My Favorite Free and Easy Apps for Language Learning

As our classrooms become more and more infused with technology, it is inevitable that we will need some help to decide what applications to use. If your students are using tablets, and many are, you may want to recommend some free apps to use for your classes. Here is a list of some of my favorite free and easy apps for learning a World Language.

Edmodo for Classroom Management

There are certainly other classroom management apps, but I am most familiar with Edmodo. At my school, we use a district-wide platform for posting assignments and agendas, grades, etc. but I still use Edmodo to connect my students with classes in Haïti, France and Canada to do projects together. I organize my students into groups, and the co-teachers in the other countries listed add their students to the small groups as well. It is very powerful to connect students with others around the world!

Almost everything you can do on Edmodo for the web is available in the app version of their platform. Students can access all assignments and documents you post within the app, whether they are posted in the backpack or in the class stream. Students can take photos, post videos and upload documents they create, and post links to other items they need to provide for their assignments.

Dealing with Documents

If you ask students to work with PDF documents, and you want them to edit them, consider using the Evernote apps. Evernote is amazing! And they keep adding new options, so check them out!

  • The Evernote app is great for taking notes, for writing assignments, for recording sound files, and taking photos. Students can share their notes with others via a hyperlink, which they can post on Edmodo to turn in. Evernote is a great app for journal writing – have students take a picture of their choice, then write about it in response to a prompt for a daily warm up. Students can create a notebook to share so they can post the one link to turn in the whole set of journal entries if you prefer.
  • Evernote’s Skitch app is a can be used to take notes on a PDF document. If you are doing close reading of an authentic resource saved in PDF format, students can annotate the document, highlight words or phrases, add arrows and questions, etc. This is a great way to incorporate close reading in your language classes. In addition, students can turn in their annotated document via a share link if you want to give participation credit.
  • Evernote’s Penultimate app is designed for taking hand-written notes or to make drawings. Students can have a lot of fun drawing, in color, something you describe in the target language, then showing their table partners the results, and describing verbally their drawings. They can add the drawing to a note in Evernote, and add a composition describing their pictures.
  • Evernote also has an app called Scannable, which I have found very useful! When I find a great article I want to use in one of my French-language magazines, I can use my phone to scan the document with Scannable. It saves the scanned document to Evernote. I can then go to my iPad or MacBook to access the document for posting on Edmodo to share it with students. Students can also scan paper-based projects they make to save in Evernote as a portfolio of their work. I have found this to be very powerful – students can see how they have grown in fluency from year to year as they look back at their previous projects. I love hearing them tell me about how amazed they feel to see their older projects in comparison with their more recent work. The power of reflection is worth the effort needed to support students to create these portfolios.

 Reference Apps

I recommend that you recommend a set of language reference apps for students, so they don’t just go to Google translate for everything. Google Translate, although it has great potential, does not yet satisfy my inner linguist! Like most language teachers I know, I don’t want students to use Google translate because it is not always accurate enough for our purposes, and because it does not yet offer enough information to make good decisions about the correct words to use. I much prefer these options:

  • Word Reference – my students and I both like WR as it not only has language-to-language dictionaries, but it gives examples of how the words are used. I want to engage students’ critical thinking at a deeper level than just word-to-word equivalencies, which language teachers all know does not work. I much prefer that student use WR so they can see the many ways some words are used, which helps them make better choices. WR also verb charts for all those pesky verb forms and tenses, and Language Forums where students can discuss with others what they are discovering, and what they wonder, as they learn their language of choice.
  • If you and your students want to pay for some apps, there are many other reference tools to suggest. My favorites in French are Robert Mobile, the Bordas L’Intégrale, the Larousse series of dictionaries (Fr-Eng, Fr-Spanish), and the Bescherelle. There are two free apps for French I would highly recommend: Learn French with RFI and TV5Monde. There is also the wonderful Merci Professeur! for our own growth and development, even if you are a native speaker of French.

Tech for Transformative Purposes Only

There is so much more about this topic, but for now, I think these apps will help support both you and your students as you seek to integrate technology into your World Language curriculum. Remember, however, we don’t need to integrate technology just for the sake of the technology! Technology should be used if it is transformative to the learning process, otherwise, it is just one more thing to address, and honestly, who has time for that? If you would like to learn more about this notion of transformative use of technology, consider looking at articles about the SAMR model, such as this one at Technology is Learning, and these many articles right here on Edutopia!

Got Apps?

Let us know how your tech integration for World Languages is going. If you have other apps to recommend, please share your discoveries and ideas for using them in the comments below! I look forward to learning with you.

Happy Language Learning,



About Don

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT Director, World Language Summer Seminar Co-Director Berkeley WL Project UC Berkeley Language Center Facilitator Keen on 21st Century Skills & PBLL View all posts by Don

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