If you want my opinion, you’re not doing bad at all with your new language learning.
You’ve got the basics down, you can conjugate without too much trouble and you feel pretty sure you’re on the road to success.
That’s all great, but…
Are you chatting like a local? Almost? Or do you often get stuck for a word or phrase?
Are you reading like a pro? Nearly? Or maybe a paragraph here and there just doesn’t make sense?
And are you totally into watching movies in your new language? Mostly? Or did that super-important exchange just go over your head?
No worries. We’ve all been there.
Learning a new language isn’t always easy, but with the right resources, it’s more adventure than challenge. Believe me, I speak from experience.
Sometimes it’s all about the tools you have to learn a language—and in this case, I’m talking about one tool in particular: translation apps!
Why should I use a translation app? Isn’t that “cheating”?
Why do people use translation apps? Basically, they work great to solve the language issues and missing bits you may come across when you’re chatting, reading or watching TV or movies. They step right up and eliminate guesswork.
Also, they facilitate communication. And that, really, is the reason so many of us study foreign languages. We want to communicate effectively with others. Translation apps take the stumbling out of conversations and eliminate the need for silly hand gestures! No more flailing your fingers in an attempt to sign what you’re trying to say!
There are as many reasons to use these apps as there are language learners—and sometimes reasons for using language apps can even be surprising. Sometimes, the reason is love!
On the go or in class, there are moments when you need a word or phrase right away. With an app in hand, you’re ready to handle life like a boss.
Oui, you can find the right French phrase.
¡No problema! deciphering that Spanish phrase.
Ciao! to Italian guesswork.
Floundering over a Japanese word? Say Sayonara! to translation troubles.
Are Russian phrases giving you fits? Nyet! Not anymore.
Language speed bumps are exactly why translation apps are important. They get you out of those tricky situations, and are always at hand!
Of course, the danger of translation apps is that you’ll get so comfortable using them that they take away your motivation for actually learning the language. But there’s an easy fix for that: FluentU.
FluentU takes fun, real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. Use your translation app as needed while on the go, and use FluentU to make sure your in-depth language practice is both painless and regular.
FluentU makes it possible to learn languages from music videos, commercials, news, inspiring talks and more.
With FluentU, you hear languages in real-world contexts—the way that native speakers actually use them. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you and organized them by level and topic. All you have to do is choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
You can use FluentU’s unique adaptive quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions and exercises. Just swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re studying.
The program even keeps track of what you’re learning and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you a 100% personalized experience.
How do I choose a translation app?
There are many translation apps to chose from. But beware, not all are created equal.
There are several factors to consider when tracking down the best app for your situation. What, then, makes a good translation app?
First, consider price. Some, but not all, are free. Unless you’re rolling in the green stuff, most of us can’t afford to not factor this budgetary issue into our equation. Compare costs before downloading.
The translations themselves deserve consideration. How does the app present the language? More importantly, how do you intend to use the translations? Are you looking for literal translations, or are idiomatic expressions okay?
What languages are offered? Does the app translate to and from a language quickly? Also, is the “to-from” language option easily interchangeable? For me, this is a tiny feature that makes a big difference. I like to be able to input either language without too much trouble.
Not all apps are available on all devices. This is another factor that can pare down your list of choices.
Do you always have your phone in your hand? Then a logical choice would be an app that allows you to look up what you need on that constant companion. If you’re more a tablet user, consider apps for the device you consistently carry.
Just like with any other aspect of your life, you need to evaluate your options. Then, decide which features matter most to you and choose the app that’s the best fit.
The good news is that we’ve already done the legwork for you!
After investigating, comparing and prioritizing features, we’ve narrowed the field to the most widely beneficial translation apps.
Go Global! The 6 Best Translation Apps for Language Learners
iTranslate is a free app that works with over 90 languages. There are in-app purchases available, but since individual needs vary, not everyone will need them.
This app can translate dictation, which is a definite plus. No need to tap the screen when you can speak and get your answer.
A feature that could prove very useful is that it can slow down audio playback, thereby helping eliminate pronunciation errors—and misunderstandings!
Google is probably familiar to all. I mean, really, who doesn’t google?
It’s just as easy to translate as it is to search, which definitely makes this app confusion-free.
Also, it has an amazing feature that allows a person to take photos of signs and have the text translated instantly. Think about it: point, shoot and translate!
You can also download common phrases in the event that you travel to places with sketchy internet service. Additionally, about half of the languages can be translated using no internet service at all. Heading deep into a jungle or way off the beaten path? Google Translate has you covered!
This app is free in over 100 languages and is compatible with nearly any device.
If you’ve got wanderlust in your genes and can pack a bag on the fly, TripLingo may be your best friend. It’s geared toward travelers, and the reviews are glowing, seemingly making it the international tool of choice.
There’s a free version that offers basic access in the 23 included languages. For a monthly fee, all content is accessible.
It usually offers several translations of phrases, allowing the nuances of conversation to be observed and articulated. There are even slang translations on this app, so if you’re chatting with the locals and suddenly lose the conversational thread, this is the go-to app for getting back on track.
A culture guide, a phrasebook and different travel tools ramp up the app’s travel cred. Those are extras that most translation apps don’t offer but hey, they might come in handy if you’re exploring the globe!
SayHi is a free app that’s only available for iPhone and iPad users.
It includes 100 languages, with dialect support for many of them. The translation voices can be changed to either male or female, and the speed of translated speech can be slowed to facilitate understanding if you want to use it in conversations.
There’s also an “edit translation” feature, so changing translation queries is as easy as a finger tap!
Voice Translator Free
This app offers more than 50 languages for translation.
It can translate from speech to text as well as from text to speech, so it’s very versatile. It’s a no-frills, get-the-job-done app, a workhorse to deliver what’s needed right on the spot!
iHandy is available in either a free or a paid version. The paid app offers more features but the free one still gets the job done.
There are 52 languages offered and the interface is user-friendly and virtually fail-proof.
You can translate any of the available languages into any other available language almost instantly. This is a go-everywhere, fit-any-situation tool which doesn’t offer bells or whistles but delivers on nearly any basic language translation question.
Choose your translation app wisely!
As I said earlier, not all translation apps are created equal, but that means that there should be at least one to appeal to any language learner.
We’re all different, and our approaches to learning are as varied as we are, so it makes sense that even when it comes to translation apps, there won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer.
But if you choose one of these six apps, you’ve got any translation snafu solved! Business, pleasure, learning or romance—you’re covered!
And remember, every new phrase learned and any roadblock overcome takes you that much closer to being fluent in your target language. And that’s what we all strive for, isn’t it?
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.