Before I traveled, I failed to realize that having English as my first language was such a privilege. I have always been envious of foreign accents. Foreign languages are like a code that your brain so badly wants to crack. You lean closer to the foreigner’s face as they speak, you stare at their moving lips, hoping their words will translate before your eyes. But they don’t. You try to pick out keywords. But every words is a keyword. Because you have no clue what any of it means.
English speakers often learn other languages for fun or to put “bilingual” under the skills section of their resume. I am doing so myself.
But non-English speakers often learn English to improve their socioeconomic status. English dominates the academic, working and social worlds.
“My friends and I were studying Spanish at the same school in Quito, Ecuador. But when socializing, we relied on English. I expected everyone around me – whether they were Dutch, German, Swiss, Latin American, and so on – I expected them to speak English. How arrogant is that?”
This thought didn’t occur to me until my Swiss friend asked me the other day “Has it ever occurred to you that you don’t have to learn other languages, because every other country is trying to learn English?”
From then on, I tried to speak to her in Spanish – a language we were both learning. Also, she taught me a few Swiss-German phrases.
Respect is a universal language. The easiest way to show respect in any culture is to, at the very least, try to communicate in the corresponding language. Do not resort to your own language. Trust me, no matter how bad you sound, people will appreciate your effort.
Here are a few apps to help you crack the code of your new language:
Duolingo allows you to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Portuguese during your morning commute or lunch breaks. Duolingo does not beat conjugations and vocabulary into your head like your high school language teacher. Instead, you’re trained to understand total phrases in various communication methods like writing, reading, listening. Your language studying becomes game-like. So you’re always trying to level up!
The App is totally free. No demos or trial runs. How? Luis von Ahn, founder of Duolingo, partnered with companies like Buzzfeed and CNN. These partners send documents to Duolingo that need to be translated. Those documents are used as teaching materials for Duolingo students who translate the documents. Technically, Duolingo creates a win-win situation for its users and business partners.
*Available for iphone and android users
With Babble, you have the opportunity to learn 13 different languages. The app tests your language level and suggests different lessons for you. Sometimes you know the word you need to say, but you don’t know how to say it correctly (which doesn’t help when you need to converse with someone). That’s why Babbel provides pronunciation training as well.
Babbel also places an emphasis on vocabulary. The use of pictures helps visual learners engrave words into their memory for more effective learning.
Also, you can study languages as they pertain to different categories like:
- Human resources
You can try a Babbel demo for free and pay for the full version later. The best value package is 12 months for $6.95/month.
*Available on iphone and android devices
Learn over 50 languages with Mango Languages – a program used by businesses, higher education programs, government agencies, and individual learners all around the world. Mango also adds an emphasis on cultures and dabs cultural facts into your studying. Features like voice comparison and audio listening allows you to perfect your pronunciation.
Other features include:
- Memory building exercises
- Learn through conversations
- Understood and literal meanings
- Grammar insights
Mango languages, originally an online platform, is now available on mobile platforms. But you must be subscribed to Mango Languages to use this app. It is more expensive than other applications.
The first level costs $79 and the second and third level cost $132. To buy all three levels at once costs $176.
*Available for iphone and Android users
If you have ever tried learning a new language, you know you have a foundation of most used words.
For example in Spanish, verbs like “quierer,” “estar,” and “ser,” are commonly used during conversation. Mental trainer Tony Buzan claims that “only 100 words make up 50% of all conversations.” Lingibli uses this data to focus on key words and phrases to teach its users.
Lingibli is not meant to teach an entire language, however. The idea is to reduce friction and frustration when you are thrown into a different country. It’s for those moments often taken for granted in one’s home country – like ordering a meal at a restaurant or asking for directions.
Lingibli provides learning material for over 20 languages and is free to download. Internet access is not required to use this app.
*Available on iphone and Android devices
Byki teaches over 80 languages in a 3-step process aimed for speed and addiction to ensure learning that sticks. Equipped with a flashcard interface, the user is taught their new language through memorization style.
Quickstart multiple choice quizzes test your learning. Also, test your pronunciation skills with Byki’s SlowSound™ technology.
Byki emphasizes vocabulary rather than grammar structures stating that “vocabulary is more fundamental than grammar.”
Byki is also available as an online program. For mobile platforms, each language costs $7.99.
What language tools do you use to prepare for your travels? Share them with us!