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8 Apps That Teach Kids the Thing You Probably Can't

Photograph by Twenty20

I recently wrote about the one thing you're kid probably isn't learning at school, but should be: a language other than English. I talked about wanting to support my own sons' acquisition of Spanish, a language I speak only passably, and about the slow growth of public schools that offer class time in another language, like dual immersion Spanish-English and Mandarin-English elementary schools around Washington, D.C., where we live.

So what's a parent values language learning to do, when resources are either unavailable or too expensive? I recommend turning to apps. There are so many out there, not just Rosetta Stone, that make language learning easier for kids. Flashcards apps, games and tutorials are all available to get kids out the door and speaking to even more people in your neighborhood and across the globe.

Bonus: they all work well for adults too. Here are my favorite 8:

1. Duolingo

Free. Yes, the app is free and there are no ads. Basically, Duolingo drills you in vocabulary and phrases. You can level up and compete with friends. One thing to note is that this is only good for your kids if they can actually read and write. If they can't, you will have to help them complete most tasks.

Available languages: French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, English, German, Portuguese, Irish (Gaelic) and Italian.

RELATED: How Schools Punish Kids Who Like to Travel

2. Little Pim: PimTrack—Language Learning for Kids

Most parents know the Little Pim videos, but the brand has a few apps to compliment the popular series, including PimTrack. The app allows you to create profiles for each child in your family, so you can monitor their progress as they flip through the virtual flashcards and learn new words, and you can even quiz them. Each flashcard has an illustration, a button to hear the word and the English translation.

Available languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese and Japanese.

3. Baby Sign and Learn: American Sign Language Pro Edition

American Sign Language is an often ignored language for those in the hearing community. But for those who are deaf, it is the only way they can be heard. Teach your baby to sign at an early age, so they can communicate with you before they can speak and also so you both have basic words filed away for when you do encounter someone who is deaf or hearing impaired. This app is flashcard based with 336 signs and cards.

Available languages: American Sign Language

4. Dic-Dic: Multilingual dictation to practice spelling, writing and letter matching

This app was created for kids ages 3 to 8 and teaches your child to read and write a new language. Three levels of difficulty, and a keyboard so your child can practice typing, make this a multifaceted app that even includes a bonus game your kids can unlock when they hit a certain number of correct answers.

Available languages: British English, English, Spanish, Russian, French and Catalan

5. Gus on the Go

Explore a new language with Gus the friendly owl learning basic vocabulary concepts, interactive visual and auditory lessons, and more. Each completed lesson unlocks a fun game that reinforces what your child has learned. Country and city maps whiz your child across the globe to where each language can be found, where they will meet animals and learn food and clothing terms. Your kids will love the trophy room, where they can keep track of all of their achievements.

Available languages: Cantonese, Croatian, English, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Taiwanese, Taiwanese Mandarin and Vietnamese.

6. Pepe And Pepita—Bilingual Spanish Gender and Vocab Challenge

One of the hardest things to learn when taking on a new language is the masculine and feminine noun categories. We just don't have this in the English language. Pepe and Pepita are two Day of the Dead skeletons who help children decide which noun belongs to which character in Spanish. There are 12 levels of fun but watch out after Level 5. It gets trickier and harder to guess which noun is masculine or feminine. High scores get your child into mini-games and up to the toy shelf to collect trinkets for your the trophy room.

Available languages: Spanish

7. Toddler Flashcards

This is a very simple learning tool made up of, you guessed it, flashcards. Your toddler can easily flip through each card, just like they flip through the photos on your phone. Your child will learn basic words through the cards that not only look good but also speak and play animal sounds.

Available languages: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Russian, Farsi, Greek, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese and British English.

RELATED: 4 Things I Forgot to Teach My Kid Before Kindergarten

8. Mind Snacks

Flashcards aren't for everyone, which is why Mind Snacks is game-based. Learn your verb endings and play fun games as you pick up a new language on the go. Kids and adults can get into this app, which includes 50 lessons, over 1,000 words and up to 40 side quests.

Available languages: Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin) and Portuguese.

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