Launched in 2014, Mondly is a language learning app that currently offers lessons in 41 languages and several different formats. Mondly’s creators claim to have helped over 110 million people learn a foreign language.
But is Mondly the right language learning app for you? That depends on what kind of language learner you are.
Is Mondly a good language learning app?
Each language learning app stands out in its own way, but pretty much all of them tend to follow one of two philosophies. Either an app is based on learning in a sequential way, with lessons starting at beginner level and building from there, or it’s based on certain linguistic and neurological theories that point out that we learn our native language(s) simply by listening, observing, and to some degree, repeating. In this way of thinking, learning isn’t a sequential progression, so much as things you pick up that coalesce into working knowledge or fluency.
Like fellow language learning app Pimsleur, Mondly follows this second language learning theory. This means that Mondly may say its lessons start at CEFR level A1 (beginner), but there isn’t necessarily a sense of beginning with the basics. Instead, beginner level learners have the opportunity to browse a myriad of mostly vocabulary- and scenario -based lessons, without really having much of a guidepost. For instance, the first lessons you’re likely to click on don’t start with something expected like greetings, but with talking about family members. The idea is that you’ll catch on by observing and doing exercises that involve a lot of repetition.
Mondly also does a lot when it comes to visual razzle dazzle. While not as cute or dynamic as Duolingo, it still has an interesting (albeit busy) interface that looks like a map with points that are actually lessons or units. And when you complete a lesson, there’s a cool (albeit long) animation of the words and phrases you’ve learned that are repeated aloud and then scattered inside a silhouette of a person’s head and visible brain.
But for all this visual appeal, I found it a bit hard to understand exactly how to navigate the app in order to get the most out of it. After several days of trying out different levels of Mondly Premium French, I think the essential thing to know is that you can pick and choose what you study. In some ways, this can be incredibly useful. For instance, say you just want some basic French to help you get by when you do something like reserve a hotel room. You can choose that lesson/unit and then do exercises on this theme. Ideally, these exercises will make you proficient in booking a hotel room in French…
…but no language learning app is entirely able to help you learn French on its own, and to me, Mondly seems more limited than many others. Take that hotel reservation lesson: You’ll learn some key phrases, but what if you’re on the phone with an actual hotel receptionist in France and they ask you something else? With no grammar explanations and no vocabulary beyond the limited words and phrases the app offers – which are more or less the same for each level – it’s hard for me to imagine someone really being able to go beyond the script.
That’s not to say that the words and phrases you learn aren’t helpful. But the fact that they remain pretty much the same whether you’re doing beginner or advanced level exercises is troubling to me. Why not start with a very basic exchange about a hotel reservation and then by advanced level make the verbs more complex and add some more details to that dialogue, for instance?
Another thing that I wasn’t a fan of is Mondly’s insistence on using Salut as the all-purpose French “Hello”. In reality, Salut is an informal greeting, roughly equivalent to “Hi” in English. You will use it all the time with French friends and family, but Bonjour is far more useful, not to mention the best equivalent of “Hello”, since it can be used with anyone, from your best friend to the President. Calling a hotel and saying Salut to a receptionist you’ve never met is weirdly informal, even downright impolite – and in French culture, politeness counts for a lot. But Mondly rarely ever uses the word Bonjour, and never (as far as what I experienced) in a highlighted way. I just couldn’t understand this lowkey obsession the app has with Salut being THE standard French greeting. It gets to the point where there’s a multiple choice question about Salut’s English translation. I selected “Hi” as the answer and was told that was “only partially correct” ! As an English- or French -speaker would say, WTF?
To be fair, most language learning apps have their vocabulary preferences, and their programming often means that synonyms won’t be understood (which is yet another reason using an app alone probably won’t make you fully fluent in French). But Mondly’s Salut fixation feels bizarre and possibly damaging to someone’s experience in France.
To get back to general impressions of the Mondly app, as someone who prefers a more structured approach to language learning, I often felt a little lost and frustrated by everything from Mondly’s busy layout that has no clear organization to the fact that there’s so little difference between the language levels. Phrases and vocabulary change little, if at all, from beginner to advanced level. Only the exercises get a bit more varied and complex.
I was also disappointed that there do indeed seem to be grammar lessons on Mondly, but these don’t include any kinds of explanations and often throw together different categories of parts of speech. For instance, a lesson on “Pronouns” doesn’t differentiate between types of pronouns (subject, reflexive, etc.). It’s just assumed that users will figure out the rules (which can get pretty complicated!).
Like the other lessons on the app, Mondly’s Grammar section also has its set script. We get a few phrases and isolated words, but aren’t asked to build on or do anything else with them. Ultimately, the Grammar section felt more like vocabulary lessons to me, with lessons focused on repeating phrases and words, rather than on teaching structure or making users think critically or even just giving them the opportunity to read about the subject of the lesson and the basic grammar rules tied to it. You’re just supposed to figure things out, even if there’s no equivalent in your native language. This is possible for some learners, but to me it was just frustrating.
Another issue is the app’s functionality in its different formats. Mondly’s Premium offering is available as a web app and a mobile app. This means you can use the web app on your computer or even on a mobile device. But you can also download the app directly onto your mobile device. Although both versions generally look the same, I was surprised that the web app was not able to fully display the map of lessons on my computer screen, and there didn’t seem to be a way to scroll or move to see more. The web app also wouldn’t record sound, either from my computer or my phone. On the other hand, the mobile app let me record audio on my (Android) phone.
The recording thing wasn’t a huge issue, though, because Mondly isn’t very focused on having you speak. To me, it really feels much more like Mondly prioritizes (a set list of) vocabulary over anything else. This is very different from an app like French Together where the focus is on real-life conversation.
The most surprising and disappointing thing to me about Mondly (well, in addition to their weird treatment of Salut) is its audio. Whatever their differences, all of the other language learning apps I’ve come across in recent years use actual voice actors (or maybe in some cases, very nuanced AI that totally seems real). French Together, for instance, has dialogues performed by actual native French speakers. Some other apps might not have an entirely native French or Francophone cast, but the voices are still real and human and engaging. Not so for Mondly. For all of the lessons and all of the levels I tried, I only heard two voices. One sounded at times like soundbites from a real voice actress. The other sounded like an AI-generated female voice.
Notice that I said both of these were women’s voices? I’ve never come across a language learning app that doesn’t at least have male and female voices. It’s not about equality or anything like that, so much as training your ear.
The voices made the experience feel artificial to me. I felt very remote and disconnected from real French and real French people, and this surprised me because there are so many apps that DO make you feel connected, from Duolingo with its fun characters who have distinct personalities and accents to Busuu with its videos of actual French people speaking French to French Together’s real French speakers’ dialogues in real contemporary spoken French.
If Mondly were a free app, I’d understand this a bit. Voice actors cost money, after all. But Mondly Premium isn’t free. And you could also point out that an app like Duolingo, which is most commonly used in its free version, does feature a variety of different voices, all with distinct intonations, accents, and speech patterns. So it’s hard to comprehend this choice on the part of Mondly’s creators.
One thing that I did like about Mondly is its Daily Lessons. These are random short lessons that spotlight a particular word, phrase, or idea. It was kind of cool to just have a total surprise lesson come up, sort of like a pop quiz or new discovery.
A number of reviews I read while researching Mondly showed me that some longtime users also like the fact that there are quizzes and monthly tests where you can win points, score on the leaderboard, and more. This competitive element is why one of the taglines currently on Mondly’s website is “Play your way to a new language.” Personally, the lessons I tried and the overall vibe didn’t feel very playful, but I guess if you’re in it for the long haul and have a taste for competition, you might look forward to the weekly and monthly quizzes and tests.
How much does Mondly cost?
Mondly’s website advertises five different versions of its app: Mondly’s free version, Mondly Premium, Mondly AR (an Augmented Reality feature that makes it look like animated humans are in your home, participating in dialogues with you), Mondly VR (a virtual reality version), and Mondly Kids.
Interestingly, several pages on Mondly’s website say that a subscription to Mondly Premium also gives you access to Mondly AR (which has to be downloaded as a separate app). However, try as I might, I wasn’t able to access the Mondly AR app in the Google Play Store, and when I clicked on it via Mondly’s website, I got an error message. I also couldn’t find AR lessons on Mondly Premium’s lesson display screen.
So, let’s just talk about the two versions of Mondly that most French learners will use: Mondly’s free version and Mondly Premium, a paid subscription.
Like some other language learning apps that have a free offering, Mondly’s free app gives you extremely limited access to its learning resources, although it does include the Daily Lesson, which could make it a good resource for reviewing a little bit of French every day, especially if it’s used in addition to courses or another French learning app.
Mondly’s Premium version is the one I tested out. It includes access to all three of the app’s learning levels (although as I discovered, there’s not much difference between these). In total, you’ll get hundreds of lessons, plus the Daily Lesson. Mondly Premium is available as a web app, meaning it can be accessed via your computer, tablet, or phone. It’s also available as a mobile app that you can download onto your tablet or phone. As of this writing, Mondly Premium costs $9.99 USD per month or $47.99 USD per year. You can check Mondly’s website for prices in your local currency.
You can also purchase a lifetime subscription for $199.99 USD. Sometimes, Mondly has sales and discounts, so check their website from time to time to see what’s on offer.
How to cancel the Mondly free trial
I’m making this a separate section not because I want you to cancel Mondly’s free trial, but because I’ve found that it’s particularly hard to do. Mondly offers a 7-day free trial, but be careful: It’s not very clear how to cancel before it auto-renews, something that’s not an issue with most other language learning apps I’ve dealt with, including French Together.
According to this Quora feed, you either have to call Mondly (and it may take many calls to reach someone) or you should be able to cancel your Mondly subscription or trial through the Google Play Store or App Store.
Note from French Together’s founder Benjamin: I managed to cancel by emailing Mondly. Their reply took a few days though and they then sent me a link to a site where I could cancel. Not exactly impossible to cancel but still more difficult than it should be.
Is Mondly the best app for learning French?
There are a few things I liked about Mondly, like the Daily Lesson, or the fact that you can pick and choose lessons/units and even learning levels that interest you. But to be totally honest, I’m shocked that anyone could learn French from this app.
I think it’s possible to learn enough to do some basic communicating during a trip, but as I’ve said, by having an app that basically seems to teach you the same ten or so phrases per subject again and again, and nothing else, regardless of the learning level, you risk running into problems if you have to improvise.
Of course, it all depends on what kind of learner you are. Mondly does have many positive reviews and has even earned accolades from some press outlets, so clearly not everyone feels the way I do.
Finding the right app to learn French is a very personal thing. Still, I hesitate to recommend Mondly, due to its disorganized layout, lack of explanations (especially regarding grammar-related concepts), use of AI voices, limited opportunities to practice speaking, and the lack of major differences between its learning levels.
Can Mondly teach me French?
After what I just wrote, you may be wondering why I’ve included this section. But it’s just to remind you that no language learning app, good or bad or great, will be able to teach you French on its own. This is because French learning apps tend to only focus on one or a few areas of French learning, and most also don’t go beyond CEFR level B2 (advanced intermediate level).
Whether you go with Mondly or French Together or any other app, try to supplement what you’re learning with something that the app doesn’t cover. For instance, if you do choose Mondly, you should try to use an additional app or a French learning book to get some information about French grammar rules. With any app, you should also be sure to read, listen to, and watch things in French whenever possible. This will help you practice and learn other skills and be exposed to other vocabulary and situations, not to mention learn more about French culture. And if you feel like you’ve got a good foundation with your app and additional practice, consider looking for a French conversation partner, so that you can actually practice the language with a real native speaker.
I hope this review of Mondly has been helpful. Whatever app(s) you choose to help you learn French, Bonne continuation (Good luck and keep making progress on your French learning journey)!