The best app to learn Vietnamese

The best app to learn Vietnamese

Published: Jun 11, 2024 | By: Lucas Weaver

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The best app to learn Vietnamese for you depends on your unique learning style and specific goals for learning the Vietnamese language. With this in mind, here’s some guidance and recommendations based on the various goals you may have.

The best overall app for learning Vietnamese

Ling is one of the most popular apps for learning Vietnamese, and also one of the most fun. However, they seem to have a better grasp on the learning to gamification ratio than Duolingo.

Right away when you start using Ling, you feel like you’re challenging yourself and actually learning a language, rather than just playing a “language-themed game.”

Founded by a Thai woman, and headquartered in not so far away Chiang Mai, Thailand, Ling’s commitment to the Asian language learning experience is easy to see and appreciate inside their app.

Many apps try to go after the Asian language learning market, but few seem to really invest the energy to get it right.

What Ling covers

The Ling app not only covers vocabulary but also grammar, writing, and speaking as well, with the gamification aspect done well so that it makes the learning process feel more fun.

Their content takes you through realistic conversations in Vietnamese that you would have in your daily life, covering some grammar bits such as word order and sentence structure that would typically not be seen in basic vocabulary lists alone. 

If you’re just getting started learning Vietnamese and you want a fun way to get going, I would recommend trying Ling. I started using it two years ago after my first month-long trip to Thailand when I got back to Europe, and I was hooked enough to eventually upgrade to the yearly account.

How it helps you learn Vietnamese 

After my month-long trip to Vietnam last year, I wanted to try and keep some of the Vietnamese vocabulary I had learned there and even learn some more new words in case I went back. 

When I booked another visit to Hanoi this year, it definitely paid off. I started hitting my Ling sessions heavily again about two months before my trip, and I was able to remember and use all the basic words and phrasesI had learned.

What made that so valuable was that I was able to learn new things this trip. Instead of spending the first week re-learning all the basics, I was able to pick up right where I left off and start adding new words to my vocabulary.

Why is Ling best overall?

Language learning apps are a dime a dozen these days. It’s such a huge market dollar-wise that it always seems like a good opportunity for entrepreneurs to make a quick buck. Therefore, the overpopulation of “gamified language-learning” apps in every app store.

But that’s simply what makes Ling stand out so much. They really are the best combination of language-learning and gamification. 

Let’s be honest, without the gamification, you won’t stick to an app. It’ll be too boring and you’ll be back on Tik-Tok within 5 minutes. So gamification is a necessary evil.

But without the language learning content being spot-on, and by that I also mean it needs to be challenging, there’s no way you’ll ever consider paying for it.

That’s why Ling has grown so successfully over the years. They provide challenging, meaningful content to learn languages like Vietnamese, while providing a smooth user experience with fun learning activities.

That combination is why I rate them the best overall app for learning Vietnamese.

Honorable Mention: Mondly

While I didn’t rate Mondly as the best app for Vietnamese, it is certainly a very close “1A” we could say.

Mondly pops up frequently on forums and message boards when Vietnamese learners give recommendations for which apps to use.

I was personally impressed with how quickly they get you into the experience of listening to a Vietnamese conversation. The process is fluid and easy, and you’ll immediately feel like you’re learning something.

This immediate feedback of a positive learning experience with an app is crucial. With so many apps out there to choose from, it’s easy to quit using one within minutes if it doesn’t immediately provide you with some value.

learn vietnamese app with mondly

What Vietnamese learners like

In their positive comments online in forums like Reddit, Vietnamese learners mention the extensive volume of lesson content, as well as the realisticness of the conversations and voices they use.

This makes learners feel like they’re immersed into real Vietnamese conversations that they’ll use in their daily lives.

If you’re looking for an app that mimics the classroom experience of language learning, Mondly is certainly worth checking out.

Dis-Honorable Mention: Duolingo

Duolingo seems to be one of the worst choices for actually learning Vietnamese, rather than just using it for entertainment or the “game” element.

Consider this quote from a Reddit user:

“Depends on what language you're learning but I find the Vietnamese course terrible. It was made by someone with no background in language learning and just throws a lot of random language at you. A lot of the time you had to go to the forum got each question to get an explanation, although Duolingo has now closed them. I found the convoluted structures and random language particularly frustrating. Pretty early in the course you're learning stuff like "He wants to know the precipitation of this plain" or other weird sentences where you're not sure if it's an actual colloquial saying/idiom or something random the creator made up. I appreciate a lot of work went into it but it needs to be redone, often each unit is throwing far too much random vocab too.”

This is one of the primary reasons I don’t consider Duolingo a “language learning” app rather than a “language-themed” game.

If you use Duolingo solely for learning Vocabulary, it can be a great tool. They do gamification better than anyone (not just in the language learning space), so they do a great job of helping you stay consistent in your studying.

And if learning words is your primary goal, combining that with their gamification expertise can go a long, long way.

But most readers of the Weaver School are more serious language learners, not just people playing a game on their couch to kill time. And that’s why I can’t recommend Duolingo for the overall goal of “learning” Vietnamese, rather than just playing a game with the language.

However, if Duolingo works for you, don’t let me stop you! Have fun and enjoy.

Note about Pimsleur for Vietnamese

Pimsleur is one of my favorite language learning apps (even though someone from their affiliate team was rude to me and I’m still petty about it).

I’ve written about how I used it through my travels in Asia to learn Korean, Chinese, and Thai. However, my experience using it for Vietnamese was my least successful attempt by far.

For some reason it seemed like the content in the Pimsleur Vietnamese lessons was less aligned with real life than their other language offerings. 

You could chalk this up to the larger variations in dialects and speaking styles in Vietnam that make learning a singular “Vietnamese” more challenging than that of Korea or Thai.

However, it happened so many times that I would attempt to speak what I had learned in my Pimsleur lessons in real life in Vietnam, and it just wouldn’t get me anywhere.

For example, in Korea, I had about an 85%+ success rate of saying phrases I learned in the Pimsleur app in real life and people understanding exactly what I meant. But in Vietnam that felt like about 50%.

When you’re already a bit self-conscious about speaking a foreign language in a foreign country (which most language learners are), adding any kind of negative feedback like this can set you back quite a bit psychologically.

That’s why, while I’m still overwhelmingly positive about Pimsleur offerings on the whole, I don’t personally recommend Pimsleur for Vietnamese.

However, your experience with this might be completely different from mine, so don’t take my word over your own experience.

Which Vietnamese learning app is best for you?

The best part of all of these offerings is that none of them are expensive, and all offer a free trial.

Have a look at my descriptions above and then have a look at their websites if you want more information. No matter which one you choose, make sure you stick with it. 

All of these apps will work if you give them time, so don’t let perfection be the enemy of your greatness.

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Lucas Weaver from the Weaver School

Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.

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