Take it from someone that has dried up their international roaming plan with google translate searches – it’s more fun to know the language of the place you’re going. Not only will it save you a few games of charades with taxi drivers, but it’ll also help you connect more with the locals. And learning a language these days can be as easy as downloading any one of these applications and dedicating 5 to 10 minutes a day to them. Any language learning app will help you on your journey, but here are our favorites:
Mondly provides you a daily lesson with its free version. But, if you want to go above and beyond, you’ll have to loosen up your purse strings. Overall, Mondly can provide you with some basic vocabulary and even some conversation practice with a bot and a choose-your-own-adventure approach. If you’re new to a language, it’s a fine place to start. However, those with a good amount of vocab under their belt would be better just moving on to another app.
This language learning app has so much potential! Lirica bases all of its lessons on songs in the language you’re learning, which is so fun. The downside is that the app is only available in Spanish or German. Even if you’re learning Spanish or German, I would recommend using this application in conjunction with another app. Translating songs is more of a good exercise than a way to nail down the basics.
Lirica is a great way to discover new artists in the language you’re learning. The songs are also modern and often accompanied by interviews or guides by well-known musical artists.
Mesmerize is phenomenal for anyone that is all about the data. The application measures your progress by words learned and streaks (you can even compete with friends – though that feature is a bit old hat these days since Fitbit got us to compare our step count with coworkers). Aside from those sweet, sweet numbers, the app is almost exclusively multiple-choice questions.
So, if you’re not a numbers person, this application will get boring pretty quickly. You can get pretty far without hitting a paywall, but you’ll need to learn grammar with another application or the good ol’ fashion way (with a textbook). It is also worth noting that the application has no intake quiz. If you choose Mesmerize, be prepared to start your language learning with the basics.
We’ve all heard about Rosetta Stone by now. It used to be the gold standard in learning languages outside of a classroom. And frankly, despite its more academic format, the program is effective. Not only does it test your grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary – but it also provides companion materials from games to phrasebooks and even videos on the nuances of the language and culture. It gives you a clear plan with lessons every day and measures your progress.
Even though I’m a fan, this gold standard application costs its weight in gold compared to other subscription language apps. I’d recommend Rosetta if you’re serious about learning the language and also good at sticking to a plan (even if at times that plan may be more boring than watching C-SPAN).
Just like learning a new language, babbling may be something you and a baby have in common. The application, Babble, is all about context. The system relies on conversations to guide learners through vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and comprehension. While the system uses traditional language learning measures like matching words and speaking into a computer microphone, the app simulates the experience of being abroad. Through listening to conversations, you learn the structure of the language and a bit about the culture. Thankfully, the conversations are far more lively than the robotic recordings from high school Spanish exams. Another cool perk about Babble is that it offers live classes with small groups of students to help you with the nuances of learning a language.
Just like with anything good, there’s always a catch. Babble, unfortunately, has a pay-to-play set-up without a decent demo. If you’re a dedicated learner, this may be a decent option. Especially since you can pay by the month and they have a 20-day money-back guarantee. You can also get 40% off if you’re a registered student at an accredited university. Along with a Spotify discount, it may not be such a bad idea to enroll in community college after all. However, if you’re a dabbler in the language, there are plenty of free apps to scratch the itch.
Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning applications. And it makes sense! It’s fun, easy to use, personalized, and competitive. Oh – and the free version includes all of the language learning assets. The only difference between the premium account and the free account is a few square inches of ads. Similar to Rosetta Stone, Duolingo also comes with plenty of companion material from the podcast to Duolingo Stories which helps you put your language skills in context.
Though Duolingo is fun and effective for a gamified approach to language learning, it does prompt you with some pretty bizarre phrases at times. The application also lacks cultural context for the language and the lessons are less standardized than the levels to test you. Despite this, Duo, Duolingo’s mascot, is always there to cheer you along! Sometimes that cute little bird is the only thing ensuring I maintain my practice streak.
No matter how much you practice or what language learning app you use to learn, speaking even a little of the local tongue can go a long way while traveling.