Learn a New Language in 2014

Haven’t thought of a New Year’s resolution yet?  Learning a new language helps connect with a different culture and develop insight into how languages work.  It is a great way to challenge yourself and has a host of benefits such as improved memory, preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s, and making you a smarter human being in general (check out this psychologist’s article to see some more tremendous cognitive benefits of learning another language).

Of course, learning another language takes hard work and dedication, but there are some great new tools that can help you achieve your goal.  We have compiled a list of some language learning programs and apps that are effective and fun:

Cat Academy

Cat Academy was launched this year by Memrise, an online learning tool that uses mems, or visual mnemonics. They found cat mems were the most effective for language learners, and so armed with this information they developed Cat Academy.  So far, eager cat-assisted learners can improve their Spanish speaking skills, but more languages will be added in the future.


If learning Spanish with cats isn’t your thing, maybe Duolingo’s owl mascot can help you.  Duolingo is a free service that offers courses in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.  Research suggests that 34 hours on Duolingo may yield reading and writing ability of a first-year college semester, yet the program remains free because as users learn, they are simultaneously translating websites and documents for Duolingo clients.


In the spirit of The Hour of Code, a nationwide campaign launched by code.org to incorporate computer science into students’ curriculums, we think it’s a great idea for everyone to learn the language of coding.  As computer science becomes more important for every business to succeed, learning how to code can help anyone in any field.  Two great resources to learn this invaluable skill are http://code.org/ and http://www.codecademy.com/, and both programs offer apps.


Anki can be used on both the computer and phone and uses flashcards that have text, images, and sounds.  The program, which was released this year with both iphone and android apps, employs flashcards that use an algorithm based on importance and spaced repetition.  Not only can you use Anki to learn a new language, but anything that you need to learn through repetition, such as medical terms, standardized test vocabulary, and geography can be used with Anki’s flashcard system.


Busuu offers a great language learning program that differs from traditional learning methods by using interactive image and sound based content.  A unique feature of this program is that it connects learners with native speakers through video chat to practice oral fluency.  Premium membership is offered, but Busuu is another free resource.


photo credit to philosophygeek on Flickr

Michelle Harven

Michelle Harven

Michelle is a current graduate student at Emerson College and an intern at Boston's public radio station. She enjoys exploring the world of educational technology and writing about the ever-changing sector and its potential.