Learning the basics of a language when we are traveling is important to us. Yes, it can get pretty crazy, specially since we tend to move around a lot but no matter what, we always try to cover the basics in each place we go to. Learning how to properly greet someone, say please and thank you, and give out a few compliments show that you are appreciative and respectful of the local culture and language. Often times, we move around quickly, sometimes even forgetting which country we are in. One tip to help us adapt to the language is making the most of language learning apps during our free time. When we are on a long bus ride (and we usually are), we bust out these apps and use them to get acquainted with the local language. Here are our top picks for the best language learning apps that you can use during your travels.
Duolingo is one of the newest language learning apps out there which has “gamified” the process of learning a language. They have fun cartoon based characters making learning less tedious and a lot more fun. They currently offer 27 different languages which gives you a large variety. The app tests you in reading, writing, and speaking which is a pretty well rounded approach to learning the language. The built in microphone allows you to verbally repeat sentences to make sure you are pronouncing everything correctly. You can also add friends and family who are also using the app to do competitions.
What we like: We particularly like Duolingo for its easy to use game like feel. Because of the cartoon like graphic interphase, using it makes it seem less intimidating. Although some translations don’t make sense (when will I ever use the phrase: The elephants are drinking milk), it’s still a pretty fun way to learn a language.
uTalk is a fairly new language learning app which covers an impressive 134 different types of languages! This is our go to app when it comes to finding obscure languages that most apps don’t have. They have games on everything from Africaans, Filipino to Burmese. When I first downloaded it, I was impressed by the variety of languages and by the fact that with one app, I could easily cover all the languages in Southeast Asia. Leaving Thailand and entering Myanmar? No problem, within a few clicks around the app, I now know enough Burmese to make sure I can order a hot plate of noodles (an essential lifeskill in Asia). EuroTalk (the developer of the app) has been in business for the last 25 years so they definitely know what they are doing. The learning is broken down into topics so it doesn’t seem overwhelming. You can choose from a wide variety of topics, depending on what you want to learn. Unlike other language apps, learning is done via simple and fun games which make things easier to remember. Although you have to pay to unlock certain languages and topics, you earn coins as you play and learn which helps you unlock certain levels. If you are really serious about learning languages, you can pay a monthly subscription fee which gives you access to multiple languages and topics.
What we like: What we like the best is the fact that it is compatible with every type of platform. From Mac, iOs, Windows, to Android. You can download it from your laptop then continue it anytime in your phone. Each time, it syncs making sure you don’t loose any of the progress that you’ve made.
Cost: Free to download (In App purchases: starts at $1.99 or a monthly subscription for $9.99)
The Rosetta Stone language programs is one of the oldest language learning apps out there. They first started off with computer programs but have now branched out to apps as well, making learning a language easy and accessible. They offer 24 different languages for you to choose from. What makes Rosetta Stone unique to the other language learning apps is here, there is almost zero translations. You will immediately be immersed in the language with all the words, audios, and phrases in the language you are trying to learn.
The course takes you through learning the basics as well as other practical words for shopping, hanging out with friends, and transport. The lessons can be downloaded offline which is a big plus. Although definitely one of the most expensive out of the lot, the fact that their method has been tried and tested over the last 20 years, you know that it is effective. Although the interface has an old school feel to it, a good feature is that you are able to sync your progress whether you do it on your phone, computer, or iPad.
What we like: We like that Rosetta Stone is tried and tested. Although it is pricey, this is recommended if you are really serious about learning a specific language. Otherwise, if you’re looking to pick up just a few words here and there, we don’t recommend spending this much.
Cost: Free to download (In App purchases: $199 per language)
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Busuu is a language learning app which allows you to learn and practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing in different languages. Although the app is only available in 12 languages, their community of users is quite extensive, making it an ideal platform to connect with other native speakers. There is a lot of speaking in the app which is ideal for those who really want to get their pronunciation and diction correct.
Unlike many other Spanish apps, Busuu has a vibrant community of active users. This also means that out of speaking, listening, reading and writing, Busuu is an app that has a big speaking component, so be prepared for a lot of oral practice.
What we like: After each lesson, it takes you to a mock conversation where the app plays a recording of another person speaking. After, you have to record your response back to the person. Additional features such as an integrated video chat application can be used to interact with native speakers!
Cost: Free to download (In App purchases: $7 premium membership)
This particular language learning app caught our eye as it combines visually entertaining videos in your language learning program. What it does is it takes real world videos and turns them into learning experiences by adding transcripts in the language you are trying to learn. Currently, it offers 6 different languages to learn from. Apart from watching videos, it also quizzes you on vocabulary and keeps track of the words you are learning. This language program is recommended to people who are audio visual learners.
What we like: For us, its the perfect amount of entertainment while still being educational. Rather than watching endless random videos on You Tube, why not make the most out of your time and learn a language? The videos are also pretty current and entertaining so learning doesn’t seem like an arduous task.
Cost: Free to download (FREE)
Download here: iOs
If you’re looking for a way to stay connected abroad, check out an eSim such as Nomad App. That way, you can continue learning languages no matter where you are in the world.
Although we love all these apps and make the most out of them when traveling, the best way to pick up a language while traveling is by speaking to others and interacting with locals! They will be able to give you the ins and outs of the place, recommend local food spots that won’t be listed in your lonely planet, and even teach you fun expressions to say!