Have you ever wanted to learn a foreign language but you just don’t have the time? Or, do you have the time but maybe you’re just lazy and unmotivated? (Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.) Whatever the case, it’s time to get out of that slump, because in the words of Apple circa 2009, “There’s an app for that!”
Named for the animation used to introduce new vocabulary words, Drops is the future of language learning. The app has a dictionary that is composed of over fifteen languages, including Spanish, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese, and all 1,700+ words are relevant for 60 percent of everyday conversation. Drops was created with the mindset that language learning is flawed. Developers Daniel Farkas and Mark Szulyovszky found three main reasons for why everyone doesn’t learn a new language, despite how important it is: not knowing where to start, the use inconsistent word-databases and lack of discipline and grit.
While it’s only available for iOS, obviously fueling the ongoing (for some reason) Apple vs. Android war, with its beautifully illustrated interface and speedy sessions, the app has elicited praise from critics across the world, and it was even selected into “New Apps We Love” in over one hundred countries. “It takes ‘boring’ out of language learning…The fun part? It only takes five minutes a day,” said Farkas.
Remember those learning style quizzes that you always had to take in school? Well, visual-learners rejoice, this app is perfect for you. Drops has an interface with beautiful, vibrant graphics and smooth animations. Every single word is accompanied with crisp, minimal pictures to represent it. Due to the brightly colored pictures and forced immersion, your mind will store the vocabulary more efficiently. “You won’t have to use the word of your native language, but will connect the new words to the illustration of the meaning,” declares the app description, which makes the process quicker and way more fun than just staring at a bunch of black and white letters on a page.
The best part about Drops’ interface is the almost total lack of ads. Everyone hates ads in their apps; they’re the one thing that can suck the fun out of one, especially when you get a pop-up every few minutes. With Drops, there is only one ad at the very end of your session, and that’s only if you click “x” on the window offering you more time, and this paucity of advertising alone puts it in the running for “Best App in the Whole Freaking World.” (This is a completely 100 percent real competition that I definitely didn’t just make up on the spot, trust me.)
Quick and Effortless Gameplay
The app prides itself on the fact that it reduces the amount of time you need to study in order to learn a language, which should be music to your ears. Drops wants to help you develop a habit of playing it, so it offers two “opportunities” daily; and, in an effort to relieve some of the pressure of learning an entirely new language, your learning time is cut into five-minute bursts. As a result, you really have no excuses; everyone has at least five minutes twice a day.
If you are having way too much fun learning, there are even multiple opportunities to get more session time. By maintaining a daily streak, you earn time bonuses from forty to a whopping three hundred seconds. As with any app, you can like them on Facebook for extra time. Heck, maybe you like spending money and feel like Drops is a good investment.
When creating the app, developers took cues from other games, seeing what makes them so fun and addictive, resulting in an education app that isn’t just “gamified”; rather, it has a proper game experience. Drops is extremely immersive, so you’re not wasting time just playing, you’re building a useful skill. Farkas and Szulyovszky believe in a quick pace and typing with a keyboard just slows you down. As a result, they designed Drops so that users navigate the interface using only rapid swipes and taps. No matter what activity, you press buttons and swipe; this way, you get the most out of your five minutes and the game feel is reinforced.
In five minutes, Drops teaches you words and tests you on them using various activities that keep learning interesting, including a picture/word mix-and-match and the developers’ own take on crossword puzzles. No matter what word category you’re in, older words come up so that you don’t forget them fifty categories deeps. Even though you are given the option, if time permits, you won’t have to go back to old categories to review. At the end of the five-ish minutes, you can view your stats, including accuracy percentage and streak bonuses, as well as review the words used in that session.
Important Things to Remember
While Drops may seem like the perfect tool to learn a new language, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, Drops is a vocabulary app only. It doesn’t focus on grammar; Farkas and Szulyovszky pride themselves on this fact, saying in the press release, “No grammar, only curated words with high practical value. Drops focuses on one thing and it does it extremely well.” If you’re looking to become completely fluent in a language, Drops should only be a supplemental resource.
Second, you can’t just jump into the app if you’re learning a character-based language like Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Korean or Arabic. You have to know the alphabet of your choice language. or else you’ll be completely lost in the fast-paced world of Drops. There is no preliminary alphabet course, so learn that before downloading the app. Designed with a pleasing display, a fast pace and a fine balance between gaming and learning, Drops really is the best app for taking a on a second, or third language. If flashcards and text-books aren’t for you, Drops is.
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