language app for travel

There’s a Language App for That! Find the Best Language App for Travel

When I first arrived in China, I didn’t eat for a full 48 hours. I was terrified to interact with anyone, because I couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin.

Desperate and hungry, I finally went to a little noodle shop in an alleyway and pulled out my phone.

I typed out “I’m vegetarian” on a translator app and got an understanding nod from the cook. He proceeded to serve me a tasty and nourishing bowl of noodle soup. When I left, I texted “That was delicious. Thank you!”

The cook smiled, took my phone and typed some Chinese characters. The app translated those characters into English as “You’re welcome. Come back soon!”

Man, that wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I wish I’d gathered the courage to walk into that tiny restaurant two days earlier!

Well, if we’re being honest, I wish I’d started studying Mandarin about two months earlier.
 


 

Why Use a Language App for Travel?

Most people in the world don’t speak English.

When we travel, it’s our responsibility to come prepared to break down communication barriers.

But beyond just being able to communicate your needs, learning the local language gives you a better grasp on the culture. This understanding helps you get a full-fledged cultural experience.

Language apps help travelers connect with the culture through fluency training, phrasebooks, history lessons, political information and tips on cultural behavior.

Put simply, learning the language helps you get the most out of your experience. And language apps are arguably the most convenient way to learn.

There’s a Language App for That! Find the Best Language App for Travel

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FluentU

Website | iOS | Android

language app for travel

FluentU takes a unique approach to language learning.

Most language apps teach you to memorize a bunch of grammar patterns and vocabulary words. Not FluentU! This app lets you learn and experience the language from watching authentic videos, such as music videos, movie trailers and news broadcasts.

All the course materials are taken from movies, TV shows and various entertainment streams of your target language. Not only does this help you learn conversational language quickly, but it also lets you witness cultural scenarios of the country you’re visiting. You can’t experience culture just by memorizing vocabulary!

But we won’t lie, it’s still important to memorize vocabulary words! And that’s why FluentU gives you the ability to save phrases and words in a phrasebook, which you can access at any time.

This app also gives you personalized quizzes at the end of each video to make sure you’ve retained the information.

There’s content for all levels, spanning from novice to native skill levels, as well as a diverse array of topics to choose from.

One of the greatest things is that one account gives you access to all nine FluentU languages, so you can learn up to nine languages for the price of one.

You can also download files for offline use, which is insanely convenient for travelers. Whether you’re in hiking in Peru or sitting in your new office in South Korea, you can keep studying from anywhere in the world, even if you don’t have Wi-Fi.

The basic account costs $15 per month, and the pro account costs $30 per month. You can always try FluentU risk-free for 15 days before you decide to pay the full amount.

Babbel

Website | iOS | Android

language-app-for-travel

Founded in 2007, Babbel has expanded its pioneering language learning operation to 14 different languages.

They pride themselves on helping people learn a new language quickly.

Most language apps are all about book knowledge and things that are good to know if you want to be fluent. But they’re aren’t so useful if you only want to pick up only the most immediately useful parts of the language.

Babbel’s approach focuses on the aspects of language you’ll need in daily communication. This app is perfect for quickly picking up colloquialisms, useful phrases and basic grammar patterns to make you sound like an authentic and engaged speaker.

The app uses voice recognition to help you master your pronunciation. This way, you can make sure native speakers will understand your accent.

There’s also a well-developed spaced repetition software in place. Spaced repetition is a learning strategy in which you slowly increase the time periods between seeing vocabulary words. This tactic helps you learn at the best pace possible and retain words in your long-term memory.

Babbel provides a free introductory lesson. Then it costs $6.95 – $12.95, depending on the language.

Anki

Website | iOS | Android

language app for travel

Anki is the Japanese word for “memorization.”

And that’s what the Anki app is—a great flashcard system to help you memorize material.

Anki is open-source software based on the SuperMemo algorithm, a learning system designed to engage long-term memory.

The app isn’t specific to languages, but the strong spaced repetition software makes it ideal for language learning.

Also, since it’s open source, anyone can create virtual flashcard decks for the app and put them up online. Many language learning decks exist for free over on the Anki site.

The app is backed up on the cloud, so you can use the program on your computer and have your progress synced up on your phone.

The software itself is highly customizable, and you can create a lot of variations with your flashcards. You can incorporate sounds, pictures, symbols and even mnemonic devices to help you remember certain aspects of the language more easily.

And the best part? Anki is 100% free!

Pimsleur

Website | iOS | Android

language app for travel

Pimsleur is more than just another language learning app. It’s a well-rounded, intuitive program based on the famous memory researcher, Dr. Paul Pimsleur.

Pimsleur (the guy) was a pioneer in terms of how human memory works. He explained how people can “hack” the mind to pick up new languages in a short amount of time. He highlighted certain areas and skill sets necessary for speedy development of new languages.

Pimsleur (the app) uses a very specific and well-researched method of learning a new language.

With over 50 languages to choose from, you can benefit from the specially designed spaced repetition software and famed principle of anticipation to accelerate your language learning.

One cool thing about this system is that while it emphasizes memorization, it doesn’t focus too much on this learning method. The system is designed so you can figure out how to improvise in the language, not just regurgitate phrases.

You can take a free introductory lesson. But Pimsleur’s full program is pretty expensive, starting at around $500 for full courses of certain languages and up to $1,200 for other languages.

But what you’re paying for is a tried and tested method of language learning that has been specifically designed to help you learn quickly.

iTranslate

Website | iOS | Android

No matter how much you’ve studied a language, there will come a time on your trip when you need to refer to a dictionary or to use a translator.

iTranslate is one of the most robust and popular translation apps out there, featuring over 100 languages and boasting over 80 million downloads.

You can use a slew of great features. For example, the speech translator converts speech to text and vice versa. Or you can try the website translator or conjugation dictionary. And you can use the camera translator to decipher menus and signs!

You can even use the app in “voice-to-voice conversation” mode, which allows you to have a real-time discussion with someone in any of the supported languages.

iTranslate works offline, so it’s great when you’re traveling around and don’t have access to data.

The basic version of the iTranslate app is free, but you need the pro version for most of the cool stuff like offline mode, conversation mode and the camera translator.

The pro version starts at $3.00 per month.

TripLingo

Website | iOS | Android

language app for travel

TripLingo is one of the coolest language apps for travel out there.

It contains an extensive phrasebook that can be used across a wide range of scenarios. The phrases range from basic words like “Hello” to more complex things like “Hey, kid, get over here and give me a high five!”

The app not only helps you get around with these phrases, it also helps you learn the entirety of the language with audio lessons for real-life situations, flashcards and interactive quizzes.

And if you ever get stuck, you can always use the app’s built-in translator. It gives you access to instant voice translation so you can converse back and forth in that language. Heck, you can even call a standby translator in that language for a fee.

But the best thing about TripLingo is the abundance of resources it offers to travelers.

The app provides cultural etiquette notes, historic and political information, travel and weather updates, embassy information, a currency converter and even a Wi-Fi dialer so you can save money on roaming charges.

The basic version is free, and the pro version costs $99.99 per year.

Guides by Lonely Planet

Website | iOS | Android

language-app-for-travel

Lonely Planet is a world-famous publication of travel guidebooks. They’ve put travel guides for over 200 cities into a super informative and useful app for travelers.

These in-depth guides contain information about transportation, attractions, restaurants and accommodation. All the guides are downloaded and accessed via the app, so everything works offline.

The app provides you with plenty of support for your travels, including culture tips, weather tips, a budgeting calculator and offline maps.

But this app goes beyond the typical Lonely Planet guidebook. There’s also a handy audio phrasebook that contains some of the most useful phrases in the local language.

The best part about the phrasebook? All the phrases are read by native speakers, so you get to hear the correct pronunciation.

The audio in the “Top Phrases” section is free, rest of the phrasebook’s audio files, you’ll need to pay $1.99 for one language or $5.99 for all 19 of Lonely Planet’s languages.

 

When you travel around the world, you quickly realize the importance of speaking the local language.

That’s why these travel language apps are lifesavers when you find yourself stuck in a situation where communicating in English isn’t possible.

Maybe you’re aiming to become fluent. Or maybe you’re just looking to get around. Either way, pull out your phone and download the best language app for travel that fits your needs!

 


Eric Michelson is a nomadic, philosophizing, peace-minded pluralist. He hopes to help bridge the divide between the diverse factions of the world by exploring various perspectives brought on by personal experience. You can follow Perspective Earth to learn more about him and his work.

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