Updated: 3rd January 2020
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Getting to lingo with the Locals is the most important thing to me when I travel. Sadly, the thing I really struggle with is learning languages, to be honest I struggle with English half the time.
I bet traveling the world years ago when no one spoke English was deemed as pretty exotic and exciting, sadly, nowadays we seem to have become a bit lazy. If they don’t understand, we just say it louder and slower. Grab a few basics and you’ll be surprised how far they go.
Traveling through Dieng in Indonesia where no one spoke English to me for a good part of the trip was challenging. I was able to get by with my basics but as the traveller in me has grown so has my want to study other languages. Luckily, there are heaps of awesome apps to help us these days.
Not sure whats on the menu, type it in. Need to get a sentence out to a local that you really don’t know. Let it speak it out for you. Literally, the best thing since sliced bread!
Drops is a relatively new language app, and my favourite thing about it is the different mediums it supports learning words with. You get both written and audio words, but also visual graphics to help support the learning, which is ideal if like me you are more of a visual learner. You also have complete control over the words that you go through this process with, so if you are already confident with certain words, you can tick them off and they won’t show up in the lesson format.
I have been using the premium paid version of Drops, as I’m quite committed to learning Portuguese obviously, and so far it seems worth the investment. I certainly am learning full sentences rather than just words, which is awesome, and hopefully it will have laid down enough of the basics when I start my in person language classes, I can come in at a higher level. Lessons can be digested in as little as five minutes, and another thing I love about Drops is their commitment to lesser known languages, and preserving traditional and regional dialects, as they expand.
Why so good? I like the fact it is more like a course in the palm of your hand than a list of jumbled words. It uses repetition and reviewing to make sure you have grasped it and mixes audio learning with visuals prompts. As someone with Dyslexia and a Visual Sequencing problem I find all these mixed learning methods really useful.
You aren’t going to become fluent here but you will have more than enough to get by. The also have a fairly wide range of languages.
Another winner of Apples Apps and offering courses in a whole multitude of languages Babbel is pretty simple to get started with. There is however an auto-renew subscription for the language courses which, if you want to really study the language is great but just for grabbing the basics for a quick weekend getaway it might not be worth the investment.
I like the fact it does cross over from phone to web, so you can start and finish the modules on either. It is well structured and the lessons are pretty thorough however given the monthly cost once you have picked up the basics from another app it might be better investing that money in Skype lessons with a local.
HiNative is only available as an App through Apple however Android and desktop users can access it online (UPDATE: As of Feb 2016 an Android version is now live!). It is very different from your usual Read, Listen and Learn approach however I do love the interactive aspect of it as you are conversing with native language speakers a lot of the time.
The bonus to me of this app is I am awful at pronunciation, as well as asking how to say certain things you can record your voice to get feedback as to if what you are saying sounds like the real deal. Hello no more embarrassing moments in shops of talking complete gibberish, you can keep your blushing behind the phone screen!
I also love that you can interact with natives about their culture or in fact anything to get direct answers before you arrive.
It does have a subscription fee for premium access and the downside of it is that only those who have paid for it can listen to your voice recordings, so, you are reliant that someone has!
Busuu only offers nine languages which are mainly European based and again, it does charge a subscription past the basics. I personally never really got into it but I know Friends who have really excelled using it so I didn’t feel fair leaving it off the list. It includes your typical features as well as the native interaction element of HiNative – Again, only used briefly but maybe it will be the one for you?
My favourite method? Ashamedly it is watching English films abroad and learning from the subtitles, which also usually leads into comical soaps and knowing all the words to a foreign catchy crap advert with no idea what they are talking about. Can you get anymore cultured than that?
How about you? Any lingo learning apps I have missed out?