4 Apps to Learn a New Language With, From Dharawal to Mandarin

4 Apps to Learn a New Language With, From Dharawal to Mandarin
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Nagganbi ba yilinjinhurr ngayagang Ky, producerngay Gizmodo, Kotaku and Lifehacker. Gadigalgulli ngura-nhung ngalamanjang. Gamamaringay dharawallangga.

Hello, and how are you all my name is (I am) Ky, I am a producer at Gizmodo, Kotaku and Lifehacker. We are gathered on the lands of the Gadigal clan group. I am speaking to you in Dharawal.

To be able to introduce myself in Dharawal language is a beautiful thing, and it is made possible because of Gujaga Foundation’s new Dharawal Language and Culture App.

One of the main intentions for this app is to see that you too can learn to introduce yourself and acknowledge the country you’re on in Dharawal language. It’s something that I highly recommend everyone, especially those in the Greater Sydney area, tries out.

Speaking of learning new languages, if you’ve been able to process the fact that it’s already December, you might also be processing that the new year is almost upon us (spoiler alert: 2022 is 4 weeks away). For some people, that means planning the new year out and figuring out which new personality traits to take on. Fresh starts, fresh goals and fresh ideas, and all that jazz.

Probably the most common way folks tend to set goals for themselves is through a classic New Year’s resolution. (Aka, the things I tell myself I will do but don’t make a single effort to achieve all year.)

With international travel opening back up (pending any possible COVID-shaped delays), and January 1 just in reach, there is no better time than now to set yourself the goal of learning a new language in 2022.

To make things easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of the best apps available to help you to learn a new language in the new year.

Dharawal Language and Culture App

Image: Gujaga Foundation – App Store

As a Dharug and Kamilaroi person, it warms my heart to see things like this exist. In fact, it is almost surreal to even have an app of this nature exist.

The Dharawal Language and Culture App was launched at the end of last month (November 30) by the Gujaga Foundation through its Dharawal Language Program.

According to the website, the app seeks to further the progress made to reclaim the Dharawal language, while also sharing cultural knowledge with broader society. This app will also serve as a touchpoint for future Dharawal generations to access knowledge about their culture.

The utilisation of technology to teach and share Dharawal language and culture is a gift that all of us should be excited about. As Dr Shayne Williams, Dharawal Elder said:

The Dharawal Language and Culture App will help sustain our effort to widen the use and practise of our language and culture throughout our Country and decrease the risk of further diminishment of our rich cultural heritage.

The app itself is simple to use and has beautiful illustrations laced throughout. There is a dictionary with a bunch of useful everyday words showcasing Dharawal and English spelling, accompanied by an audio translation so you can hear how the word is spoken.

Additionally, there is an introduction section with a stunning video led by Ray Ingrey (Chairperson of the Gujaga Foundation) who teaches you how to introduce yourself in Dharawal and acknowledge the land you are on. There’s even a cute game where you have to match the Dharawal words to fit their respective animals.

The Dharawal language, according to the app, spreads from coastal Sydney to the Illawarra. It was also the first known language name identified in the greater Sydney area.

If you are unsure about what First Nations country you’re on, find out here.

You can download the Dharawal Language and Culture App from the App Store or on Google Play.


Image: Duolingo

It would be remiss of me to not include the famous app, Duolingo, on a list about where to learn languages. The app took the world by storm with its quick, bite-sized lessons in just about all the major languages. It also includes some pretty niche but beautiful languages which, like the Dharawal Language App, helps to prevent them from being lost.

I spent my lockdown last year learning French and Spanish on Duolingo and it truly kept me from spiralling into a dark place.

The best part of the app is its competitive nature. The app has leaderboards where you can see how you stack up against fellow language learners and strive to win a gold chest every week. Oh, and you can add your friends and track each other’s progress and learn together. How beautiful.

Duolingo is known to send some ominous and passive-aggressive push-alerts when you have been slacking off on your learning. So it’s perfect to keep you accountable for achieving your new year’s goal of learning a new language.

You can get started on Duolingo here.


learn a language
Image: Some languages available on Busuu

If you aren’t a fan of the competitive approach and want to learn a new language at your own pace, then Busuu is the perfect app for you.

Busuu creates a personalised study plan in whichever language you wish to learn. It uses smart technology to highlight which areas you need to brush up on and when. The main selling point of the app is that you are in control of your own study, so you can pick it up whenever you want to.

One part of the app that I personally love is its live lessons with experts. Busuu has over 10,000 qualified teachers to give you 1:1 or group classes so you can refine your speaking skills. This makes such a huge difference to your learning experience and can boost your confidence when speaking in different languages.

Its reminders are also much friendlier than Duolingo, so if you aren’t a fan of an owl telling you it’s disappointed in you, then Busuu is the way to go.

Busuu gets its name from the endangered Bussu language from Cameroon which is only spoken by a small group of people. You can check out some pretty cool videos of Busuu speakers sharing their language here.

You can get started on Busuu here.


Image: Memrise

Memrise is a little bit different from other language learning apps because you actually learn through video examples of the language being used in real life.

This is also at the heart of Memrise’s philosophy. According to the team behind the app, they believe that using a language is how you learn and that you will pick it up much faster if you are situated in real-life contexts, surrounded by native speakers.

This technique is called language acquisition and it’s super interesting. It works, too. Being able to see how the language is used and where to use it is incredibly helpful.

Plus, it’s a great way to feel like you are travelling abroad and sitting in a cafe with locals instead of being stuck in your living room.

Learning a language through Memrise is a totally different experience than the other apps. The immersion aspect also makes you want to keep learning, so it’s perfect for helping you stay on top of your new year’s resolution.

You can get started on Memrise here.

Keeping First Nations languages alive

Learning any language is an incredibly useful and important part of being a global citizen. But having the opportunity to have a digital database for a First Nation’s language is a fantastic way to keep the language alive. This is especially important for Indigenous Australian nations whose languages have long been threatened as a result of the horrors of colonisation.

Apps like these not only benefit us, the learners, but also help promote the strengthening of Indigenous cultures for centuries to come. It is also a perfect opportunity to celebrate the richness of First Nations culture.

I hope that this app will pave the way for other First Nations language groups to follow suit and create platforms where their culture can be kept alive and shared widely.

An often-forgotten fact is that Australia is home to some of the most diverse languages in the world. With 250 Indigenous languages and 800 dialects that are specific to particular places and people, Australians should revel in the possibility of learning some of them.

Nandawabi (Dharawal for see you later!)

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At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


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