Thanks to Covid-19, this is definitely not going to be the summer of travel. There are a few things you can do though, if you’re really missing the thrill of adventure or the chance to experience something new. After you’ve exhausted your supply of travel books and movies filmed in your favorite places, maybe it’s time to try a new hobby that might actually bring more meaning to a future trip—learning a new language. Here are four apps to help you get started, whether you just want to pick up a few travel phrases or want to have real conversations with the locals the next time you’re abroad.
Duolingo uses a series of word matching and fill-in-the-blank translation games to teach you all the grammar rules, words and phrases you’ll need to put sentences together on your own. Earn gems for each lesson you do and use them to unlock fun perks like the ability to freeze a streak—great for those times when you’ve practiced all week but end up missing a day—and refill hearts so you can keep practicing without losing all your “lives.”
Languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Czech, Welsh, Danish, Greek, Esperanto, Finnish, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, High Valerian—you read that right, Game of Thrones fans—Hawaiian, Indonesian, Korean, Latin, Norwegian, Navajo, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Swahili, Klingon from Star Wars, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, English and Mandarin.
Price: Basic lessons are free. For an ad-free learning experience, do the seven-day free trial and sign up for Duolingo Plus for $6.99 a month to score unlimited hearts, progress quizzes and offline access to lessons.
Lessons with Babbel are aimed at getting you ready to speak to people by using a series of real-life dialogue scenarios to help build your confidence. It’s up to you whether you’d like to practice your new language through the app or via Babbel’s website, as there’s a desktop version available, too.
Price: While your first lesson in each course is free, a subscription is needed for unlimited access to the rest of your classes. One-month subscriptions are $12.95 per month, while three-month subscriptions are $8.95 per month, six-month subscriptions are $7.45 a month and one-year subscriptions are $6.95 a month.
Languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Norwegian, Dutch, Polish, Indonesian, Danish, Swedish and Turkish.
Busuu invites you to “learn a language in 10 minutes a day” by using audio flashcards to help you learn what to say in real-life settings. A Premium account lets you practice with native speakers so you can really get a sense of what the language is supposed to sound like, while a Premium Plus account also throws in personalized lesson plans and the chance to master up to 12 languages. Like Babbel, there’s a desktop version as well as the app.
Price: The first lesson in each course is free, so it’s fine if you’re trying to refresh your memory or just practice some basic vocabulary from one language. For anything more, you’ll need to sign up for a Premium account ($9.99 for each month, $5.83 per month for one year or $5.41 per month for two years) or a Premium Plus account ($13.99 for each month, $6.66 per month for one year or $5.74 per month for two years).
Languages: Spanish, English, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Polish, Turkish and Arabic.
Available in app form, Rosetta Stone offers a choice of plans, whether you’re planning to use your new language for work, travel, build a foundation with basics or speak to family members.
Price: While some lessons are available for free, there are three options if you’d like to go deeper: $44.99 for three months of lessons in one language, $109.99 for a year of lessons in an unlimited number of languages or a one-time payment of $199.99 for lifetime access to all languages.
Languages: Spanish (with options for Latin America or Spain), French, Italian, German, Dutch, English, British English, Tagalog, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish and Vietnamese.