Drops is a slick, game based vocabulary app. It introduces new words and phrases with audio recordings and images and then helps you commit them to memory through game play. Games involve matching, sorting and true/false challenges. Drops also lets you track your progress, provides extra practice for words you’re struggling with and earn badges for various achievements.
Best for: Those who want to learn another language from scratch and would like a head start by mastering some basic vocabulary. Also anyone who wants to supplement another more comprehensive method of learning with a reliable and effective vocabulary app. Especially suitable for people who learn through game play
Price: pricing from $7.50 per month
Overall: Drops is great at what it claims to do. That is, teach vocabulary through game play in short daily sessions. It’s upfront about not teaching grammar and sentences and as long as you understand what it is and isn’t for, it represents good value. The free version gives you a good feel for what the app is like so you have nothing to lose by trying it out.
Drops supports 45+ languages, including some of the world’s most culturally endangered languages that are at risk of disappearing.
Ainu, Arabic, ASL, Bosnian, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English (American and British), Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Igbo, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Sanskrit, Serbian, Spanish (Castilan and Mexican), Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Te Reo Maori, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese and Yoruba.
Drops was founded in Estonia in 2015 by Daniel Farkas and Mark Szulyovszky. Its mission was to make a game out of language learning. And it paid off.
By 2020 it had 25 million users and that number has now exceeded the 40 million mark.
Drops is now the fastest growing language app in the world and adds around seven languages a year to its offering. It spans mobile and web-based programs.
Though Drops does use gamification, its designers insist it is a gaming, not just a gamified, app. The difference being that gamification uses rewards to give you external motivation. Whereas being immersed in a game is an internally rewarding experience.
And though it’s fun, years of research have gone into what makes language learning effective and easy.
In November 2020, Drops was acquired by Kahoot!, the world's leading game-based learning platform. Testimony both to the fun and effectiveness of the Drops’ game based approach.
As part of Kahoot!, Drops continues to evolve and find more enjoyable and effective ways to learn new languages. It now has two companion apps: Scripts, which teaches learners how to read and write new alphabet/character-based writing systems, and Droplets, for children.
Drops also has a commitment to protecting culturally endangered languages, such as Hawaiian, Samoan, and Maori and they have worked with UNESCO to support this aim.
Drops is a games based app designed to make language learning a fun part of your daily routine.
You download the app by pointing your phone camera at the QR code, or by using Google Play or the Apple app store, or from your desktop. Then you can use it for free for a limit of 5 minutes a day or subscribe to Premium with a free 7 day trial.
Once you’ve downloaded Drops, you just choose the language you want to learn.
Then you adapt Drops to your needs by answering questions about your goals for learning, your age, your existing knowledge, when and for how long you want to spend learning each day and your personal interests. Drops then designs a program based on your responses. You can change language any time after you’ve started your learning.
Sessions are around 5 minutes long. Each one introduces words from a topic relevant to your interests and reasons for learning. The words will be spoken and written out with a matching visual and you’ll play various games to help you memorize them. You can indicate which words you feel you’ve mastered so the app won’t test you on them as often.
During your session you will be given point scores and encouragement to keep you motivated and, at the end, a summary of your progress so far. If you’re in free mode, you’ll need to wait 10 hours before you can take another session.
Lessons consist of introducing new words and phrases using audio and a matching image.
After 3 or 4 new words or phrases have been introduced, you play a variety of games delivered in quick succession requiring you to:
Indicating whether what the app is displaying is correct or incorrect
Words you already know will be repeated and revisited to help commit them to long term memory. You can choose which words you feel you don’t have to review, and the app won’t test you on them as frequently.
There are also a number of review tools such as quiz mode that you can engage with to strengthen your knowledge.
Lessons last 5 minutes and there is a countdown to keep you motivated and engaged.
Drops has three subscription options to give you access to Premium content:
|Premium monthly||$13 per month|
|Premium annual||$7.50 per month (billed annually at $89.99)|
|Lifetime||$159.99 one off payment|
Drops’ price point is competitive with other apps, especially the Premium annual subscription. It works out to under 4¢ a day - and there’s not a great deal you can get for that!
Drops does have a free version. The table below highlights the differences and similarities between the free and premium versions.
|Time limit on play||5 mins every 10 hours||Unlimited|
|Access to topics||Must be unlocked in order||Unrestricted|
|Number of languages||45||45|
|Review tools||Yes - except for word collection||Yes|
Overall, the free version can give you much of what the premium has, with just a few inconveniences. But if you want the upgrade, you can do so at a reasonable price.
Drops provides refunds within 14 days of purchase if you buy directly through them. If you purchase through a third party you will need to check their refund policies.
I spent a week testing Drops using the 7 day free trial. I completed lessons every day, spending around 15 minutes a day.
I tried 2 different languages including one I didn't know at all (Irish) and one I knew a little (German).
I also explored the platform thoroughly, visiting the Drops blog, FAQs and help centre. Finally I checked out online reviews on platforms like Reddit and Trustpilot.
One of the most effective ways to teach a language is to recognize that we all have learning preferences - visual, aural or kinaesthetic. A good app will make use of a mix of all three to help users remain engaged and on task.
Drops’s games do use all three learning styles. The images for each word are consistent across all levels (visual), words and phrases are spoken aloud (aural), and the majority of games require you to move things around (kinaesthetic).
They also make use of spaced repetition, that is within a session, you’ll be tested on the same set of words at different intervals.
This combination of learning styles combined with the consistency and repetition that Drops uses makes learning stick.
Drops has a simple, minimalist design which is very appealing. There are no distractions, which helps you focus on the learning.
The app is surprisingly easy to navigate, despite there being very few instructions on the screen. Once I’d completed the first couple of exercises I found I just instinctively knew what to do and what to expect.
Review quizzes are available from the get go and the review dojo is accessible after you learn 50 words.
The quizzes not only test your vocabulary memory but also your comprehension. They do this by asking questions that make you place vocabulary into context such as, which object(s) can be eaten, are soft, or can fit inside something else.
Review dojo uses a learning algorithm to precinct when you need to encounter a word to maximize your chances of remembering it. When you get the message "no words available for optimal learning" it means the system has decided there are no words you need to practice at that time.
You can adapt Drops to your needs by answering questions about your goals for learning, your existing knowledge and your personal interests etc. Drops then designs a program based on your responses.
Obviously, you’ll learn some words more quickly. Especially cognates - words that sound the same in your target and native language. So Drops allows you to hide those words to focus on the words you do need to practice. This is done by scrolling down when an exercise is complete and clicking on the … after a word, followed by clicking on the eye.
I’ve used this feature a number of times during my trial and it meant I was able to cover content much more quickly.
Drops’ vast vocabulary bank is spread throughout a wide range of topics. These include greetings, travel, food, and other everyday basics. But also more unusual ones such as cosmetics and gardening. This means there is a very diverse and fascinating selection of words to learn with the app.
The free version gives you a very good idea of how Drops works with the same mini games featuring in both. It’s possible that, for some learners, a 5 minute limit is a positive.
However, for me 5 minutes just did not feel enough to learn and remember new vocabulary. Plus, as a game based app, Drops is very compelling. So, whilst I didn’t want to be saturated with new words and terms, I was left wanting more after my time limit was up.
Drops was built to encourage users to learn a wide variety of words. So that is exactly what it does. And it does it well.
But if you’re wanting a more comprehensive approach to language learning that includes sentence construction, grammar tips and conversational practice, Drops is not for you.
That said, there is a travel talk category that does give you useful phrases and sentences to use for an informal visit to a country.
Drops does provide audio pronunciations for the words you are learning, but there is no voice recognition for you to rehearse and perfect your accent.
This also means you can’t practice conversation in your target language. This is definitely worth bearing in mind if you are thinking of using Drops as your sole language learning tool.
I put Drops through its paces using both the desktop and mobile version. Whilst using the desktop version, I selected a topic by accident and pressed ‘back’. This led to me not being able to access my account.
The good news is that Live Chat on Drops is just that - you chat with a person and not a bot. The solution was to reinstall the app on my mobile. This leads me to think that, although it is available on both, Drops is better suited to mobile than it is to desktop use.
Bearing in mind that Drops is a vocabulary learning app, I would say it would suit anyone who:
Compared to most of its competitors, Drops offers a generous range of languages. Only Pimsleur and italki offer more.
Drops has a number of tools to help you master new vocabulary. Quiz Mode tests your vocabulary memory and language comprehension, Review Dojo uses an algorithm to detect which words you need to practice and the optimum moments for you to encounter them, Word Collection enables premium users to review or search for all learned words.
Drops uses a simple game based approach to make learning easy and fun. The games touch all learning styles - visual, aural and kinaesthetic to keep learners engaged, on task, and learning without realizing it.
You can earn points, keep track of your streaks and keep track of your progress on the achievement board. Drops also lets you earn badges for words learned, sessions with 100% accuracy and maintaining streaks.
Drops has two companion apps. For those interested in learning to write character-based languages or languages with a different writing system, Drops has Scripts. You learn the new alphabet or characters by manually drawing them on screen, thereby training your muscle memory. For kids aged 7-17 Drops offers Droplets.
Our evaluation system uses a range of criteria known to make language learning effective.
Drops very effectively teaches you to learn and retain new vocabulary and phrases. In as much as this is what it claims to do, it is effective. However, It has no speech recognition and therefore no speaking activities or conversation practice. Neither does it provide cultural tips or teach sentence construction or grammar. So its effectiveness for overall language learning is low.
Mini games, quizzes and the review Ninja help to make learning fun and compelling. An achievements board showing points and streaks, badges and certificates earned help users to keep track of progress and stay motivated.
Drops has a reasonable range of good quality features. Of particular note is its game based approach and fun review tools.
Drops is upfront about what it is, and isn’t for. In terms of delivering on its promises therefore, Drops is good value for money.
Google Play 4.3 /5 based on 262k reviews
“When I first started using Drops to learn Swahili I thought it was great…However, I have since realised that I am largely learning individual words and not phrases. So, my vocabulary is expanding, but I have no idea how to form sentences.” (Google Play)
As I’ve stressed throughout, it’s important to understand what Drops is for, and that the platform is very up front about this. It is a vocabulary app. It is really designed to be used in conjunction with other forms of language learning, as this user appreciates:
“I like the style of the app and the categories. Great to just blast through learning a bunch of words, at the same time as using something else to practice sentences and listening skills.” (Google)
And I think this user sums it up well:
“It’s a great app for learning words. The pictures, repetition and different ways of recalling the words are great for learning. But without a way of putting words into sentences it could never be used on its own. [but] I’m going to give it 5 stars for being great at what it has been designed for.” (Apple App Store)
There are lots of options online when it comes to learning a new language. Each of them comes with their own pros and cons. So, I’ll keep this short with a brief comparison of Drops against three other leading online language learning providers:
If you’re looking to learn a ton of vocabulary in a super fun way that really sticks then yes.
I found the app to be very compelling, it really holds your attention. I really enjoyed all the games and found I was learning tons without even noticing. And it’s not just fun, but visually appealing with a clean, easy to use interface.
But if you’re looking to learn a language in the round, with sentences, conversation, spoken exercises and cultural sensitivity, Drops is not for you.
I would say Drops is best for someone wanting to get into pole position in a new language by learning key vocab. Or those needing a fast and fun recap in a language prior to travel. It would also sit well alongside another more comprehensive language learning resource.
That said, the freemium version is available to you for five minutes a day. And if you love it, you can trial the app for 7 days before commiting to a subscription. So there’s nothing to lose by giving it a try.
Yes, if you are looking purely for a vocabulary based app.
Subscriptions start at $7.50 per month (billed annually)
Drops uses short, game based, sessions and spaced repetition to teach key vocabulary in a way that sticks
Drops teaches 45+ languages from commonly spoken languages to culturally endangered ones.
Yes, within 14 days of purchase