wherever you take your phone or tablet. 

  1. Duolingo is a popular app that is completely free to get started. Choose from nearly 40 different languages to begin your lessons on vocabulary and grammar. You can work through the app at your own pace, for as little or as long as you want each day.

  2. Drops is another free game-based option that can help you learn a language. It also has a companion app, Scripts, to help you learn to write in different alphabets. If you’ve ever found learning a language boring, Drops might be your solution.

  3. Busuu offers free and premium versions for goal-oriented students. To help motivate you to continue learning, you can choose a goal and get an estimate on when you can expect to be fluent. You’ll also practice pronunciation, gain cultural insights, and exchange local language tips with a global community of learners.

  4. Rosetta Stone is perhaps the best-known language-learning program for a reason. Although its format has changed from CDs and booklets to apps, it still offers a solid, research-backed method of learning a new language. Choose from 25 languages, get immediate feedback on your pronunciation, and benefit from live coaching with native speakers.

  5. Pimsleur helps you learn to speak a new language in 30 days and offers a free trial for the first seven days. The Pimsleur Method uses your ability to listen and learn so you can understand what you hear and respond easily and naturally with a near-native accent.

Plenty of other language-learning apps are available, so if the ones listed above fail to catch your interest, keep searching for the one that best suits your needs and study style. 

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Best Offline Options for Learning a Language

Mature woman taking online lessons to learn a new language

Some people prefer to learn via real-world experiences, and there are plenty of options if that describes you.

  • Private lessons can be pricey but offer the most personalized approach. Search your area for language-learning institutes, or check with a local university to see if professors provide tutoring. 
  • Find a meetup near you to practice your speaking skills in a no-judgment atmosphere. Whether it’s a casual get-together with like-minded friends or a formally organized group, practicing conversational language skills is one of the best ways to improve them.
  • Getting a pen pal is a traditional — and fun — way to improve your language skills while connecting with people from a different culture. Whether you converse via email or pen and paper, find tips for choosing a friend safely here.
  • Watching television programs and movies in another language is a good way to immerse yourself in a language and get used to hearing real people speak it.

If you use streaming services such as Netflix, a Chrome extension provides subtitles in both your language and your new language so you can follow along. And simply turning the television to a channel with programs in another language can help you sharpen your ear for the sound of the words.

A combination of online and offline learning can be a good way to learn the basics and practice your skills with others.

Tips for Learning a New Language

Picking up a new language should be enjoyable. There’s no need to spend hours on grammar and conjugations — unless you want to.

It might help you set realistic goals to stay motivated in your learning. While you won’t become fluent overnight, tracking your progress can be exciting as you see how far you’ve come.

Some other tips for making the most of your language-learning journey include:

  • Écoute et répète - that’s “listen and repeat.” You may have heard this phrase (in various languages) if you ever studied them in school, and for good reason. Keep vocabulary words and other phrases top-of-mind by listening and saying them until they become natural.

  • Learn what you’re most interested in. If you’re traveling abroad, pick up useful, everyday phrases like “please,” “thank you,” and “nice to meet you.” Or, if you enjoy cooking and dining out, learn about food-related phrases.
  • Branch out into the culture. If learning Swedish interests you, why not explore their culture more? What you discover about their food, clothing, and traditions will bolster your learning about the language and help you better understand it in context.

Above all, keep your language learning light and fun, and you’ll soon be on your way to sharper skills.

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This blog was originally published in 2020. It was updated in June 2024.


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