Learning a new language opens the doors to new experiences, new cultures, and a new way of thinking. Learning a second language will change your life. But not everyone has the resources to immerse themselves in another culture whenever they want. So what are some ways of learning a new language with tools, apps, and online resources? Take your travel experiences to the next level with the best language apps.

Mondly

This free language learning software is a top pick for the best tool. Using a flashcard-style delivery of content, Mondly app lessons help you match words and sounds with pictures. This is visual learning at it’s best and is very effective.

You get the chance to converse with the software by answering questions (via your microphone or keyword) and holding an entire conversation in your target language. A great way to practice your speaking skills. This is a great feature of the tool.

There’s a good range of languages to choose from including Hindi, Thai, Vietnamese, Hungarian, and Ukrainian. And these are just the languages available to English-language users. If you’ve ever tried the double-immersion method (I word I invented – don’t look it up), then you’ll know what it’s like to learn a new language through one you’ve already mastered. For example, fluent or advanced Spanish speakers might try to learn French, German, or even Thai through Spanish.

The speech recognition feature will help you improve your pronunciation by recording you saying words and phrases and analyzing the results.

Mondly has a web app and a mobile app version (Android and iOS). Both are easy and reasonably fun to use. There are some differences, though. For example, Thai language is not available in the app. The app is pretty basic with the free version, but the monthly plans with many more lessons are not expensive.

DuoLingo

DuoLingo is one of the best-known apps for learning a new language and is very popular. Duolingo‘s unique teaching method is a great way to supplement your language studies or even learn a new language from scratch. It won’t replace a course or a good language learning system, but it’s a handy app to have your phone for downtime study. However, it has some flaws, so try it out before you commit to your foreign language studies.

Duolingo uses gamification (learning through tests and games) to help you progress. It’s free so you won’t have to worry about forking over money when you get to a particular stage of your learning. But there’s a limit to what you can learn with Duolingo.

I recommend using a course or software that will give you a head start in your target language and use Duolingo to reinforce the knowledge you’ve gained. Think of it as a kind of teacher that prompts you to come up with answers. Test and evaluate, is my advice. All the same, DuoLingo is evolving fast and is still the pick of the apps.

DuoLingo offers courses on many languages, including: Latin American Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Hindi, Turkish  Dutch, Latin, Swedish, Greek, Irish, Polish, Norwegian, Bokmål, Hebrew, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, High Valyrian, Danish, Romanian, Indonesian, Welsh, Czech, Scottish Gaelic, Swahili, Ukrainian, and Esperanto.

Available for Android and iOS

uTalk

uTalk is a great way to get started speaking another language. It doesn’t claim to teach you how to speak fluently, but it gives you a flying start in the right direction. If you want to get the basics down quickly, uTalk is a great choice.

There’s no free trial, but you can test out uTalk on the demo site. The paid version contains a lot of content and is only around $35 per year, but grab get 20% off by visiting this page.

Ling App

The Ling App is a great-looking mobile app and web-based learning resource. The free version is so good it rivals many paid software tools. Some useful features are a dictionary and an audio function. If you’re interested in learning less “popular” languages like Swahili, Georgian, Lithuanian, Nepali, or Ukranian, this is the app for you.

This gamified language learning app makes study more fun than endless listening and repeating phrases. If you’re a beginner, try the slow motion function to get familiar with the different sounds of a language, and test yourself with flashcards for all vocabulary related to a specific topic.

MosaLingua

MosaLingua is another flashcard app that will help you build vocabulary. Don’t dismiss flashcard software, this method of learning is scientifically proven to be effective. The MosaLingua app also comes with books and videos to help you learn.

The voices and dialogs are clear and well-produced. You can choose your level and jump straight into whatever topic you want to learn with just a few taps on the screen. The MosaLingua Spanish Business app is particularly useful for digital nomads or entrepreneurs who are traveling abroad and meeting other business people or looking for work in a Spanish-speakig country. The app includes many topics that don’t appear on other apps, such as Sales, Customer Service, Logistics, Finding a Job, and Accounting.

The app offers a hands-free option (handy for when you’re driving or walking), progress reports, and a good search facility. Record your voice and the AI recognition technology will transcribe it and score you on how well you pronounce phrases.

Different languages covered include Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, German, Italian, and Portuguese. And for non-English native speakers, there are options to learn these languages in German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Many language hackers learn a 3rd foreign language through their 2nd language. MosaLingua makes this easy.

One of the better learning apps for improving your local language skills. Try MosaLingua here

Memrise

Memrise has been great for improving my vocabulary before traveling to a new place. The app uses flashcards for teaching through repetition. Words and phrases appear repeatedly to force your brain into remembering them. That’s the theory, at least. But Memrise has a few tricks that regular flashcard applications do not. Like Duolingo, quizzes test your ability to write, recognize characters, and read phrases. If you fail particular phrases, you will see them again later.

For each flashcard, you can listen to the pronunciation at different speeds and with different voices.

In the beginner Chinese course, the Chinese characters appear alongside the Pinyin pronunciation. Every translation is also available at the click of a button. Memrise offers courses in Spanish (Spain and Mexico), Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and most European languages. The software works in your browser or as an app on your phone.

Try Memrise

Language Drops

A new kid on the block and a very popular one also is Drops. Full name: Language Drops. Winner of the Google App of the Year Award, Drop is a beautiful-looking app that aims to make daily short language practice as easy as possible. it costs around $8 a month but you can grab a lifetime deal for $150 at the moment.

Anki

Anki is a language app that was recommended to me over and over. It’s a flashcards app that works across most browsers and devices. Not just for learning languages, Anki is useful for memorizing anything but the language learner community has adopted it as the go-to flashcards app for learning a local language.

Pimsleur

I’m a fan of the Pimsleur language learning method. It helped me learn Spanish fast when I wasn’t living in a Spanish-speaking country. The Pimsleur concept is based on the spaced repetition learning method, which, to be frank, is an effective way to learn new language skills. You repeat what you hear in the audio lessons. The recordings are designed to make you repeat phrases and embed them in your brain.

While learning through spaced repetition might not appear to be the smartest or most efficient way to improve, it works. Pimsleur has been around for many years and has had plenty of success in the language learning field so the company must be doing something right.

It works like this: the presenter (almost always a man with an American accent) briefly introduces a section and begins saying phrases. A short pause then follows and then a native speaker says the phrase in the target dialect. The phrase is then broken down into smaller chunks for repeating.

It sounds like a very rudimentary way of learning but it’s effective. In fact, it’s designed to mimic how we learn to speak.

I never found the lessons boring. On the contrary, they gave me a sense of achievement. And the dopamine hit from achieving a goal (even one you hadn’t predetermined) is a powerful impulse to continue learning.

Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone language courses enjoy a reputation so strong that the vast majority of people searching for “Rosetta Stone” online are not looking for information on the third century Egyptian stone carved with three ancient scripts. They are looking for language lessons.

Rosetta Stone is cloud-based language software. PC Mag gives the Rosetta Stone a rating of “excellent” and calls it the “best full-featured language learning software”. It’s not the cheapest option available, but it’s fairly complete and it’s a great way to start your journey with languages. Language courses include Persian (Farsi), Pashto, Swahili, Urdu, Dari, Filipino, and Hebrew, as well as more common languages are available.

The learning programs include visual-based testing and private language coaches. There’s a free demo, which you can access on the website for anyone that wants to test it out first.

Coursera

One of the oldest running online course providers, Coursera used to be a free website. In the last year or so, this has changed. There’s still a free trial available and financial aid is available to qualifying students.

The structure of courses on the website and the payment methods change frequently (an annoying aspect of the site) but you can still get a lot of value for free. And the course material is high quality. Coursera encourages students to follow a certification path so they can prove their competency in the courses studied. If you don’t need the certifications you can still follow the syllabus and learn for free in many cases. At the time of writing, the Chinese for Beginners course is $49, which seems like good value, considering the difficulty of producing good Chinese language learning courses.

Read more about Chrome Extensions for Travel here.

iTalki

Italki is a great service for practicing the language you’re learning with native teachers via an online language class. It’s an online learning platform that connects students with learners. You can browse teachers and see the hourly rates. iTalki lets you access thousands of teachers all over the world and it’s as close to in-person language class learning as you can get. The great part is that teachers in developing countries charge less in many Western countries for language lessons.

Preply

Preply is a new entrant in the list of online language tutor platforms. It’s a great place to learn from hundreds of different native speakers in your target language by taking lessons with qualified teachers. There’s a money-back guarantee and the first lesson is often free. Want to learn complicated verb conjugation with a private teacher? Need specific accent tutoring? This is the app for you.

HelloTalk

HelloTalk is like iTalki, but it runs as an app on your phone. Find a language partner and start chatting. It’s that simple. The app also comes with tools that help the learning process, like translation, pronunciation aids, and corrections. One of the best ways to learn your target language is the language exchange method. In its simplest form, participants take turns to practice the language they are learning to speak with native speakers. At some point, the focus language changes and the other person practices.

ReadLang Chrome Extension

I asked the netizens of Reddit for their choices for the best language apps and ReadLang was one of the most recommended. This extension is a superb addition to your browser for people that read foreign language sites. Here’s how it works. Let’s say your reading Argentina’s La Nación newspaper and you’re having difficulty understanding the text in a paragraph. Click the Readlang Web Reader extension button and then click on phrases on the page to get an automatic translation. Google Translate does this same function but it translates the entire page of content (which isn’t always convenient). It’s also a bit cumbersome to copy and paste single words into another browser window for translation.

Readlang Web Reader works with lots of languages, including Mongolian, Korean, Finnish, Chinese, and even Maori.

It allows for customisation of how the extension highlights text and translates. The sections you highlight and translate go to a database on Readlang. You can then review the phrases as flashcards. It works like Memrise but only uses words you translated. So it’s an even more personalized level of learning. It also works on tablets and phones.

Readlang of my favourite tools for language study.

MateTranslate is a new Chrome plugin that lets you save vocabulary from Netflix as translations for your language learning apps. It’s free to use.

Other Notable Apps

  • For the difficult Asian languages, try Lingodeer, a beautiful-looking app and free for the moment.
  • SmartCards+ is another top-rated flashcards app with a great user interface.
  • If you want to boost your German language skills, try Chatterbug.
  • Google Translate is an invaluable translation app, not only for practicing a language, but for communicating when you don’t yet speak the local language and the locals don’t speak your language. The voice translator and “image” translator are wonderful features that 10 years ago would have seemed too futuristic to be real. An essential travel app.

Learning Languages Through Youtube & Netflix

Google’s online video platform is the second most powerful search engine in the world and the number of video hours uploaded every minute is staggering. So it’s no surprise that videos to help you learn a new language are easy to find. Make sure to check out the endless amount of learning resources available to everyone for free. But do keep in mind that for every good video there are ten bad ones. YouTube Premium lets you download videos to your phone so you can learn on a flight or long journey without using data.

Use the Language Learning for Netflix Chrome Extension to turn Netflix into a language-learning powerhouse. Show subtitles in multiple languages at the same time. Compare the original audio with a translation in your language or another language. Change the playback speed and switch audio easily. Use the built-in dictionary, which also makes suggestions on important words to learn.

How to use Apps To Maximise Language Skills

Listen While You Sleep

A hack for the Tim Ferriss-type personalities. The idea is based on studies around listening to foreign languages as you sleep. Sounds like a good plan. In theory, it could work. But in practice, it’s impractical.

Not to mention the sleep interruption from voices in your head. The only time I would consider this is when I’m flying. I can’t really sleep on a plane and the sleep I get is of poor quality so I might as well use the time to do something productive. Listen to audiotapes of the language of the country you’re heading too. With luck, you’ll learn a few new words and they will be fresh in your mind. At worst, you’ll get bored and fall asleep. Either way, you’re ahead. Try Pimsleur’s Audio language learning program.

Music, as a mnemonic, is a way to learn a language by associating strong emotions with phrases, and concepts. Liking the music you’re listening to helps a lot. If you hate Salsa, then it’s not a good idea to listen to this music as practice. You’ll just associate the whole learning experience with negative emotions. Listening to pop or rock music in the language you’re learning is a good way of introducing yourself to popular phrases and colloquiums.

Learning Languages Through Another Language

This is a radical way of learning but depends on you already knowing a second language. Let’s say you speak French to a high level of proficiency. With this method you try to use your second language to learn a new language. An example might someone whose native tongue is English learning Thai through French.

This is a great way to learn. Here’s why:

  1. It slows you down a little so you won’t skim or brush over explanations. Sometimes we can read in our native language without absorbing the information. Reading in another language can force the brain to make new connections and force new words into the “database” of the mind.
  2. It creates different neural pathways to the language. As with mnemonics, learning through another language can help us remember new vocabulary, basic phrases, and grammar rules better.

Read Comics And Children’s Books

This works well if you’re a fan of comics and you learn better through visual methods. Comics are great because every scene is matched with an image. There’s a lot of dialogue there too so you’ve got several reasons to choose comics.
The obvious choice here would be Manga. But you could also read Tintin in its original French. Best of all, it’s a fun way to access your chosen language.

Marvel, DC Universe and other comic book producers have apps that you can use to practice another language.

Tech Language Takeover

Change your phone and computer interfaces to the new language you want to learn. This makes things a little awkward, but in my experience, the more difficult and uncomfortable a situation, the better your brain will remember the languge used.

Ever had an argument with your significant other in another language? You won’t forget the language they used. You also won’t forget the words you scrambled to find in a hurry. Emotions help with learning. Fact. Going full native is one of the best methods for learning new languages.

Photo of Taipei Night Market by Keith Lang. Rights Reserved © NomadFlag.com

Learn a language with these apps & tools

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1 thought on “Language Learning Apps For Travel”

  1. Hi Kieth, great post! I personally use duocards.com. Is that a good app or would you advise me to use one of the ones you mention in your post? I love combining travelling with language learning too, I’ve noticed you learn a language far quicker that way! 😀

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