I tried every major language learning app to find which ones supported Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian. Here’s what’s best between Drops, Ling, LingQ, Mango, and more.
Are you looking to learn Serbian but aren’t sure which apps are available, or which are worth your time and money? You’ve come to the right place. I’ve been looking for a while now for the best apps to help you learn Serbian, and I’ll share what I’ve learned here.
Although in this post I’ll mostly focus on Serbian (since that’s what I’m personally learning), I’ll also cover Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. That’s because these are all the same language with some regional differences. The language is also called Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, and various other names. For more info, see Wikipedia and this Quartz article.
Finding a Good Serbian Language App
Learning a new language as an adult is hard work. And Serbian is harder than many languages, given its complex Slavic grammar. So if you’re going to be putting in the work, you’ll want to ensure you’re using an effective method that you enjoy and works well for you, not only to get the most out of it but also to help you stick with it. Apps can also be a great way to supplement a course you’re taking in a classroom or with a language tutor.
Searching the app store or the internet surprisingly doesn’t easily turn up some of the best options for learning Serbian. That’s because Serbian isn’t among the most popular languages like Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and others that are the breadwinners for language apps. So even the apps that support Serbian best sometimes don’t mention it prominently in their language lists on app store pages, etc.
When many people want to learn a language, they think of Duolingo, the most popular free language learning app. Alas, it doesn’t support Serbian or any of its regional variants. So what are our options?
For my own benefit and yours, I’ve searched high and low. Here are some of the many apps I’ve considered:
- Apps that support some form of Serbo-Croatian:
- Connect with professional tutors or free language exchange: HelloTalk, Italki.
Other language apps that, as of this writing, do not support Serbian, Croatian, or Bosnian include the following: Babbel, Beelinguapp, Busuu, Duolingo, FluentU, Fluenz, Innovative Language Learning, LingoDeer, Lingvist, Memrise, and Rosetta Stone.
So now we know which apps support Serbian, but which are the best at doing so? Read on…
In the remainder of this post, I’ll focus only on the top iOS and Android apps for English speakers that include Serbian (at least) and that come with premade study materials (rather than connecting you with tutors or a language community).
Montenegrin is not mentioned in the lists above because I couldn’t find any apps that specifically focus on learning Montenegrin. Compared to Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian, Montenegrin is the most different of the bunch and has the fewest speakers.
The Best Serbian Language Apps
- Website: Drops.
- Focus: Vocabulary.
- Supports: Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian.
Drops has won Google App of the Year and Apple Editor’s Choice awards, and I can see why. It’s a beautiful, highly polished, and fun app that focuses only on vocabulary, but is excellent at it. It has thousands of categorized words and phrases with well-thought-out images to represent each of them. And it has independent support for Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian (among other languages) so you can focus specifically on the language variation you’re most interested in. I’ve purchased a Drops lifetime subscription and used it for Serbian, Japanese, and Mexican Spanish. Based on my experience, I highly recommend it.
Drops is useful even if you don’t pay for it, since free users get all app features. The catch is that free users are limited to studying for five minutes a day. That’s enough to get a feel for the app, and enough to learn a lot over time if you’re disciplined about coming back daily (which they make it fun to do). The app also gets frequent updates (with new words/phrases and new features) and has gotten noticeably better since I started using it. And unlike some apps, a lifetime subscription to Drops gives you access to all languages.
My rating: 5⭐, but you’ll probably want to supplement Drops with another app, book, or course to learn the grammar.
Drops doesn’t currently list Serbian or Bosnian support on its app store page, but they indeed have first-class support for these languages with audio from native speakers.
- Website: Ling.
- Focus: A little of everything.
- Supports: Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian.
Ling teaches both vocabulary and grammar in a series of short Duolingo-like courses. There are four lessons and an exam in each unit, and 10 units in each level. Levels progress from beginner to intermediate, upper-intermediate, advanced, and expert.
Although I haven’t taken the full course, I went through the two Serbian beginner units they offer for free users and was left a little disappointed. It’s okay, even approaching good, but I think they could use a little more investment in product and course design quality. They also occasionally dump tables of grammar information on you out of context, and sometimes make questionable decisions about word choices for beginners—e.g. teaching “Ja sam iz Sjedinjenih Američkih Država” (“I’m from the United States”, which is particularly challenging in Serbian) rather than the simpler “Ja sam iz Amerike” (“I’m from America”). That said, if there weren’t other options I felt were better for me, I’d be happy enough to pay for the app. It’s worth a try, and it has a decent amount of content to work through.
My rating: 3.5⭐.
- Website: LingQ.
- Focus: Contextual understanding.
- Supports: Serbian, Croatian.
LingQ offers a different approach to language learning that—although it might not be the best for total beginners—seems promising as an effective way to learn more quickly than with other methods. In LingQ, everything is learned in context. Lessons are a series of stories with increasing difficulty that you read and listen to, and you learn words and sentence structure with relatively realistic situations and real content. Every word in a text starts out highlighted to mark it as not yet learned, and for any word or sentence, you can tap or select it to see a definition. As you go, you can change individual words to new, recognized, familiar, learned, or known (at which point it’s fully unhighlighted). And as you progress, you’re able to review the words you’re learning. Progressively more of the words in new texts will start out unhighlighted/known, and it feels great to see entire pages rapidly becoming learned, implicitly crediting you for all your known and learned words. You can also import your own content in Serbian (e-books, news articles, YouTube videos, etc.) and use their system on it.
Unfortunately, the app severely limits free use, so you can barely get enough of a sense of whether you like how it works before they ask for money. That said, many people who use the app rave about it. Even though LingQ’s stories don’t explain things like grammar—leaving you to try to figure it out from context—I’m excited about their novel approach. Whereas other language apps can help you get familiarity with a language, they won’t get you to fluency. LingQ seems to have the potential to do so, at least for reading, assuming you’re willing to buckle down for relatively intense study.
My rating: 4.5⭐. A brilliant approach to reading fluency that is somewhat lacking in ease of use.
LingQ currently doesn’t mention Serbian or Croatian on its homepage, but it indeed supports them.
- Website: Mango.
- Focus: Language construction.
- Supports: Serbian, Croatian.
Mango offers a well-designed and polished course that focuses on intuitive language construction and uses adaptive, spaced-repetition review to help you retain vocabulary. It starts at the beginner level and does a great job of progressively explaining things like sentence structure, formality, gender, etc. in context as you add more words to your vocabulary and start figuring out new sentences for yourself. They also have a cool feature where you can record yourself saying words/sentences and compare your pronunciation to a native speaker (with voiceprints).
Of the apps here, Mango feels the most like you’re going through a real language course with a tutor, partly because of the solid course design, partly because they actually explain new things in between exercises rather than leaving you to work out the differences, and partly just because they have a human reading those explanations.
Mango offers only one lesson for free, but that feels like enough to get a sense of whether you’ll like the app. Personally, I thought it was well made and it felt customized for the actual language I was studying. The flip side of them not just fitting each language into the same cookie-cutter course is that, although Mango has a tremendous amount of content for some languages (e.g., Latin American Spanish has more than 800 lessons split across various chapters and units), they have less for Serbian and Croatian. Each has 105 lessons total. Still, that seems like a solid amount of content.
Finally, Mango offers free access through various organizations including public libraries. So, at least in the US, you can choose your local library and enter your library card number to gain access. Very cool.
My rating: 4.5⭐, as the best Serbian course in an app.
Although there aren’t a top of apps for learning Serbian today, most of these are very different (only Ling and Mango feel more comparable) so they could be used in a complementary way to accelerate your learning. Hopefully, you’ve found something new and helpful here!
I haven’t spent time with the apps that support Croatian but not Serbian, so if you’re learning Croatian there are a few more options I listed near the top of this post that you might want to consider.
There are a couple of apps that I didn’t feature above despite them supporting Serbian because I consider them a lot less polished and useful. Clozemaster has you choose the missing word in a sentence, with thousands of sentences to randomly work through. It’s not great for beginners and is not very polished. Simply Learn is a pretty basic travel phrasebook and has separate apps for Serbian and Croatian. Free is nice, but Drops offers a much better take if you want to focus on vocabulary.
Finally, I’d love to hear about your own language journey in the comments. Which of these apps have you used, what are your favorites, and are there any I’m missing? What sorts of other (non-app) resources have been most helpful for you in studying Serbian or other languages?
Cheers and good luck! / Živeli i srećno! / Живели и срећно!