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Best Apps to Brush Up on Language Skills

We get it. One of the hardest parts about traveling is the language barrier. But that doesn’t mean you have to butcher phrases or use elaborate hand gestures to get your meaning across. Here are seven apps to brush up on your skills, whether you’re looking to learn the basics or become bilingual. Sayonara, lost in translation.


Not to sound like an inspirational education poster, but learning can be fun, guys! Try Duolingo, a free app that teaches languages like a game. You’re awarded points when you complete a lesson (and bonuses if you ace it), then you can compare your progress with friends and try to beat their score. Plus, there’s cheeky side skills like pick-up line exercises. Hey, they don’t call them romance languages for nothing.


Practicing a language with someone who’s fluent can be daunting. Enter Busuu, an app with an international community of 40 million native speakers who act as coaches and mentors. Beginner lessons include flashcards to learn new words, while intermediate and advanced lessons involve writing, answering questions and having conversations with a live volunteer.


Ok, you got us — Pilot isn’t exactly an app. The smart earpiece and its app, which comes out in 2017, use speech-recognition technology to translate conversation in real-time, so you won’t have to worry about miscommunication ever again. Here’s how it works: When one person speaks, the other person hears it in their own language through the earbud. Science fiction? Meet reality.


Everyone learns their own way; some are great at memorizing while others learn by practicing. Visually-inclined students will love Memrise, which teaches both formal and colloquial phrases through mnemonic flashcards. The app features crowdsourced card categories called “mems” that use graphics and humor to teach new vocabulary.


Let’s play a game. MindSnacks’s nine colorful puzzles (like match the picture to its name) help users become proficient. The best part? It’s not just for children. Choose from seven different languages and start playing; the more you “win” the harder the puzzles will become.


Remember studying a dreaded stacks of flashcards in school? Well, AnkiApp condenses those into (you guessed it) an app that lets you flip through common phrases and images with the press of a button. Note: the original Anki app is $24.99, but there’s a free version (AnkiApp Flashcards) available for iPhone and Android.

Pimsleur Course Manager

You know the scene in Spanglish (or parodies of it) where somebody listens to a slow, mechanical tape and repeats back the phrase? This is it but in real life. The audio-based program focuses on speaking and listening exercises in conjunction with the user’s Pimsleur Method online membership. It’s ideal for those looking to learn on their daily commute (as long as you don’t mind confused subway stares).

—Chelsea Bengier

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This article was originally published by Jetsetter under the headline Best Apps to Brush Up on Language Skills. It is reprinted here with permission.

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