Mobile learning has become very popular, and there is no shortage of apps for learning English on your smartphone or tablet. Some are free, some are paid, and some are free with paid features (aka freemium). The problem is sorting the good from the not-so-good (and the downright bad).
When I got my first iPad back in 2012, I started a blog called iPad English, where I reviewed many of the leading ESL apps of the time. The site is no longer updated and some of the apps have disappeared, but it's still worth checking out. I've also reviewed a number of apps on The English Blog (which is still going strong). I'll put links to these reviews where relevant.
The first app I'm going to talk about SmartEnglish by EM Normandie, which is my school's 100% free app for learning English. I'm not saying that it's the best app available ☺, but it does provide a fun and effective way to improve your listening, vocabulary, and speaking skills. The app currently features four totally separate courses: Make Friends in English, Get Around Town, Useful Phrasal Verbs, and my own course, Essential Business English. Each lesson begins with an animated video, followed by a series of interactive language activities. You can even record yourself speaking. I could go on, but the best thing to do would be to download the app, which is available for iOS and Android, and see for yourself!
MORE APPS FOR LEARNING ENGLISH
British Council Apps — The British Council has a number of apps in these categories: Grammar, Listening, Games, and Kids.
Cambridge University Press Apps (Android) — Includes several apps for learning English.
Collins Business English: Listening (iOS/paid) — Perfect tool for executives looking to improve their English listening skills, and anyone who needs to learn English in a business context.
Conversation English HD (iOS/paid) — improve your English conversation skills with 20 complete lessons, and learn over 200 common English idioms and expressions. Read my review.
Dictionary.com Dictionary & Thesaurus (iOS/freemium) — Over 2,000,000 definitions and synonyms, and many extra features. Read my review.
ELSA — ELSA, which stands for English Language Speech Assistant, is a mobile application that functions as a personal pronunciation coach.
English All Stars (iOS) — Improve your English with these tried-and-tested lessons from some of the internet's most popular English teachers.
EF English Bite (iOS) – 5-minute English lessons. Every day you will learn one new phrase that you can use in real life.
English at Work (iOS/paid) — Learn over 150 useful English words, phrases, idioms and expressions for use in your office or workplace.
English Grammar in Use (iOS/Android/paid) — Comprehensive grammar app for intermediate learners. Read my review or watch a demo video.
English Idioms Illustrated (iOS/freemium) — Discover the secret history of more than 160 beautifully illustrated English idioms.
English Idioms Interactive (iOS/freemium) — 45 cartoons illustrating some of the funniest English idioms, plus quizzes and information. Read my review.
English Tutor (Android/free) — An award-winning language robot created to help English learners practice speaking English.
Google Translate (iOS/Android/free) — Translate between 103 languages by typing. Read my review.
Grammar App (iOS/paid) — Multiple choice format that provides you with over 200 tutorials and over 1000 Questions. Read my review.
Grammarman (iOS/$0.99) — 20 exciting comic adventures, hundreds of quiz questions, and handy hints to help you in your quest for better English grammar, vocabulary and spelling.
HelloTalk (iOS/Android) — The language app where your teachers are native language speakers from around the world. Watch a video. Read my review.
Learn English GREAT Videos (iOS/Android/free) — British Council app featuring 24 videos about UK culture. With scripts, glossaries, and questions.
Learn Hot English Magazine (iOS) – Monthly subscription-based magazine. Free to download with free preview issue.
MosaLingua — Apps for General English, Business English and TOEIC, all using the MOSA learning method based on spaced repetition. Watch demo video here.
Newsela (iOS/free) — Improve reading skills by reading news articles at different levels. Read my review.
Olive Green The Movie (iOS/Android/paid) — Innovative blend of an interactive action movie and an English language course. Read my review.
Phonetics Focus (iOS/freemium) — Fun resources to help you improve your pronunciation and knowledge of phonetics.
Phrasalstein (iOS/Android/free) — Fun app for learning phrasal verbs from Cambridge.
Sounds (iOS/Android/freemium) — The ultimate mobile English pronunciation aid, for students and teachers. Read my review.
Sounds Right (iOS/free) — British Council's pronunciation chart for learners and teachers. Read my review.
Speaking Pal (iOS/Android) — Combines video with automatic speech recognition software that tests your English speaking skills.
Terminology Dictionary (iOS/free) — A browser for the English language – part dictionary/thesaurus and part research tool. Read my review.
The English Learning Lounge (iOS/Android/free) — Get over 20 years of high quality ESL teaching experience in one app!
The Internet Grammar of English (iOS/Android/free) —Course in English grammar written primarily for university undergraduates. Read my review.
The Phrasal Verbs Machine (iOS/free) — Animated illustrations of 100 phrasal verbs set in the circus world
Towns & Cities (Android/paid) — Supplemental language tool for English learners using hip-hop music as its main channel for communication and engagement. Read my review.
Wordflex Touch Dictionary (iOS/freemium) — Converts your word entries into attractive trees which you can move, drag, and reorganize using touch gestures. See demo video here.
OTHER USEFUL APPS
Newsy (iOS/free) — Mobile version of one of the best news sites for English learners. Read my review.
The Economist World In Figures on iPad (iOS/free) — A fun, data-rich reference guide for the businessperson, educator and stats geek alike. Read my review.
Pocket (iOS/Android/free) — The app I use the most. Saves articles from your browser to read on mobile devices.
Yahoo News Digest (iOS/Android/free) — Get a summary of all the important news events. Digests are delivered twice a day. Read my review.
6 Apps For Learning Languages, Ranked By How You Like To Study (Bustle)
The Essential Guide to Apps for Learning English as a Second Language — 97 more apps!