5 of the Best Language Learning Apps for Your Travels Abroad

Whether you’re vacationing to France or learning Chinese for fun, there are so many language-learning tools available it can be overwhelming.

Nothing beats full cultural immersion, but it’s possible to strengthen your knowledge while commuting to work or hanging out on the couch on a Sunday. Here are five of the best language learning apps that will have you speaking confidently in no time.

Duolingo (iOS and Android, free)

If you’re a Star Trek nerd who has always wanted to learn Klingon, this app is for you. If you’re interested in something a little more earthly, too, Duolingo also has you covered. This fast-growing and incredibly popular app offers full courses in eight languages, with more languages being added regularly.

The courses are straightforward but well designed. Over at the Fluent in 3 Months blog, Duolingo is described as “not a stand-alone language course, but it’s an excellent addition to a language learner’s toolbox.” The best part? It’s all free.

Google Translate (iOS and Android, free)

Google Translate is more of an “on the go” learning tool. There’s an exhaustive dictionary for 90 languages, so looking up words on the fly is easy. There’s also audio support, which teaches you how words are properly pronounced with audio support. Instead of just typing in what word you want, you can draw it, say it, or—with a few languages—just point the camera at foreign text to get a translation.

Google Translate is a worthy companion, whether you’re studying a language or trying to figure out a menu item while in another country.

MindSnacks (iOS only, free with in-app purchases)

Out of all these apps, MindSnacks is definitely the most fun. This app teaches you vocabulary and grammar through simple games. It’s a nice addition to whatever method you’re using to learn a language. It’s also challenging without being too taxing. The app smartly keeps you motivated by tracking your progress and offering quests. Sub that out for Candy Crush on your commute and you’ll be conversational in no time.

Languages supported at the moment are French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese, with more being considered at the moment.

Rosetta Course (iOS and Android, free with in-app purchases)

This app is brought to you by the people from Rosetta Stone, the granddaddy of digital language learning. Rosetta Courses is in the same vein of the computer versions, with extensive courses designed around the use of photos. Twenty-one languages are supported at the moment.

The courses aren’t cheap, however, and cost more than $100 per language. Keep that in mind when making the download. The price seems high, but these courses are extensive and can take a very long time complete.

AnkiMobile Flashcards (iOS and Android, $24.99)

Anki is an open-sourced flashcard program that covers just about just about any subject there is—but it’s especially useful for languages. Flashcards have always been a great way to strengthen vocabulary through memorization, and Anki brings that concept to mobile devices.

The “decks” of flashcards are made by users and include audio or images. The best decks are rated highest by the community, so you know just where to start when learning a language. There are decks for just about any sub-category, whether it’s the most popular phrases or words for shopping. You can see what’s available on the Anki website.

Want more? Check out our list of the best translation apps!

Do you have a favorite language-learning app not mentioned on this list? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Photo by Michael Adubato

Kayla Matthews is a researcher, writer and blogger covering topics related to technology, smart gadgets, the future of work and personal productivity.