9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (2024)

9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (1)

By Michael Cristiano Last updated:

According to OnePoll, the average American spends more than eight hours a week in the car commuting to work or school, running errands or traveling to meet friends or family.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could optimize all this time in the car by mastering a foreign language?

Well, you can.

In this post, we’ll discover nine resources that let you learn a language while driving. Plus, learn the five steps to maximizing your learn-while-driving time.

Contents

  • 1. Michel Thomas
  • 2. Pimsleur
  • 3. Teach Yourself Complete Courses
  • 4. Living Language
  • 5. Assimil
  • 6. Linguaphone
  • 7. LanguagePod101
  • 8. News in Slow
  • 9. Speakly
  • Why Learn a Language While Driving?
    • A Good Way to Use Dead Time
    • Focus on Audio Learning
    • Speaking Practice Without the Pressure
  • How to Learn a Language While Driving in 5 Steps
    • Step 1: Preload and Queue Apps for Learning
    • Step 2: Listen for Big Ideas
    • Step 3: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
    • Step 4: Write Down What You Remember
    • Step 5: Recite the Lesson to Yourself

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1. Michel Thomas

9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (2)

Summary:This course makes you speak from the beginning, with no reading and writing required.

Michel Thomas is a language learning product that has been around for a long time, and their entire method focuses on oral language.

Currently, Michel Thomas offers audio-based courses in 18 languages, including French, Spanish, Japanese and Arabic.

I love that Michel Thomas courses focus on conversational skills right from the get-go, honing in on common vocabulary and phrases.

Rather than rote memorization, these courses had me using the language actively and engaging in mock conversations with native speakers. This is a great way to prepare for real conversations that you could have with native speakers later.

Much of Michel Thomas’ instruction is in English as an added benefit. I found that this helped me to grasp various language concepts more easily.

2. Pimsleur

9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (3)

Summary: An audio course heavily focused on verbal communication to improve your listening and speaking skills.

Pimsleur is also a well-known audio-learning resource, and they have courses in more than 50 languages, including German, Ukrainian, Chinese and Persian.

The audio lessons are 30 minutes each—the ideal length for my car journey to work!

The lessons focus on conversational topics, helping learners build a strong core vocabulary and get a handle on common grammar structures.

This core vocabulary and grammar will be beneficial for creating meaningful sentences in your target language.

While once an audio-only course, I was happy to utilize some new features to the program—such as the flashcards, quizzes, pronunciation tools and reading practice—which I’ve found to be a great source of extra practice after driving.

3. Teach Yourself Complete Courses

9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (4)

Summary:Textbook-accompanying audio recordings with tons of listening activities and a focus on everyday conversations.

From my experience, the Teach Yourself series is one of the most well-rounded approaches to language learning, focusing on all four major language learning skills and to-the-point grammar.

Teach Yourself courses are actually based on a textbook, but each unit comes with native audio dialogues and other recordings. Lessons span common vocabulary topics with in-depth grammar analysis and countless exercises.

While using these courses, I completed the lessons in the textbook first and then listened to the dialogues while driving.

This is a great way to enhance listening and speaking skills and vocabulary retention in the long term.

Additionally, Teach Yourself offers audio-only apps through the “Get Talking, Keep Talking” and “Coffee Break” series. These are shorter podcasts aimed at teaching one bite-sized chunk of the language at a time.

4. Living Language9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (5)

Summary:Textbook-based courses with audio units you can complete for vocabulary reinforcement after each chapter.

Like the Teach Yourself courses, Living Language courses match audio learning with a workbook in more than 20 languages.

In my experience, the lessons are particularly effective for speaking and listening practice as they revolve around a particular dialogue and topic.

A transcript of this is given in the workbook alongside specific vocabulary and grammar notes, and each lesson comes with audio recordings and dozens of workbook exercises.

After doing the lesson in the workbook, I listen to the dialogues repeatedly while driving. This keeps the newly-learned vocabulary in the forefront and allows me to get used to various sentence structures.

It’s worth noting that the Living Language website no longer exists, but all of the textbooks and audio CDs are still available on third-party selling sites like Amazon.

5. Assimil9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (6)

Summary: Textbook courses that let you learn mostly through audio if you choose. The focus is on receptive and productive language skills.

Founded in 1929 by polyglot Alphonse Chérel, Assimil is the oldest language learning program on our list!

It offers hundreds of courses in foreign languages, and with many 21st-century advancements, these courses are available as an app.

The method behind Assimil is to teach languages intuitively, having learners assimilate the sounds, words and grammar structures of the target language.

I’ve found this immersion method to be particularly useful, especially at the start of learning a new language.

In fact, there are two phases to an Assimil course.

The “Impregnation Phase” has lessons of 30 to 40 minutes aimed at helping learners absorb the language naturally through listening and reading.

The “Activation Phase” allows students to use the language creatively and fluidly, focusing on written and oral production.

Both phases are ideal for learning a language while you drive, as they activate the two hands-off skills of listening and speaking. Assimil courses can be audio-based, textbook-based or a combination of both.

6. Linguaphone9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (7)

Summary:Native speaker recordings with optional accompanying texts that improve active speaking and listening skills.

Linguaphone’s philosophy is simple, and it revolves around three steps: listening, understanding and speaking.

Each lesson starts with native audio for listening, and then the audio is dissected by the accompanying text for comprehension.

I love the speaking step: rather than just repeating words and phrases, Linguaphone has you create new sentences, translating from English into the language you’re learning.

This allows you not only to imitate the native speakers and perfect the accent, but also to use the language actively.

Linguaphone offers courses in 16 languages, including Turkish, Korean and Greek available for MP3 download directly to your phone.

7. LanguagePod1019 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (8)

Summary: Podcast courses that cover everything from native conversations to grammar explanations.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 10 years, chances are you’ve encountered LanguagePod101 before.

Perhaps most popular because of its YouTube videos, LanguagePod101 offers podcast-based courses in more than 30 languages, all available on an app.

Some of their most popular include FrenchPod101, SpanishPod101 and GermanPod101.

Each lesson revolves around a podcast, whether an audio clip of a native dialogue or a more lecture-like lesson dissecting a grammar concept or vocabulary haul.

While the podcasts can stand alone, the LanguagePod101 online platform features written tutorials, flashcards and transcripts, videos available in-app and on YouTube and more.

This is perfect for reinforcing the learning you’ve done from listening while you drive!

8. News in Slow9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (9)

Summary:Slowed-down podcast recordings designed for language learners that deliver the news completely in your target language.

Who doesn’t like to catch up on the news while driving?

News in Slow is not really a language learning course, but rather an app and podcast aimed at upper beginner and intermediate learners.

In each 15 to 30-minute lesson, top news stories are presented in the target language in simplified vocabulary and with slow, clear pronunciation.

Currently, News in Slow offers four languages: Spanish, French, Italian and German.

Each lesson comes with a PDF document, built-in English translations and flashcards for enhanced learning.

I found it most useful to listen to each news podcast first for big ideas (see step 2 of “How to Learn a Language While Driving in 5 Steps”) and then go through the accompanying PDF to fill in the blanks.

The best part is that new News in Slow lessons are produced weekly.

This means that you have an endless stream of target language content ready for you at your level. And since it is based on current news, the words you learn are directly applicable to your language learning journey.

9. Speakly9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (10)

Summary:App with 15+ hours of conversations that focus on teaching the most commonly used words.

While not solely a listening-based app, Speakly combines many language learning skills with an extensive audio library in seven languages.

These include Spanish, French and Russian but also lesser-studied languages like Finnish and Estonian.

The best part about Speakly is that it focuses on teaching the “4000 most statistically-relevant words.” In other words, you’ll learn the most frequently used words (aka, the most important ones) first.

This will make navigating common conversations in your target language easy around applicable topics like directions, food and shopping.

While the app does have study options for writing, it boasts more than 350 conversations and 100 hours of study time.

Each conversation also has speaking input options for learners to focus on pronunciation and fluidity.

Why Learn a Language While Driving?

Who says you need a desk or a classroom to learn a language? Turns out you just need a steering wheel and car speakers.

A Good Way to Use Dead Time

It’s not uncommon for us to see time in the car as dead time: we have to keep our eyes on the road, our hands at ten and two and our attention focused on driving safely.

However, with more than eight hours a week spent in the car, we can utilize some of our other senses to engage in meaningful language learning.

In fact, just 100 hours are needed to meet the CEFR A1 level for languages like French. At eight hours a week, you could reach this in 13 short weeks.

Focus on Audio Learning

Since your hands are occupied, learning a language while driving will help you focus on listening skills.

This is one of the four major language learning skills alongside speaking, writing and reading. And though it is often overlooked, it should comprise about 25 hours of the 100 hours needed to reach the CEFR A1 level.

With audio-only learning material, driving can train your ear to the language. Repeating the same audio lessons also allows you to retain words and grammar structures more easily.

Watching videos in your target language is also a great idea for extra audio learning when you’re not behind the wheel.

For example, the authentic videos on FluentU let you hear exactly how a language is used in different contexts, and you’ll pick up more natural speech as a result. Plus, it comes as an app which makes for easy learning on the go (just not while driving, of course!).

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

With FluentU, you hear languages in real-world contexts—the way that native speakers actually use them. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:

FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you and organized them by level and topic. All you have to do is choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!

Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.

Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.

You can use FluentU’s unique adaptive quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions and exercises. Just swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're studying.

The program even keeps track of what you’re learning and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Speaking Practice Without the Pressure

Remember how I said that speaking was a major language-learning skill in addition to listening? Well, talking to yourself in the car is a great way to practice speaking skills!

You can repeat words after the resource you’re using, honing in on pronunciation and increasing the accessibility of new vocabulary in your long-term memory.

You can even practice speaking all alone. This removes the stress and pressure of speaking a new language with a partner.

How to Learn a Language While Driving in 5 Steps

Step 1: Preload and Queue Apps for Learning

This post couldn’t come without a disclaimer, so here it goes.

Learning a language in the car should not be a distraction to driving. I never recommend writing anything down, reading or fiddling with your smartphone during driving.

You need to focus on driving safely first and following the steps to learn a language safely.

This is my language learning in the car routine: first, I preload the lesson data from my chosen app before I start driving so I don’t have to do so while I’m driving.

If I think the lesson may be too short, I use the “repeat” feature so I can listen to the lesson multiple times.

I do this using Android Auto, but similar features are available through Apple CarPlay. In a pinch, a smartphone with an AUX cord will do the trick as well.

I then press play, I throw my car into DRIVE and I’m cruising to foreign language fluency.

Step 2: Listen for Big Ideas

On a first listen to an audio lesson—especially as a learner attempting to reach the CEFR A1 level—don’t get hung up on the details. You won’t understand every word, trust me!

Instead, you should focus on the “gist” or the main idea of the lesson. This should include looking out for key vocabulary or grammar structures, or maybe even attempting to understand the big idea of a listening comprehension activity.

Step 3: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Now you’re ready for a deep dive: listen to the same lesson many times and repeat new vocabulary as you hear it.

This will ensure you hear important target language vocabulary used over and over again, anchoring it in your head.

I also recommend you look up unknown words in between listens—while parked, of course.

Write these down and review them often. This will help aid in comprehension, allowing you to fill in gaps you may have missed during a first listen.

Step 4: Write Down What You Remember

After repeating the lesson multiple times, its content should become familiar to you.

So familiar, in fact, that I challenge you to write down what you remember the next time you’ve arrived at your destination—all in your target language.

Summarizing information is an important skill to have for A1 and A2 learners, and you should include all main ideas and as much new vocabulary as you remember.

You could also turn this into a full-fledged writing activity, focusing on the finer details of the lesson to maximize learning potential.

Step 5: Recite the Lesson to Yourself

As a final step, the student becomes the teacher: give the lesson back to yourself as if you’re giving a lecture to someone else about the topic. Don’t forget to do this in the target language.

This will further internalize everything you’ve learned and allow you to create novel sentences with key vocabulary. For an extra challenge, give this lesson unscripted.

Who knew that driving and mastering a language weren’t mutually exclusive?

With these nine apps and your new language learning while driving skills, you can commute your way to fluency in your new language. Let’s hit the road!

9 Hands Free Apps to Learn a Language While Driving (2024)
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