Learning a new language is never easy yet being able to communicate with locals in a foreign country has many advantages. From ordering food to asking directions, having a few phrases up your sleeve can mean the difference between confused looks and a great recommendation. Now, thanks to smartphones, learning a foreign language is as easy as downloading an app. Here are the 8 top language apps to use on the go.
8 Best Language Apps To Use On The Go
Rosetta Stone has been synonymous with language learning for over two decades. As the company celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017, its award-winning teaching methods are now available in this handy app. The core belief here is that speaking the language is key to mastering it. The app features advanced speech recognition software to help you get that pronunciation just right. It corrects mistakes and provides immediate feedback, making it an authentic and fun way to learn.
The unique thing about Rosetta Stone is that there are no translations in sight! It’s all about immersive learning here as you pick up the language through speaking, listening and matching words to images.
The app is easy to navigate and you can switch between its 24 languages on the fly. There are dozens of lessons covering different topics and scenarios such as “Travel” and “Everyday Things”. While there is a huge amount of content here, you can opt to purchase even more through the app. One thing to remember: as a lot of the focus is on speaking, you better get used to getting looks from strangers as you mutter greetings and restaurant orders into your phone!
Verdict: Successful, tried-and-tested formula – now in an accessible and easy-to-use app with bite-sized content.
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Duolingo makes learning its 23 languages fun and scratches the addictive itch the same way video games do. You earn points and achievements for getting answers right, level up for completing lessons and unlock new content. The app also rewards you for coming back regularly which is a clever way to keep you interested.
The lessons are bite-sized and can be tackled in short bursts while commuting or on a break at work. They cover various areas from “Clothing” and “Animals” to dedicated grammar sections. There are various challenges including speaking, listening, word matching and multiple-choice questions.
While I love the “gamey” aspects of the app, some of the phrases that it generates for translation are questionable. Albeit, in an absolutely hilarious way. “Yes, the dog has rice”, “I eat salt” and “are they cats?” are legitimately some of the phrases you could come across here.
Verdict: Fun and engaging app that makes it hard to put down. Content can be hit and miss but learning is easy and intuitive. Unintentionally funny at times too!
TripLingo is a great resource for those looking to tailor their language experience to their destination. Open the app, pick a country and you will have access to thousands of words and phrases specific to there. You can translate in real time by typing or speaking – the voice translation does require an Internet connection, however. You can also learn the language through audio lessons, quizzes and flashcards.
TripLingo also provides detailed culture guides for each destination which includes info on history, politics and cuisine. Handy tools like tip and conversation calculators are great for travellers and there are shortcuts for turning off various roaming settings and even emergency numbers.
It’s useful to have all of these features in one app, making it a potentially essential option for travellers.
Verdict: A Jack-of-all-trades with plenty of content and useful information. Let down slightly by unintuitive front-end and presentation.
Busuu is intuitive and easy to use while giving you flexibility when learning a language. You can take a placement test to determine the right level for you or just start from the beginning.
There are various exercises to complete including “fill in the blanks”, “true or false” and multiple choice questions. The dialogue sections feature words and phrases used in a conversation-style example and provide great context. All audio can also be slowed down which is very handy for learning the sounds and pronunciation of the spoken language.
You can connect with other users and get feedback on speaking and writing exercises while helping others in your language!
There is loads of content in the app but some lessons are locked out of the free app. The premium version offers extra lessons, quizzes and offline content.
Verdict: Loads of free content and features while the option to engage with native speakers is great.
Google Translate is one of the most versatile language apps available. You can get accurate translations by typing, handwriting, talking and even using your phone’s camera. The app makes navigating your way around a new destination much easier as signs, texts and menus suddenly make sense.
You can use the camera to take photos of text for an instant translation or even use the app for a two-way conversation as it automatically detects the language spoken.
It allows translations between 103 languages by typing but some of the more advanced features are only available in certain languages. There is also a super handy offline mode which allows you to use the app even when there is no WiFi around.
As a language companion, Google Translate is pretty invaluable. It takes out the stress of not being able to speak the local language and is a confidence booster for those feeling out of their depth in a foreign country.
Verdict: A priceless tool for translating all around the world â€“ camera support sets it apart from the rest.
Another app that makes learning a new language fun and engaging, Memrise pairs you up with a loveable alien buddy. Together, you go on an interstellar adventure with games, challenges and leaderboards to keep you interested.
The focus is on vocabulary here as you learn words and phrases, test yourself against your friends and interact with chatbots. The app also has around 30,000 native speaker videos which gives it a unique, visual feel too. There are also in-app memes which help memrising (sorry!) words easier.
While the free content is great and there is plenty to do, there is also a pro version which gives access to more games and features. An offline mode, a welcome addition for those on the road, is unfortunately behind this paywall. Overall, however, the award-winning app is a great way to improve your skills!
Verdict: Gamifying anything makes it more fun and Memrise does this well. Native speaker videos are also a nice touch.
Babbel starts off by determining your level of proficiency in any one of its 13 languages (14 including English) and tailors its experience accordingly. The app focuses on everyday conversation topics and aims to get users speaking confidently within just a few weeks. The app feels quite similar to Duolingo but instead of teaching seemingly random phrases, it focuses on useful content that you are more likely to utilise in dialogue.
Babbel uses speech recognition to help you practice your pronunciation and then gives you a variety of tasks to complete – from multiple choice questions to realistic conversations that help you put the lessons learnt into context and make learning more engaging. Lessons are just the right length to be completed during breaks or commutes.
To get the most out of the app, you will need to part with your money but there is still plenty of free content to get you going.
Verdict: Learning through use of everyday scenarios helps put everything into context and aids understanding.
An ingenious alternative to usual language apps, HiNative enables users to connect with real native speakers and provide answers to questions, improve pronunciation and learn useful phrases. Branded as a global Q&A community for language learners, the app allows to tailor questions and suggestions to users’ needs. It has an option for uploading photos to help with identifying confusing menus, signs or unfamiliar symbols. Audio uploads allows locals to make suggestions to improve those regional pronunciations you were going for.
All in all it’s a super useful tool for travellers that may not have time for a full language course but have specific needs when it comes to being in a foreign country. And with the active and supportive community representing over 170 countries, you’re likely to find the answers to even the toughest of questions. You can even ask for things to do, places to eat and cultural faux pas to avoid before travelling!
Verdict: Using native speakers is a fantastic idea and allows for a more authentic language learning. Ability to engage with real people is invaluable.
Do you try and learn a foreign language before or during your travels? Have you found these or any other language apps useful?
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