You’ve packed up everything you need for your journey abroad!
But hold on, there may be one more thing you’re forgetting. And no worries, you won’t have to cram it into your overflowing suitcase!
TripLingo is a language learning app specifically designed for the international traveler.
Besides allowing self-study language instruction, it also provides a number of nifty features meant to make your excursion all the more worthwhile.
Let’s take a look into what TripLingo offers!
- What Is TripLingo?
- TripLingo Features
- Pros of TripLingo: What It Does Well
- Cons of TripLingo: What Could Be Improved
- Final Thoughts on TripLingo
What Is TripLingo?
TripLingo was founded by Jesse Maddox, who knows first-hand the significance and joy of knowing the native language of a country you travel to. Even knowing basic vocabulary and customs can help to break down potentially awkward situations and lead to a much more fulfilling experience.
In terms of function, TripLingo works as a kind of “language and culture survival kit.” It teaches the essential phrases and social expectations of over 100 countries. Also included are other helpful traveler-friendly tools (that aren’t necessarily language-related) to help you navigate more confidently within a country.
At the moment, TripLingo can be downloaded for free and is available for iOS and Android. In-app purchases are also available—a one-month subscription for extra learning content starts at $19.99.
For the purpose of this review, I decided to take a trip to the “Germany” version of TripLingo, with a few dips into three other countries: the Czech Republic, Japan and Belgium.
Once you pick your target country, you’re prompted to download an audio pack that can contain thousands of clips for your use. It takes a few minutes with a Wi-Fi connection, but it’s definitely worthwhile to have.
After that, you’re greeted with the home screen that shows off TripLingo’s primary features.
Phrases and vocabulary
TripLingo focuses on the basic words and phrases you’d consistently use when traveling in a foreign country. These will prepare you for both short casual conversation and run-of-the-mill situations, such as when you’re searching for a bathroom or finding the train station.
There’s also a section dedicated to business-related phrases. There aren’t many listed, but they cover basic introductory expressions that may earn you an appreciative smile from your foreign business client.
With each phrase, TripLingo offers an audio pronunciation, a phonetic transcription in text and a formality “toggle-bar.” The last one is a cool feature that shows you the same phrase translated into four different levels of formality, from polite to wacky. I definitely had fun messing with this and seeing how much a sentence can change, and I’d imagine it would be very useful during ventures to all kinds of establishments.
More vocabulary is tucked away in the “Wordbank” section, which is located in the “Tools” page. The Wordbank focuses on single words and verbs, so it essentially works as a phrasebook.
To test your knowledge of vocabulary, you can also take advantage of the review tools. With “Quiz Mode” you get a select number of questions challenging you to translate words. There are also flashcards available for quick practice runs.
Naturally, TripLingo also includes an in-built translator. You have three translation options: voice (by microphone), text (by keyboard) or image (by camera). During your travels you’ll be encountering all kinds of words, but not necessarily in the same format. Whether you hear or see an unfamiliar word, you can pop into TripLingo and ask for a definition.
TripLingo also offers a special “live translation” option. For a fee, you can connect with a real native speaker who can translate for you. The rates are based on minutes, and TripLingo lets you get five minutes of live translator access for $24.99. This service has the great advantage of providing more accurate and reliable translations, which can be necessary for longer or more complicated sentences.
I’ve tried the voice, text and image translation options, and they’re all reasonably accurate for basic phrases and words. However, as is common in many digital translators today, it’s still vulnerable to a few bungles and misinterpretations.
Besides language learning features, TripLingo provides a wealth of tools that a traveler would find much use for on the road. Here’s a list of the useful functions:
- Wi-Fi dialer: allows you to make international calls and save on roaming charges
- Conversions tool: for converting to the country’s currency and metric system
- Dictionary: for looking up basic words
- Safety tools: provides tips, hospital and embassy directories and emergency numbers
For travelers who love the thrill of adventure, caution can often be understated. However, it’s critical that at the very start of your journey, you should supply yourself with the necessary information to keep you stable in unexpected situations.
I think I would’ve greatly appreciated these tools during my past excursions to foreign countries. While I’ve never had an actual emergency, there were many moments when I wanted to boost my sense of security and comfort without having to bother the locals.
TripLingo stresses the importance of not just learning a country’s language, but also its customs. Included for each country is a “Culture” page that houses notes and explanations for basic etiquette and social expectations.
The culture guides touch on a range of topics and scenarios, including dining, politics, accommodation and more. They describe what you should expect and why certain things are the way they are.
In these guides, TripLingo provides just enough content to keep you both informed and curious. Indeed, I was pretty impressed when I saw that the Japanese edition’s guides for drinking also had sections dedicated to actual drinks, such as sake and Western wine.
The tips regarding politeness and manners are of particular importance. During my own travels, I would do a bit of research to make sure I don’t accidentally stumble into social tight spots or make a fool of myself. I’d imagine that taking a glance through TripLingo could save me from a few unfortunate incidents and unintended faux pas.
Overall, I really enjoyed this feature of TripLingo. It can help to inform travelers and spark more interest in a country’s “lifestyle.” Reading through the guides can make a travel experience more immersive and rewarding.
Pros of TripLingo: What It Does Well
TripLingo has a lot to offer and can serve as a very handy app. Here are some of its strong points that you might want to check out yourself.
There are no frills attached to TripLingo’s look and format, which I believe serves as a benefit for its primary users who would be “on the go” and not willing to take significant pauses in their excursions.
The main features that travelers would need (phrases, translator and dialer) are located right on the main page. The culture guides, tools and safety tips are tucked right underneath. Overall, the tools are easy to locate so you can whip out your device and access them immediately.
Great for the culture-curious
I personally believe that learning culture is an almost necessary component to language learning. This is a notion that’s heavily supported by academic studies. While culture shock can have its charms, knowing even a little of how things are within a country can add so much more flavor to both your studies and travels.
TripLingo’s mission fully understands this notion, and I have to mention again how much I like the culture guides. A multitude of topics are discussed to a surprising level of detail, providing not just an explanation of the “what” but also some of the “why” and “how” of things. Past and current trends are also mentioned when applicable.
I spent a long time perusing through the guides and came out feeling more “in-the-know” of the countries’ workings; at the same time, I felt an even stronger sense of curiosity and interest. Such feelings would surely liven up any travel experience and increase my motivation to learn further.
Useful traveler tools
No trip abroad is 100% seamless, and you’ll have moments where you’ll need to seek help for run-of-the-mill situations. With its set of traveler tools, TripLingo can ease the stress and anxiety of dealing with common travel hiccups and mishaps. They serve basic but critical purposes that you’re guaranteed to find frequent use for.
The conversion and dictionary tools in particular are something I could imagine using every day if I were on the road. Indeed, I wish I’d had them available in my past excursions! They would’ve been an especially great help during the times I made purchases or when I had trouble reading signs.
The safety guides are also essential resources to have on hand during harrowing moments. Even if the emergency numbers aren’t (hopefully) needed, any traveler should have the information available for immediate access should worse come to worst. TripLingo keeps these tools in one organized space, ready to be pulled up for instant use.
A large array of countries
TripLingo has an impressive roster of over 100 countries. For each, you get a crash course on its native language and the local culture.
Chances are that wherever you’re heading to, you’ll find something about it on TripLingo. You can also do a bit of travel-hopping within the app and easily swap to any other country to learn about it!
So there’s plenty to like about TripLingo.
Cons of TripLingo: What Could Be Improved
While TripLingo does have some noteworthy and impressive traits, it also possesses a few weak points that are worth addressing.
Not much language learning content
TripLingo is trying to fulfill multiple objectives, providing both language and cultural information. However, at least with the free version, the “language learning” aspect does seem to be quite lacking.
Firstly, the quantity. In the free German edition, I counted a total of 32 phrases (from the “Just the Basics” and “Essential Business Phrases” sections, as all other options are not accessible). The Wordbank section, which houses individual words, has 27 categories with roughly 20 or fewer words in each. Overall, I personally believe that one could easily get through all of the vocabulary quickly.
I checked through a few other languages and countries as well. The numbers aren’t much different. Some country editions have even less vocabulary and sections, and some don’t even have the formality toggle bar.
But it’s not just a matter of numbers. The words are taught in a vacuum without much context—there aren’t any lessons teaching you grammar or conjugation. If you’re a fan of word lists and phrasebooks, then this may not be an issue. However, for avid language learners who truly want to comprehend how a language works, rather than just recall and recite memorized information, this may come as a big drawback.
As simple as the interface is, it can also stumble a bit in performance. At times, I’ve had to double or triple tap on the screen to get a response. In some cases, the app navigated to a page I didn’t necessarily expect—for example, when I answered “Yes” to the prompt that asked if I wanted to download the full Japanese language pack, I was sent to the “Select a destination” page.
There were also a few times when, without prompt, the app crashed suddenly. This is a problem noted by other reviewers, and seeing how it was first reported years ago, it seems to be an ongoing issue that hasn’t yet been resolved.
Reviewers also listed other troublesome problems. One of the biggest is the app not performing translation or audio functions—I haven’t had that happen to me during my trial run, but I’d consider this a large setback if it’s still experienced by other users.
Lack of visuals
TripLingo is almost entirely text- and audio-based. This gives it a very formal and basic format, which I don’t terribly mind, but I do think that the lack of images can be a detriment in other ways.
Different learners learn best in different ways, but general-use educational resources should strive to provide content in a variety of formats. Combining text, audio and visuals together can make it much easier for someone to absorb and recall information. This is particularly the case for something as complex or unfamiliar as language learning, especially if it’s being done alone.
It would’ve been great if the vocabulary had accompanying pictures so that I could place images with the words I learn. I tried to learn a few new words in the Czech version (both by reading and listening to them), but I found it pretty difficult to remember them after a period of time.
Images could also be applicable elsewhere, particularly in the culture guides. While I greatly appreciate the depth of the information, I think having pictures exemplifying the topics discussed would be beneficial. Travelers won’t always be able to pinpoint and know what they’re looking at, especially if the items in question are very exclusive to the country.
Certainly, there’s plenty to see in the initial free version of TripLingo, but language learners may quickly run into a dead-end after some perusing.
The full version of any TripLingo language pack is price-locked by a premium subscription. Once purchased (starting at about $20 for one month), users can get access to 2,000 phrases per language and complete access to audio lessons and live translation services.
It’s disappointing that so much vocabulary (much of which is likely quite fundamental) is kept barred behind the subscription. This sentiment is accentuated by the fact that a selection of 2,000 phrases is quite a baseline for many language learning apps, several of which don’t require a subscription to access all of them.
Having checked other countries on the app, I also noted that there was a bit of imbalance in price-locked features. For example, the Germany edition lets you listen to audio pronunciation of the phrases for free. However, in the Belgium edition, audio pronunciations for phrases require a premium subscription.
Therefore, depending on their country of interest, users can have different experiences with this app. Their choices may be more limited in some instances.
Final Thoughts on TripLingo
Overall, TripLingo is certainly worthy of a download for any traveler who wants to be a step ahead before or during their international adventure. The app has a lot to offer within its free edition, much of which would be valuable to have handy.
While TripLingo can prepare you for a romp through a foreign country, it won’t necessarily prepare you for full conversations with natives. There aren’t any lessons on grammar or sentence breakdowns. You’ll learn what you can say, but not the why or how of it.
Furthermore, the faulty technical aspects can make the app a bit of a hassle to use.
Hopefully, the developers of TripLingo can pump out more improved iterations of the app. In particular, if more engaging and extensive language learning were available, then TripLingo could make for a truly excellent travel companion!
You can pair TripLingo with an app that works well with its features, like FluentU. The FluentU program aims to provide a fun way to learn the language and culture of a country in context, using authentic videos. Since the videos are so widely varied in style and topic, they can reveal to you bits and pieces of a country’s customs and workings.
TripLingo and FluentU can complement each other nicely—while TripLingo can give you a basis for a country’s language and culture, FluentU can expound upon that and provide a more context.
I hope this TripLingo review has given you a glimpse into what the app has to offer. Give it a try if you’re planning a trip abroad, or just want a brief glimpse into the languages and cultures of different countries.