Being an active traveler means staying engaged in worldwide culture, whether you’re at home or on the road. Look at a frequent travelers’ spice rack, and you’ll find seasonings from around the world. Check their wine fridge or bar cart, and you’ll find a bottle that endured a 10-hour flight from Spain in checked luggage. And it’s not all South African gins and garam masala sourced from India. Another crucial part of active travel is the time spent learning about a destination before you arrive, which might mean reading about their current events or even brushing up on commonly used phrases in the local language. Fortunately, whether you’re trying to learn French ahead of a trip to Épernay or Korean for a business trip to Seoul, there’s an app for that. Download these apps to bolster your language skills before your next trip:
Busuu recommends using their app for just 10 minutes a day and connects users with a network of 100 million language learners. We love the practical interaction this app provides, connecting you with native speakers who can provide feedback on your progress. You can start with one language for free, or pay $6 a month for Premium access and multiple languages.
Babbel concentrates on European languages, making it a great app to learn French, Spanish, German, Polish, and multiple Scandinavian languages. Babbel is ideal for students with limited time or attention spans, thanks to their short (10 to 15-minute) lessons. With access to 14 languages, Babbel is good for travelers who are looking to brush up on conversational language skills or work toward fluency.
Duolingo is the perfect app to start with when flirting with the idea of learning a new language, because it’s free. It’s also ideal for travelers because Duolingo does a great job of building up your vocabulary base and setting you up for success in conversation. Their game-learning approach is well-suited for learners with a competitive nature. And for select languages, Duolingo also offers Duolingo Stories for a chance to try your hand at reading comprehension in your chosen language.
Mango Languages’ subscriber base includes a lot of professionals expanding their language skills for work-related travel. In fact, they have an entire professional platform, Mango for Business, dedicated to helping your employees learn new languages and cultural nuances from countries they interact with on a regular basis. To subscribe, it’s $7.99 per month for one language, or $17.99 per month for access to every language on the platform.
With 5,000 words and phrases across 33 languages, users appreciate Mondly’s fun, care-free approach to learning languages, through games. You’ll feel fully immersed in the virtual classroom with their interactive lessons, too. Mondly also offers MondlyKIDS, so the whole family can learn a language together ahead of your next vacation.
For best results using Pimsleur, they recommend you use the app for 30 minutes a day for 30 days straight. This app is best for auditory learners, because the method is very oriented in listen-and-repeat exercises. However, with Pimsleur Premium, you gain access to digital flashcards, reading lessons, and speaking lessons that are compatible with your Alexa.
The iconic language-learning brand is now available via app. One of their handy travel offerings is the Rosetta Stone Phrasebook, which is very much like walking around with a cheat-sheet in a foreign country. Their app has a "patented TruAccent speech-recognition engine," so you can work on your accent, too. You can get lifetime access to Rosetta Stone for $199.
For travelers who have basic conversation skills in a different language and want to practice with native speakers, Tandem is a community where you can effectively find a “language buddy.” If you ever lived in a foreign country and met up with a local periodically to practice speaking, you'll feel extremely comfortable within this community. The app is completely free and allows you to text, call, or video chat with your language partner through the app.