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16 Incredible iPad Apps for ESL Learners

English’s bizarre turns of phrases and seemingly boundless tendency toward exceptions to rules intimidates even native speakers, so one must hold sympathy for those learning it in a secondary or tertiary situation. Those with access to an iPad enjoy some seriously cool lesson supplements harnessing digital age technology in the service of their educations. Whether students only have a few minutes to scan a dictionary listing or an hour or so to sit and intently study mouth formations and pronunciations, an application exists to meet the needs of all ages and skill levels. Download the following when hoping to receive a relatively comprehensive look at one of the world’s most widely-spoken tongues.

  1. Intro to Letters, by Montessoreum

    Appropriate for ESL children, this application runs through all the letters of the English alphabet, introducing them to the structure and pronunciation through tracing, audio, digital flashcards, and phonogram puzzles.

  2. Sounds Right, by British Council

    It’s a simple chart with great big resonance; when learning British English, refer to Sounds Right for proper pronunciation of vowels and diphthongs, with the former listed by mouth shape.

  3. Sentence Builder for iPad, by Mobile Education Tools

    The winner of IEAR’s 2010 Language App of the Year distinction targets elementary school students and challenges them to construct simple, grammatically correct sentences around provided pictures and videos.

  4. Speech Tutor, by Synapse Apps

    iPad-enabled ESL adults who need to work on their (American) accent or require a refresher in pronouncing specific letters and phonemes might want to consider this incredibly detailed app, which features animations of the sides and fronts of mouths illustrating proper tongue and lip formations.

  5. iDaily Pro HD, by Frontier One

    Frontier One’s innovative app turns English language news into valuable lessons in grammar and sentence structure with its super amazing custom dictionary allowing users to save words and phrases that need clarifying.

  6. Hello-Hello English, by Hello-Hello

    This joint effort between developers Hello-Hello and The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages helps users with their conversational English, providing lessons culled from real-life scenarios, flash cards, note-taking exercises, and more. The app itself is free, but they charge $1.99 per course, or $14.99 for all 30.

  7. Basic Pronunciation: Clear Speech from the Start, by Cambridge University Press

    ESL students between the beginner and intermediate level use Basic Pronunciation’s series of fun games as supplements to more formalized lessons in proper speaking.

  8. WordBook XL – English Dictionary & Thesaurus for iPad, by TranCreative Software

    One of the most detailed dictionaries and thesauri available through the iTunes store partners all of its entries with audio, etymologies, synonyms and antonyms, anagrams, and the ability to bookmark for future reference.

  9. Learn English with!, by Busuu Online S.L.

    Use this application to build vocabulary regarding typical situations, listen to audio and watch video of native speakers, take tests, and other important ESL lessons; Busuu made sure to include materials suitable for all fluency levels.

  10. Adventures for Kids, by WireCloud

    Suitable for children just picking up English as a primary or secondary language, these gentle story-based games nurture vocabulary skills through repetition.

  11. Word Wit, by Ballpoint

    Adult ESL students who sometimes stumble over homophones, connotation/denotation, idioms, and other problematic English structures will appreciate how effectively Word Wit seeks to demystify them.

  12. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, by Enfour

    Another excellent dictionary for English language learners, which emphasizes how native speakers actually utilize the 23,000 available words and phrases.

  13. Phonetics Focus, by Cambridge English Online

    In 2011, the English-Speaking Union awarded Phonetics Focus with its President’s Award, making it one of the iPad’s most popular ESL applications. It offers a phonetic typewriter, games, flash cards, audio recording and playback, and other necessities for mastering the language.

  14. Sounds: The Pronunciation App

    The charts included here cover both British and American English, and users tap different sounds to hear them as well as examples in a common vocabulary word.

  15. English is Easy – 1 HD, by Frank Meyer EDV

    Suitable for all ages, the English is Easy app involves a series of 115 high-definition flash cards with some of the most popular vocabulary words — specifically nouns and adjectives — for the greenest of horns.

  16. Berlitz My English Coach for iPad – Classic Version, by Berlitz Publishing

    Berlitz presents an encouraging animated English coach who walks ESL students young and old through vocabulary, sentence structure, phrases and idioms, questions and answers, practice conversations, history and geography lessons, and a handy dandy little dictionary all meant to beef up their skill sets.