Your itinerary is set. The hotel reservations are made.
All you need to do is finish packing your bags, and you’re off to a grand adventure in France.
Let’s go over your packing list to make sure you’re not forgetting anything important.
Travel adapter? Check.
French language apps?
There are a lot of these to choose from, aren’t there? You want to be prepared to practice and build your French skills on your trip, but you also don’t want to spend the whole time scrolling through tons of apps to find the words you need.
Don’t panic. The French travel apps we’re going to explore here are jam-packed with essential phrases and innovative features that’ll help you have a successful and enjoyable trip—all while pushing your French level up a notch.
And we promise they won’t take your suitcase over its weight limit.
Why You Need to Pack Your French
If you’re planning a trip to France (or another French-speaking area of the world), you’ll want to carry along at least a basic knowledge of the language. Sure, you can hope that people there will speak English, and some of them might—but it’s better if you keep your French close at hand in your carry-on. (Don’t put it in your checked luggage, for goodness’ sake!)
- Happier trails: Every part of your trip will be easier if you have a basic command of the local lingo. You won’t have to rely on chance to find people who speak your language fluently.
- Rely on yourself: Although most of the people you meet will likely be friendly, and genuinely helpful, you’ll feel more self-assured if you can navigate your own way through conversations and directions as you move around the country.
- Understand the culture more: Of course, traveling confidently means more than just memorizing helpful words and phrases—it also means learning about the people you’ll meet.
Besides teaching you the language, several of these apps will introduce you to the culture and customs you’ll encounter on your francophone journey.
Advantages of Apps to Learn French for Travel
As opposed to more traditional language tools, apps for travelers get straight to the info you need when you land. Most French travel apps emphasize common, useful phrases for visitors. Rather than asking you to recite verb conjugations or dissect noun-adjective agreement, these apps put you on le Train à Grande Vitesse (the high-speed train) to conversational French.
Coming to you in dazzling color and stereo sound, these apps also take advantage of the audiovisual capabilities of your mobile device to immerse you in a multimedia learning experience. Most of them offer not only the sounds of native speakers pronouncing the target phrases, but also the functionality for you to record and compare your pronunciation to a native’s.
And you can use word clouds or your virtual keyboard to take a turn at l’écriture (writing) in French, reinforcing your mastery of the language.
Since you’ll be bouncing around the sights and nightlife, you’ll want to be able to take your French tools wherever you go. These digital gems fit right into your pocket and follow you on all your travels. You can access them anytime for a quick review session, and they don’t add an ounce to your luggage when you board your plane.
Best of all, these apps cater to your goals and learning style. Learn at your own pace and follow your own syllabus. Most of these apps allow customization of settings, so your French lessons tailor themselves to you.
Whether you’re taking a business trip to Paris or enjoying a leisurely exploration of the Loire Valley, you can focus on your own travel needs—not a preset curriculum.
5 for the Road: The Best Apps to Learn French for Travel
These five feature-filled apps will both lighten your load and smooth your road. Without further ado, allons-y! (Let’s go!)
French Phrasebook by Pro Languages
Available on: Google Play
Travel, eat, spend. With useful travel categories such as “transportation,” “eating” and “money,” French Phrasebook lets you quickly navigate planes, trains, bistros and euros. The vocabulary comes in fill-in-the-blank sentences you can customize for your journey, for example:
Combien coûte le billet pour _____? (How much is a ticket to _____?)
Stay safe. This app provides a “problems” section with phrases to help travelers swiftly ward off unwanted attention.
See and say. French Phrasebook includes a simple pronunciation guide for all phrases, which even shows you which syllables to stress. The accompanying audio is easy to access; just tap the speaker icon next to the phrase you’re learning.
Available on: iTunes
You don’t want to be the one holding up the ticket line at la gare (the train station) as you search desperately for how to say “two tickets to Paris” in French. This app lets you avoid the frustration of spending precious time looking for the right word or phrase as you travel.
Icon-based “Quicksheets” help you find common travel phrases in a flash. The Quicksheets use simple drawings, grouped together for rapid reference, so you can more easily navigate situations such as exchanging money or paying your bill at a restaurant.
Break it down. Besides the handy Quicksheets, French Pocket Lingo also offers a hierarchical structure for study. Categories are organized so you can easily “drill down” through logical word and phrase groupings to find needed vocabulary.
Take a tip. French Pocket Lingo puts more learning currency in your poche (pocket) with extra vocabulary information. It might even suggest an alternative for a word or phrase—such as using the informal salut (hi) in place of the more formal bonjour (hello/good day).
Available on: iTunes, Android
Want to quickly learn how to speak like a native with authentic, up-to-date French?
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Travel Phrases by DotNetIdeas
Available on: Google Play
Don’t want to become too reliant on English translations? Concerned you won’t be able to remember the French word for soufflé? Travel Phrases lets you hide the French or English words as you wish. Challenge yourself and test your recall of important French phrases.
If you find yourself leaning too hard on the provided written pronunciation guide for each entry, there’s an option to hide that away, as well.
Take notes. Is a certain English translation just not clicking with you? Did you discover that you’ll need to modify your vocabulary on your trip to Belgium? This app has a special feature that allows you to edit existing entries, and even add new entries and entire categories.
Available on: iTunes
Put it in context. Sometimes words don’t translate exactly from one language to another. And the meaning of a simple word can vary wildly with context.
Just like a good dictionary, WordPower uses example sentences to demonstrate target word use. You’ll get both the original French and the English translation, so you won’t have to guess about the correct connotation.
Get local. With a simple touch (and internet access), WordPower can be your gateway to deeper French cultural knowledge. The app’s built-in links to web-based reference materials give you the opportunity to learn more about French life as you study the language. Along with explanations of local customs, you’ll have access to a handy list of everyday French vocabulary.
This app comes from the prolific team behind FrenchPod101, an excellent tool for comprehensive French learning whether you have a trip planned or not. Check out FrenchPod101’s video and audio podcasts (there are hundreds!) to supercharge your comprehension skills. You’ll also get PDF lesson notes and access to vocabulary building tools for a well-rounded learning experience.
With these apps as your traveling companion, you’ll get around your French-speaking destination with confidence and aplomb. Who knows? You might even be mistaken for a native by a fellow tourist.
Just make sure you pack your smartphone charger… and that travel adapter.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.