Learn a language for your next trip with these apps

Can learning a language with an app work just as well as following a class? Maybe or maybe not. But it can certainly help you on your way to international understanding.

Image: franz12, Getty Images / iStockphoto

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, there’s nothing like traveling the world and discovering new cultures. But it can be difficult if you don’t know the local language. The good news is that language learning is a lot easier than before thanks to language learning apps. You can even become pretty good at speaking a new language that will impress the people you meet. Research also suggests that learning a language is good for your brain.

I recently went on vacation in Germany and France, and I studied German for about four months before I went. I should have studied more French, but we were in Strasbourg, France, a beautiful tourist town, and the locals were friendly and helpful during the few days we were there.

To be honest, I took German lessons at the university, but that was a long time ago. Part of my language education was a review, but not enough that I could jump very far ahead. Finally, I downloaded five language learning apps to determine which would help me the most for this journey. I will explain the pros and cons of each and help you decide which one you want to use before you travel.

Learning a language in an app will not be as thorough as in a class where you practice with other people. I noticed that when I had to speak to someone in German, I was terrified of doing this for fear of sounding like an idiot (unless I had had a few beers). But for a cheap introduction, apps can help you learn much more than you would expect. I used a Samsung S8 phone to learn my language, but all these apps also work on iOS.

The Rosetta Stone user interface is smooth and simple.

Rosetta Stone

languages: More than 30
Cost: $ 79 for three months, up to $ 249 for a 24-month subscription. You can often find deals for cheaper subscriptions.
Download: iOS, Android

Rosetta Stone was the only app for learning languages ​​that you could get and used to be extremely expensive. You had to buy the CD-ROM and pay for one level at a time. It is still the most expensive of the apps I have tried, but with an online subscription and a mobile app the costs are much more reasonable than before.

Because it is the most expensive, it has the smartest user interface. The sound and the pictures are much clearer than the other apps I have tried, and it works well. I went to a higher level because I had already learned the basics of German. The grammar lessons did not explain very well why an answer was correct or not, which I thought was the case in most language apps.

Rosetta Stone has also been used by the US Army and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to teach languages.

SEE: Duolingo versus Rosetta Stone: how to choose the best app for learning languages (CNET)


Languages ​​/ lessons: hundreds
Cost: $ 9 per month or $ 59 per year.
Download: iOS, Android

Memrise functions Learn with locals, so you can hear how the sentences sound in real life.

Image: Memrise

Memrise is the app that I have used the most, so I have a much clearer picture of how to use it. I started using Memrise about four months before my trip and practiced 10-30 minutes before bedtime every night. By the time I left, I was halfway through level three and had learned more German than ever before.

What I like most about Memrise is the Learning with locals feature. They used actors and it seems that people on the street say words and sentences. Sometimes the sentences are clear and sometimes people mutter or talk too fast. It is frustrating, but it is most like real life. You can also create ‘Mems’. These are notes that allow you to remember a word in your own way.

Memrise teaches you slang words and phrases, including salty language, which is refreshing. It gives you the feeling that you can really speak like a local.

Interestingly, Memrise even gives courses on programming languages, such as Python and JavaScript, as well as art, literature and philosophy.

The disadvantage is the lack of grammatical explanation – the ‘why’ is never really clear. I also don’t like that I can’t go back to level one and two to check a word or revise a part that I think needs to be reviewed.

Busuu uses true or false questions to test your memory.


languages: 12
Cost: Free. Premium is $ 5.83 per month and Premium Plus is $ 6.66 per month.
Download: iOS, Android

Busuu is definitely the most affordable of the apps I have tried, and the approach is unique in that it uses real or fake, matching, fillable and contextual questions to interrogate the user on language.

What I like most about Busuu (besides the costs) is that it explains the grammar better than all other apps. Another unique advantage is that you can ask for help from native speakers and language learners around the world, or help them with their language questions. You can also add friends to continue the conversation as you get better in your new language.

Busuu claims that 22 hours of Busuu Premium is the equivalent of one university semester of a language. I’m sure my German professors don’t agree with that, but it’s still much cheaper than that semester.

Premium Plus membership offers personalized study plans and all 12 language options.

SEE: Best apps to learn to speak Chinese in 2019 (Download.com)

Duolingo uses fun graphics to help you learn vocabulary.

Image: Duolingo


languages: 91
Cost: Free, but Premium is $ 9.99 per month
Download: iOS, Android

Duolingo is probably the most popular of the language learning apps, and it’s free. Like other language apps, it treats the lessons like a game, with words, images, and quizzes. It teaches you the words and phrases that you can use during your travels, as well as unique phrases that can help you remember what you have learned.

With Duolingo Plus you can download lessons, offer unlimited testing attempts, and offer an ad-free experience.

The disadvantage is that I found this app buggy. When I first downloaded it, I couldn’t make it work at all and I had to contact the company about the problem. They worked it within a day, but I found forums where other users complained about the same problem.

Duolingo has a free sister app called TinyCards, which is just a simple flash card app. It has language cards, as well as cards to learn cards, flags, bones of the human skeleton, the Periodic Table of Elements, historical figures and more.

Babbel explains the statement well.

Image: Chat


languages: 15
Cost: $ 6.96 to $ 12.95 per month, per language.
Download: iOS, Android

The Babbel interface is nicer than the cheaper apps and uses good looking stock photos to help you remember the words. An advantage of Babbel is that it explains the pronunciation, such as that the Z sound in German sounds like “ts”, while an S sometimes sounds more like an English Z; in the other language apps you can hear the pronunciation, but they do not offer such an explanation. It also has mini grammar lessons, which I appreciate.

A frustrating problem with Babbel is the use of homonyms. For example, the word “sie” in German means two different things – it means she and you, depending on capitalization and context. But if you hear it outside of a sentence, you have a 50/50 chance to guess correctly, which can be frustrating. I’m sure other languages ​​have similar homonyms, which causes the student frustration.

Keep learning languages

Whatever method you use to learn a language, I hope you try to learn at least a few words wherever you are – it makes your hosts happy to see that you have tried it. And you will always be able to find the bathroom.

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