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Drops language app review
Drops language app is a pretty popular option for language learners to learn a whole bunch of languages; it’s very similar to Duolingo (the world’s largest community of language learners), but with a pretty different approach. You’ll see.
Who is the Drops language app for? What should you be looking for in a language learning app by downloading it?
- American English
- Brazilian Portuguese
- British English
- Castilian Spanish
- European Portuguese
- Mandarin Chinese
- Mexican Spanish
That adds up to over 30 languages, including a couple of various accents (Castilian and Mexican Spanish) and some lesser-known languages, like Ainu. When a language app supports so many languages, it’s generally safe to assume that the content won’t get too advanced.
It’s also worth mentioning that unlike Mondly and Duolingo, you can only use Drops to learn from English.
Drops language app: getting started
Just like Duolingo, Drops also advertises itself as a pretty low-maintenance habit, even right down to the “learn a language in 5 minutes a day”. I hate that promise, but at least it gives us a clue about what we should expect from this app.
That plus “effortless visual learning” doesn’t really tell us much about how Drops will teach us a language, since language learning is absolutely not effortless, at least not all the time.
This doesn’t offer me the most optimistic first look at this app, but fortunately, that gets turned around just a little bit. When you do create an account, you’ll be asked some solid qualifying questions.
This doesn’t really seem to effect the material you see, though; it’s one of those apps where even if you say you’re an advanced learner (which I did), you’ll see the same exact content. I hate when language learning apps get my hopes up like that!
After selecting your language and answering these (honestly useless) questions, you start playing! It’s a pretty simple concept, but nonetheless you’ll get some direction the first time around.
And you’ll get these directions the first time you come across one of the six ways that Drops teaches you vocab.
As you can tell, it didn’t take me long to get sick of Spanish and switch to Dutch!
First you’re introduced with new words and relevant icons, and you tell Drops whether or not you want to learn this word. This is a nice way to not waste your time learning words that either you already know, or they’re so easy that you don’t have to spend the time studying them (if they’re close enough to English, for example).
You’ll get the English translation when the word first appears, but after that the only way to mark new vocab is with the assigned icon. I like how this avoids the habit of translation and jumps right into just thinking in the new language, the thing that Rosetta Stone really rocks at!
From the start, you can see where Drops really shines: vocab. While you can use Drops to take in your very first words, it also offers vocab to cover a ton of subjects:
- Food & drink
- Travel talk
- Nature & animals
- People & health
- Travel & vehicles
- Home & garden
- City & shops
- Business & tech
- Fashion & clothing
- Fun & recreation
- Science & wisdom
- Sports & fitness
- Society & politics
That adds up to 14 different subjects’ worth of vocab, all of which you can access in over 30 different languages. There’s no “levels” or anything like that, so you can go ahead and pick whichever words in whichever languages whenever you so choose!
This makes Drops different from Duolingo, which focuses entirely on essential vocab, and closer to Mondly, which assigns stock photos to vocab, not original icons.
Drops’ other features
Besides providing access to thousands of words in a variety of different languages, Drops also has a few other tricks up its sleeve. For one, Drops keeps track of your progress, and helps give you labels for the amount of words you’ve learned in the language.
While this is nice to look at and to use to feel good about yourself…I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate. It’s not far off – those first 2,000 words are the most important and the ones that you’ll use in 99% of conversations – but considering Drops teaches you words/phrases, but not really any sentence structure or basic grammar….ehhhh.
Basically, I wouldn’t get my hopes up that after going through all these words, you’re actually a conversationalist. And that’s besides the fact that you won’t actually get any speaking practice, just lots of vocab.
Does Drops provide the potential? Absolutely! But it’s a tool, not a whole language learning strategy.
If you go into the ‘Collection’ tab, you can see all the words that you’ve reviewed thus far. Then from there, you’re just one click away from the Drops Visual Dictionary!
This dictionary is really attractive and really interesting – I do love the concept of seeing so many different translations of the word in one go.
It’s formatted really beautifully, but it’s not an official dictionary. It looks like you can only use it to look up words that you learn in the app, which makes sense.
Drops also has a lot of potential for keeping you accountable! The app keeps track of your daily/weekly streak (though for some reason my daily notification doesn’t always show up) and helps you set simple goals with timers.
Seriously though: when Drops says 5 minutes a day, they mean it!
Drops automatically sets your session length to 5 minutes, but you have some leeway with that. The number you set it to is the amount of time one lesson takes.
So these sessions aren’t necessarily “here’s one lesson, now here’s another”, it’s more like practicing as much vocab as you can until the timer runs out.
Drops language app: the bad & ugly
There’s a lot to like about Drops, and it’s absolutely useful for language learners who want to take in lots and lots of words in a fun way. However…it ain’t perfect.
For example, I love that Drops has their own simple, very attractive icons. Problem is, simple icons don’t allow for simple differences in words/phrases.
When you get ‘de regen’ or ‘het regent’, and you have to choose between those icons, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get it wrong! You know that they both have something to do with rain, and the icons are so similar that it’s a waste of time to focus on the nuances between the two icons.
Yes, I did get that wrong and yes, I am salty about it!
Another issue that comes up, especially when you switch between totally different vocab categories, is that you get questions like this one, where your options are “audience” and “egg”. I just…what?
I would much rather have a word related to “audience”, even if I hadn’t seen that word yet. That way I could start connecting the two icons in my head and start learning the new vocab before I even see it.
This is just random and doesn’t make any sense to me.
One last complaint: I wish you had the option to hear the audio for the word whenever it appeared. When you get a word right (or wrong), the audio doesn’t play for you, you just see the word. That is a huge missed opportunity for listening practice, and to help cement new vocab into your memory!
Just like the competition, Drops is very reasonably priced.
On top of the 14-day money-back guarantee, you can also opt for a free 7-day trial. That’s some good customer service! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a free trial and a money-back guarantee, it’s usually one or the other.
Oh yeah, and on TOP of all that, the first 5 minutes per day are always free. Seriously, what a freakin’ deal.
With your subscription, you also get access to Drops OTHER app, which I had never heard before and almost completely missed: Scripts!
It’s the exact same idea as Drops, but you use it to learn the letters of different alphabets. So, with the Scripts app, this membership can add to that list of languages:
- Chinese Hanzi
- English ABCs
- Indian Devanagari
- Japanese Kana
- Korean Hangul
- Russian Cyrillic
I don’t know why Drops keeps this such a secret, but that’s a whole lot of value added to a membership!
Keep in mind, Scripts is strictly for alphabets; there are no words to learn in these languages.
Drops language app: who should try it
Drops is a unique language learning resource in the sheer amount of vocab that’s available to you. You can choose from over a dozen different categories of words in over 30 different languages, and you’re free to learn whatever you want whenever you want.
Plus, with access to the Scripts app which is included in a paid membership, you can learn a variety of alphabets, too, which opens the doors to 7 more languages!
All this makes the Drops language app a great resource for taking in new vocab and learning new alphabets, both of which are major cornerstones of any new language. You won’t be learning any grammar, language skills, or anything beyond intermediate, but it’s easy, entertaining, and easy on the eyes.