Excellent for reading in foreign languages. Plenty of free materials included. Supports 12 languages.
Complicated pricing and plans.
- Bottom Line
When you need to practice reading in a foreign language, try Beelinguapp, which offers a generous amount of content for free.
Learning a foreign language requires many different kinds of practice. You can practice listening, for example, using podcasts and movies, or an audio-intensive program like Pimsleur. Your speaking abilities can get stronger by talking with friends or joining an online tutoring session; both Rosetta Stone and Living Language have them. When it comes to reading, you might try Beelinguapp. It's a professional app with support for 12 foreign languages and plenty of interesting reading material. It offers translations as well as audio recordings of the readings. Beelinguapp has in-app purchases and other upsells, but you don't necessarily need them. Try the free version, as it's one of the best free language-learning apps currently on the market.
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Beelinguapp ticks a lot of boxes. The app is free. The app is available on both Android and iOS. (I tested the Android version.) The quality is high, both of the app itself and the readings it offers. But it only focuses on reading and reading comprehension. I also recommend Duolingo, which is our Editors' Choice among free language-learning apps. Other excellent free language apps to add to your phone are Quizlet, which supports self-study, and Memrise, which is similar to Duolingo in that it has a little bit of everything.
Price and Plans
As with many language apps, Beelinguapp uses the freemium model. You can get a lot out of the app for free, and you can pay a little extra to have advertisements removed or get a few bonus features. When you use the free version, you get access to all the features and settings, but you don't get every single text in Beelinguapp's catalog. You only get a select bunch, although they're plentiful. The texts are mostly articles and children's stories.
In the free version of the app, you see some texts that are locked, and you can buy any one of those for about $1. A better deal, however, is the $1.99-per-month membership, which provides you with all the texts for that month and removes the ads. Beelinguapp adds new texts every week. I like this option best because you can use Beelinguapp for a few months to read as much as you want, and you quit as soon as you feel like you've mastered reading well enough to do it without the app's assistance.
If you're not the type of person who remembers to cancel subscriptions, and you hate advertisements, there's an option to pay $4.99 as a one-time fee to get rid of the ads. You don't get anything else, though.
There are two other upsell options, but I they aren't nearly as appealing because they cost quite a bit more. One is a $24.99 (one-time fee) for the Complete Premium version. With this version, you don't see any ads, and you can download all current text as well as all future texts added to Beelinguapp in perpetuity for every language. The other option is the $20.99 version that merely unlocks all current texts—not future texts, and you see still ads. That last option is definitely not a good deal.
To give you a sense of what other apps in this category charge, you can get a year subscription to Quizlet for $19.95. Memrise Pro costs $59 per year. Duolingo now has advertisements in its mobile version (it didn't until 2017), and you can get rid of those for $9.95 per month. That price also now lets you download lessons to complete offline.
As mentioned, Beelinguapp supports 12 languages, not including English. They are Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.
You don't necessarily have to set English as your native language (meaning the language of the translations). If you're a native German speaker learning Spanish, for example, you can look for texts that are available in both those languages. Beelinguapp has simple tools and checkboxes for finding readings in the languages you need.
How Beelinguapp Works
To get started with the app, you must sign in using a Google or Facebook account. I wish there were an option to use an email address and password, but there isn't.
Next you select your languages, one you want to study and one you'll use for translations. I set my app to Spanish with English translation. In the free version, you can only choose one language to study.
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That whole process takes about 30 seconds to a minute. You get up and running fast with this app. There are a few demo screens with instructions for using the app, but it's self-explanatory, so you can most likely breeze through those in a few seconds, too.
The fun part is looking for things to read. Beelinguapp shows you some suggested content to start, titles over title cards, and a short description when you tap on them. There's even a line at the bottom of the description telling you how many paragraphs are included.
Better than scrolling through the default list of suggested texts to read in Beelinguapp is to use filters at the top of the screen to find materials that fit your interests and your skill level, whether it's beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Categories of interest comprise Science and Technology, Short Stories and Novels, Culture, Popular Stories, Children's Stories, and Travel.
Once you find a text you want to read, you have to download it. All downloaded texts are saved to a section of the app called My Stories.
I downloaded a short article about sleep, an essay on insanity, and a collection of travel phrases. When you read any text, you have the option to see just the language you're working on, or a split screen with both that language and the translation. The latter comes in handy when a text feels a little beyond your reach.
As you read, you can also play an audio recording of the text line by line or continuously. There are good options for adjusting the text size and speed of the reading.
The app is well designed and professional. It behaves how you expect it to. When you don't have time to reach the end of an article, the app saves your place in the text. When you view My Stories, there's a progress bar on each title card showing how much of the reading you've completed.
I could see beginners using Beelinguapp until they felt confident enough to try reading articles they find freely online on their own. The app gives beginners adequate assistance, especially because it finds articles that beginners can handle so you don't waste time searching online for reading material that's right for your skill level.
A Reading Companion
Beelinguapp is an excellent language-learning app, with a generous free version, that focuses on reading and reading comprehension specifically. Not many language apps do that. It's a wonderful companion app to supplement a class or other more in-depth online language-learning program.
Jill Duffy is a contributing editor, specializing in productivity apps and software, as well as technologies for health and fitness. She writes the weekly Get Organized column, with tips on how to lead a better digital life. Her first book, Get Organized: How to Clean Up Your Messy Digital Life is available for Kindle, iPad, and other digital formats. She is also the creator and author of ProductivityReport.org. Before joining PCMag.com, she was senior editor at the Association for Computing Machinery, a non-profit membership organization for… More »
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