The one surefire way to out yourself as a tourist when you’re travelling? Having to sheepishly open your Google Translate app to decipher a menu, or a sign, or to figure out what that very kind person giving you directions is saying.
Before you leave on your next journey, brush up on your language skills with one of these apps designed to help you become fluent.
Best for beginners: Duolingo
Free; iOS and Android
This language app is one of the most popular for good reason: lessons are broken up into a variety of types, such as picture and word matching, auditory matching and sentence translation, and the interface is extremely user friendly. There are 35 different languages available for native English speakers (including French, Italian, Germana and Arabic; plus fictional languages like Klingon and High Valyrian), as well as options for Chinese, French, German and Greek speakers. Five minutes a day is recommended for casual learners; 20 minutes if you’re keen to upskill fast.
Best for structured learning: Rosetta Stone
Free trial version + paid subscriptions; iOS and Android
Taking its name from the mythical stone that gives you the gift of the gab, Rosetta Stone has been around for a long time – it was CD-based before the app was released. Lessons are a little more formal, with each core component taking around 30 minutes to complete. There are 24 languages, including European, Asian and Arabic lingos.
Best for local lingo: Memrise
Free seven-day trail + $34.99/year; iOS and Android
Tap into exactly how native speakers, well, speak with this app. It features clips of locals repeating the phrase you’re learning, its translation and its literal translation, too. It’s almost like you’re walking the streets of Paris, picking up snippets of French as you go – or any of the other 21 languages you can learn, such as simplified Chinese, Mongolian, Icelandic, Italian and Spanish.
Best for conversation: Babbel
First lesson free + paid subscriptions; iOS and Android
Babbel quickly takes you into conversational language, offering up likely dialogue between friends and reinforcing key phrases several times in a variety of ways (matching words or spelling them, for instance) so you nail each step before moving on to the next lesson. There are 14 languages available, including French, Italian, Norwegian and Polish.
Best for kids: Gus on the Go
$6.99; iOS and Android
Travelling with a little one? Get children excited about exploring a new place with these simple language games, all narrated by Gus the adventurous owl. There are 30 different language variations to download, including Japanese, Vietnamese, German, Spanish and English.