But it sure helps.

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg participated in a Q&A at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in Beijing in 2014, he wowed his audience by speaking fluent Mandarin. The reasons he gave for having learned the language were personal. But the demonstration of his respect for, and interest in, Chinese language and culture loudly attested to his business acumen. What better way to win over potential business partners than to speak their language?

As your business grows, scaling beyond its current confines, how likely are you to be dealing with collaborators who speak a language other than your own? Any entrepreneur in a global tech market would be foolish to miss out on the opportunity not only to win over an audience but to understand their culture by way of learning their language. And learning another language is now easier than ever before. Today’s language apps can help you stand out in a crowd.

It’s true that few apps will get you speaking or understanding a new language like a native without immersing yourself at some point among native speakers. It’s also true that most good language apps are not free. Many use pay-as-you-go models.

In our final installment of the top educational apps, here is a short list of some of the best language apps out there.


Voiced by native speakers and employing speech-recognition technology, Babbel builds vocabulary by way of carefully structured repetition into immersive conversations that develop one’s ability to speak, read and write in the chosen language. Users may opt to learn with other learners online. According to the website, the app “combines communicative didactics, cognitivism, behaviorism and constructivism. Progressive lessons are connected together as an interlinking framework, with each step building towards the next.” Per-course prices for individual users range from $6.95 per month to $12.95 per month. The first lesson is free to give you a sense of how the program works. Babble for business provides multi-user language packages in 14 languages and durations varying from 6 to 24 months. Available on all device platforms including desktop.


Busuu’s free version essentially consists of flash cards. But subscription plans, ranging from $5.41 per month to $8.33 per month, unlock a large array of premium features such as mobile offline mode, quizzes and certificates, conversations with native speakers, and full access to all 12 languages offered.


Using gamification (and a game-like look & feel), Duolingo (another PC Magazine Editor’s Choice) is among the most-cited language apps available, offering free instruction in 28 languages including Swahili and the fictional High Valyrian popularized by Game of Thrones. (tekMountain has yet to meet an investor or startup founder who negotiates in Valyrian.) Users start by choosing a daily goal defined by how much time they plan to spend learning each day. The free version is supported partly by paid advertising. The subscription version, Duolingo Plus, is is ad free and allows users to download lessons to mobile devices. Prices range from $6.99 per month to $10 per month.

Rosetta Stone

Repeated ranked by PC Magazine as among the best language-learning software, Rosetta Stone has been a top-ranked player for more than 25 years. Learning pronunciation is assisted by its TruAccent speech-recognition software. The sequenced curriculum is fully immersive, , including world literature texts in their original languages, and downloadable audio lessons. Prices per month range from $10.38 to $26.34.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesKelly Brown, Elyssa Miller and Zach Cioffi with lead writer Bill DiNome.

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