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LIFE IN LOCKDOWN | Day 7: Start learning a foreign language for free

Whether you'd like to learn French or Klingon, there's an app for that

02 April 2020 - 13:24 By Sanet Oberholzer
Mandarin is one of many languages that can be learned using a free app.
Mandarin is one of many languages that can be learned using a free app.
Image: 123RF/warrengoldswain

Another two weeks of being stuck at home is a long time. Suffice to say you’re up to date with all the series you’re following and have burnt through a good few movies. So why not use this time to acquire a new skill — or build the foundation of learning a new language?

Luckily, there are a number of apps that can help you do just that, and many of them are free:


Duolingo allows you to learn up to 36 different languages. This includes all of the foreign tongues you'd expect to find on such an app, plus a few quirky ones: there's High Valerian and Klingon for Game of Thrones and Star Trek fans, respectively.

There's High Valerian and Klingon for 'Game of Thones' and 'Star Trek' fans, respectively

Simply select the reason you want to learn the language (work, travel, and so on), the amount of time you want to spend learning each day (between five minutes and 20 minutes), as well as your level of proficiency, and get started.

Work your way through the app, starting with the basics and moving on to phrases and different categories such as food, animals and clothing.


Drops allows you to learn up to 37 new languages, ranging from Arabic to Vietnamese.

You can spend five minutes each day learning new words for free, or upgrade to Drops premium to spend an unlimited amount of time on the app.


Busuu offers 12 language courses, including Russian, French and Spanish.

You can access the basic learning plan starting with vocabulary for free, or you can upgrade to Busuu premium to design a customised study plan tailored to your specific needs, for example learning how to find your way around town when you travel.


Babbel allows you to learn up to 13 languages, including the most commonly spoken European languages and languages such as Indonesian and Turkish.

You can select your level of proficiency from “not much” to “a lot” and your motivation to learn the language of your choice. As you unlock each lesson you’ll be allowed to move on to the next lesson, but you’ll also be asked to pay as you advance.

A month-long subscription — which should keep you busy during this period of lockdown — is R150.

From gripping series to watch, to fun crafts to do with your children, we'll be adding a new activity to our “Life in Lockdown” series every day. Keep an eye on timeslive.co.za for tomorrow's instalment.