Best Language Apps for Travel (Tested in 2024)

Best Language Apps for Travel (Tested in 2024)

When confronted with the question of the best language app for travel, my response is inevitably nuanced: it depends. Depends on what you need it for. How familiar are you with the language of the country you’re traveling in? How much interaction will you be having with locals and how much effort are you willing to put in communicating effectively with them? How interested are you in learning a new language and to what extent?

There are 195 countries in the world and over 7130 languages. It’s pretty obvious that if you travel enough, you will encounter language barriers at some point. Although I can converse pretty well in popular languages like English, French, or Spanish (some of the most used languages globally), there are a lot of countries where the use of any of these languages is limited or almost non-existent. Some examples are China, Brazil and Tanzania. Even with languages I’m somewhat familiar with, there are moments when I find myself in need of assistance, whether to refresh my knowledge or to delve into more nuanced conversations. I’ve come to realize that making an effort to break down language barriers and engage locals in their native tongue is not only courteous but also immensely rewarding. It’s a gesture that transcends mere words, fostering genuine connections and enriching cultural exchanges.

Now back to trying to answer what is the best language app for you. As I previously said, there is no universal perfect app for everyone. Are you seeking a tool for immersive language learning on the go, or do you require a reliable translation aid for quick communication? Considering both my personal experience and the research I did on the needs of fellow travelers, I’ve taken it upon myself to explore, test and evaluate a myriad of language apps, each tailored to different linguistic pursuits.

Understanding the Traveler’s Needs

Identifying Language Barriers in Travel

  1. The ubiquitous challenge: Language barriers pose one of the most significant hurdles for travelers worldwide, affecting everything from basic interactions to more complex negotiations.
  2. Cultural immersion: Beyond mere communication, language proficiency is key to unlocking deeper cultural insights and forging authentic connections with locals.
  3. Practical necessities: From asking for directions to ordering meals, mastering essential phrases is indispensable for navigating unfamiliar territories with confidence and ease.

The Role of Language Apps in Overcoming Barriers

  1. Accessibility: Language apps offer a convenient solution, providing travelers with instant access to language learning resources right at their fingertips, regardless of location.
  2. Tailored learning: Many apps cater to diverse proficiency levels, offering curated lessons ranging from beginner basics to advanced conversation skills, ensuring relevance for every traveler.
  3. On-the-go support: Whether exploring bustling city streets or remote rural landscapes, language apps equipped with offline capabilities ensure uninterrupted learning and communication, even in areas with limited connectivity.

Read more: Overcoming language barriers for tourists: myths and misconceptions.

Features You Might Need in a Language App

  1. Comprehensive language coverage: Travelers seek apps that offer a wide array of languages, including both popular tourist destinations and lesser-known regions, to accommodate diverse travel itineraries.
  2. Intuitive user interface: User-friendly design and seamless navigation are essential for enhancing the learning experience, especially for travelers juggling multiple tasks on the road.
  3. Interactive learning tools: Features such as voice recognition, real-life scenarios, and gamified exercises add an element of engagement and fun, motivating travelers to stay committed to their language-learning journey.
  4. Practicality: Translation capabilities, phrasebooks, and cultural insights are valued additions that assist travelers in overcoming immediate communication challenges and fostering cultural understanding.
  5. Offline mode: Offline access to lessons, allows travelers to continue their language studies even in remote areas without internet connectivity. This feature is particularly useful for those embarking on off-the-grid adventures or traveling to destinations with limited internet access.

Best translation apps

1. Google Translate

Available on: Android & iOS

Best for: Finding the translation of specific words and short phrases fast

Price: Free

Android rating: 4.3⭐

iOS rating: 4.2⭐

I know Google Translate is such a common tool, but that’s exactly why I couldn’t ignore it. I don’t think I have ever gone abroad and not used it at least once. Personally, I use it most of the time in restaurants where English menus are not available and I need to discover fast the ingredients of a dish. I also use it in countries where I know the language to some extent, but I forget a word while I’m in the middle of a conversation and I need help translating it fast. On the other hand, I avoid using it for long/full sentences, unless I am already familiar with the language and I can double-check the accuracy of the translation. That’s because Google Translate still doesn’t understand context very well and will translate a phrase word by word most of the time, without taking into account idioms.

Read more: Funny phrases translated word-for-word from Romanian to English.

The Google Translate service is available with or without an app, and the app is available both on Android and iOS, free of charge. The app is simple and easy to use and covers the basic needs of a tourist who needs to say a few quick words in the local language or to find the meaning of some words. The user can input words or phrases by typing, recording or taking a picture, which is very convenient. Unfortunately, it cannot work without Internet connection, therefore if you’re going to remote areas, this tool can’t help you.

✔️ Free tool❌ It can generate faulty translations and grammatical errors
✔️ Available on Android and iOS❌ It requires Internet connection
✔️ It covers translations for 133 languages
✔️ You can type text, record voice or take a picture and it will recognize and translate the words

2. iTranslate Language Translator

Available on: Android & iOS

Best for: Translations via voice and camera

Price: Free; $0.7/week (yearly payment), $2.4/week (weekly payment)

Android rating: 3.9⭐

iOS rating: 4.7⭐

iTranslate Translator utilizes advanced translation technology to deliver accurate and reliable translations across multiple languages. The app supports text translation, voice-to-voice translation, and even image translation, allowing travelers to overcome language barriers effortlessly.

iTranslate Translator supports over 100 languages, including both commonly spoken languages and less widely used dialects. This extensive language coverage ensures travelers can communicate effectively in a variety of destinations, regardless of the language spoken there.

The app’s voice recognition feature enables travelers to speak phrases or sentences in their native language and receive instant translations in their target language. This hands-free functionality is particularly useful for quick communication in busy or noisy environments, such as airports or train stations.

iTranslate Translator offers offline mode for select languages, allowing travelers to access translation services even without an internet connection. This feature is invaluable for international travelers navigating areas with limited connectivity or avoiding roaming charges.

In addition to translation services, iTranslate Translator provides language learning tools such as phrasebooks, vocabulary lists, and pronunciation guides. These resources help travelers expand their linguistic skills and improve their ability to communicate effectively in foreign languages. Still, keep in mind that the resources are limited and if you’re seeking structured language courses or interactive learning experiences, jump to the options presented in the second part of this article.

While iTranslate Translator offers a free version with basic features, access to premium features such as offline mode and unlimited translations requires a subscription. Travelers may find the subscription fees prohibitive, especially if they only require occasional translation services.

✔️ Very good translation accuracy❌ Limited free version
✔️ Supports over 100 languages❌ It may struggle with complex or nuanced language or idioms
✔️ Text, camera and audio translations
✔️ Offline mode
✔️ Additional language learning resources like phrasebook or pronunciation guide

Best language learning apps

1. Duolingo

Available on: Android & iOS

Best for: Learning the basics of a new language in a fun way

Price: Free; Plans starting at $7.99/month

Android rating: 4.8⭐

iOS rating: 4.8⭐

Duolingo stands as one of the most popular language learning apps globally, boasting a user-friendly interface, gamified learning experience, and a vast array of languages to choose from. Among all the language learning apps, this one is my favorite, because I’ve been using it for many years and my experience has been very positive so far. I’m currently on my 5th language course on Duolingo and I don’t plan to stop here. With over 30 languages available, including popular choices like Spanish, French, and German, as well as less commonly taught languages such as Swahili and Esperanto, Duolingo caters to a diverse range of language learners. This expansive language selection ensures that travelers can find resources for their destination of choice.

Duolingo incorporates game-like elements such as points, levels, and streaks to make language learning engaging and addictive. This gamification motivates users to stay consistent with their studies, making it an ideal companion for travelers seeking to integrate learning into their daily routines. As little as 3 minutes a day is enough to keep a streak and learn something new.

Available on both mobile devices and web browsers, Duolingo provides unparalleled accessibility, allowing travelers to learn anytime, anywhere. The app’s offline mode enables users to download lessons beforehand, making it perfect for learning on the go, even in areas with limited internet connectivity.

While the app offers a pro plan, which eliminates ads, creates a custom practice plan and gives a couple more perks for the gamified experience of learning, most users can manage just fine with the free plan.

The only real downside of this app is its limited depth. While it offers a solid foundation in vocabulary and basic grammar, don’t rely on it for advanced language skills such as nuanced conversation and complex grammar structures. That’s why I only recommend this app for those learning a new language or cementing basic knowledge. Supplementing Duolingo with additional resources may be necessary for travelers aiming for higher proficiency levels. Also, some users (me included) have reported variations in the quality of Duolingo courses across different languages, with certain courses offering more comprehensive content and effective teaching methods than others. Travelers should research user reviews and ratings to ensure they select a language course that aligns with their learning preferences and goals.

✔️ The free plan is not very restrictive❌ The lessons don’t dive deep into vocabulary and grammar
✔️ Available on Android and iOS❌ Inconsistent quality across languages
✔️ Gamified learning experience
✔️ Offline mode for learning abroad or in remote areas
✔️ Over 39 language courses available for English speakers
✔️ Progress tracking and language proficiency tests

2. Rosetta Stone

Available on: Android & iOS

Best for: Learning basic useful phrases in popular languages and practicing pronunciation

Price: Free; Plans starting at $13.99/month (with a 12 months payment)

Android rating: 4.7⭐

iOS rating: 4.8⭐

Rosetta Stone has long been synonymous with language learning excellence, utilizing an immersive methodology. The company’s language learning programs, including its mobile app, offer learners a comprehensive and interactive approach to mastering new languages. What’s different about this app’s methods is that they only use natural associations of audio and images to text, to be able to assimilate the language. So you’re learning Spanish, you won’t learn words and phrases based on their English translations, but only by looking at pictures and listening to audio bits and understanding their context. I wouldn’t say it has enough courses for my liking (only 24 in total, including 2 courses for English – American and British – and 2 courses for Spanish – Latin America and Spain), but it definitely covers the most popular languages of the world.

Rosetta Stone provides a structured curriculum that gradually introduces vocabulary, grammar, and conversational skills systematically, but on the flip side, the lack of technical info in lessons about how certain mechanisms of the language work left me confused at times.

The app’s speech recognition technology enables learners to practice pronunciation and speaking skills with real-time feedback. This feature is invaluable for travelers looking to improve their oral communication skills and feel confident engaging in conversations with native speakers during their travels.

I wouldn’t say this app is for everyone, but try it if you want to learn a popular language (such as Spanish, German or French), if you prefer learning through context, if you want to improve your pronunciation or if you need an app that provides the most useful phrases you need in situations like dining out, asking for directions, shopping or checking in at a hotel.

✔️ Available on Android and iOS❌ Steeper learning curve compared with other apps or learning methods
✔️ Phrasebook with useful phrases for tourists available in some languages❌ The premium plans are quite pricy
✔️ Downloadable content for offline learning❌ Not enough info about how the languages work
✔️ Crystal-clear audio files❌ Only 24 languages available
✔️ Speech recognition technology, good for practising pronunciation

3. Drops

Available on: Android & iOS

Best for: Learning basic vocabulary in a visually-pleasing way

Price: Free; From $6/month (with a 12 months payment)

Android rating: 4.7⭐

iOS rating: 4.8⭐

Similarly to how Rosetta Stone works, Drops employs a visual learning methodology, presenting learners with vibrant illustrations and animations to reinforce vocabulary acquisition. This approach appeals to visual learners and helps create strong mental associations between words and their meanings, making it ideal for travelers aiming to quickly expand their vocabulary.

While Drops offers a free version with limited access to lessons, premium features such as unlimited learning time and access to all languages require a subscription. Travelers on a budget may find the subscription fees prohibitive, especially when compared to other free or lower-cost language learning apps.

Drops provide offline access to its lessons, allowing travelers to continue learning even in areas without internet connectivity. This feature is particularly advantageous for those embarking on travel adventures to remote destinations or navigating areas with limited internet access. The app has 51 languages available, which is a big plus if you’re going to countries like Romania, Finland, Samoa or Nigeria where you encounter very specific languages. You can choose from a variety of languages to learn, enabling you to tailor your language studies to your travel destinations or personal interests.

Drops emphasizes vocabulary retention through spaced repetition and mnemonic techniques. The app’s personalized learning algorithm adapts to each user’s progress, reinforcing previously learned words while introducing new ones, ensuring long-term retention of language skills. On the downside, Drops’ focus on vocabulary acquisition may result in a lack of depth in other language skills such as grammar, sentence structure, and conversational fluency. Travelers seeking a more comprehensive language learning experience may need to supplement Drops with additional resources to develop a well-rounded proficiency.

What I also found during the testing period was that, unlike some other language learning apps, Drops does not offer speaking practice or pronunciation feedback. You can only try to repeat the words after you hear them pronounced in the app, and only hope you’ll get it right.

✔️ Available on Android and iOS❌ Not ideal for learning grammar
✔️ Interactive mini-games with modern design❌ No support for speaking and pronunciation practice
✔️ Focus on vocabulary retention❌ The free version provides limited access to lessons
✔️ 51 courses, perfect for learning lesser-known languages
✔️ Offline access to lessons

4. Babbel

Available on: Android & iOS

Best for: Travelers seeking language proficiency

Price: Free trial; From $5/month (with a 12 months payment)

Android rating: 4.4⭐

iOS rating: 4.8⭐

Babbel is a leading language learning app designed to help users acquire practical language skills quickly and efficiently. Babbel provides a structured curriculum that covers all aspects of language learning, including vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and conversation skills. The app’s systematic approach ensures learners build a strong foundation and progress steadily through their language studies, making it suitable for travelers seeking comprehensive language proficiency.

Babbel’s lessons are designed to simulate real-life conversations, helping learners develop practical language skills that can be immediately applied in everyday situations. This focus on conversational fluency is particularly beneficial for travelers looking to communicate confidently with native speakers during their travels. Also, Babbel offers speech recognition technology that allows learners to practice pronunciation and speaking skills with real-time feedback.

What I like the most is that courses are tailored to each user’s proficiency level and learning goals, ensuring a personalized learning experience. The app’s adaptive review system tracks users’ progress and adjusts lesson content accordingly, maximizing learning efficiency and retention. Babbel’s lessons primarily focus on written language skills, such as reading and writing, with less emphasis on oral communication and listening comprehension.

What I didn’t like is that the app has a very limited selection of languages, the smallest from this list – only 14. If you need to learn less commonly taught languages, you may need to explore alternative resources.

While Babbel offers a free trial period, access to full course content and premium features requires a subscription. Travelers on a budget may find the subscription fees prohibitive, especially when compared to other free or lower-cost language learning apps.

✔️ Available on Android and iOS❌ Free 7 days trial, after which users must buy a subscription
✔️ The lessons are structured to teach vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and conversation skills❌ Small selection of courses (14 languages)
✔️ Learning through conversations that simulate real-life situations❌ Not much emphasis on oral communication and listening comprehension
✔️ Speech recognition technology to help with practicing pronunciation
✔️ Offline access to lessons
✔️ Personalized learning experience


In a world where borders blur and cultures intertwine, the ability to communicate across languages is paramount for enriching travel experiences and fostering meaningful connections. As a seasoned traveler with a passion for language learning, I’ve embarked on a journey to uncover the ultimate language app for travelers, exploring a diverse array of options tailored to different linguistic pursuits.

From the gamified immersion of Duolingo to the structured curriculum of Babbel, and the visual feast of Drops to the versatile translation capabilities of iTranslate Translator, each app offers its own unique blend of features and benefits. Whether you’re seeking to master a new language, navigate unfamiliar terrain, or engage in authentic cultural exchanges, there’s a language app to suit your needs.

As I reflect on my experiences testing these language apps, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the best language app for travel is ultimately the one that aligns with your learning style, travel itinerary, and personal preferences. Whether you prioritize vocabulary retention, conversational fluency, or cultural immersion, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

So, whether you’re a globetrotter yearning to converse effortlessly in foreign lands or a curious explorer eager to delve into new linguistic realms, may you find the perfect language app to accompany you on your travels, enriching your adventures and expanding your horizons along the way. Or, if you already have some other good options tested, feel free to share the knowledge in the comments section below and I might even include your suggestions in the list. Bon voyage and happy learning!

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