Traveling to another country can be a daunting, yet exciting opportunity. The language, culture, currency, and more can all be challenging.
Luckily, with technology at our fingertips, anyone can find apps that help mitigate the language difficulties that come with travelling abroad. In the past, we’ve looked at apps that focus on teaching us languages as well as some designed for travel.
A crucial piece of language learning is putting what you’ve learned into practice. We lead busy lives, so meet-up groups or classrooms aren’t an option for a lot people. Language learners need and want something easy and inexpensive, while still being able to gain an understanding of the language—especially one with which they're unfamiliar—and this is precisely what HelloTalk delivers.
When learning a language, the best way to improve your skills is to have regular conversations with people who speak the language natively. We found that’s what was missing in our language learning application experience. HelloTalk connects you to users across the globe who are interested in learning a new language and or teaching their native tongue.
Learning to Learn
Once downloaded, navigating the app isn’t as intuitive as on some of the other language learning applications we tested. Adding basic personal information is easy, but beyond that, maneuvering through the application requires some thinking. For instance: if you want to change the language you want to learn, you have to go into the user profile and tap language preferences on the profile page rather than accessing them from the settings tab. But as with anything, the more you use it, the easier it is to use.
Unlike the other apps, HelloTalk has a more bare bones website. The only extras are the FAQs which are graphics that answer some basic user questions. On one hand, it’s convenient that it’s all in the app, on the other hand, not being able to use the website for user guides or as a point of reference might frustrate the non-tech savvy user.
Be sure that you know exactly which language you want to learn. In the free version of HelloTalk, you can only switch between languages once every two days. If you want more freedom to explore learning the hundreds of languages the app offers, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version. These include
- Monthly subscriptions for $6.99 USD
- Yearly subscriptions for $39.99 USD
- Lifetime subscriptions for $89.99 USD
The other advantages to the paid versions are that you get unlimited translations (whereas with the free version, the user is limited to 15 translations per day,) and it becomes free of advertisements.
You’ve downloaded the application; you’ve made your language preferences, now it’s time to find a partner. Under the search icon, HelloTalk gives you a list of people who are speakers of the language you want to learn. You can organize your results by the best match, who’s online at the moment, or any user who has a fully completed profile wherein you can learn more about them. From there you can choose your partner(s) and start a conversation.
The also app features a “Moments” section. It’s a Twitter-like feed where all users of the app can post photos or questions. You can interact with all users, partners with whom you’ve already started a conversation, or as a group.
Because you’re interacting with humans and not machines, HelloTalk has an edit feature so a teacher can correct a learner’s grammar to show proper use of a word form, thereby making the experience of learning a language more powerful.
The Internet is not without its dangers and certainly neither is using an app, especially when personal information is involved. HelloTalk has strict rules about what information can be posted or exchanged between partners and groups. They’re dedicated to keeping it a learning environment and not a dating app. This makes it safe for users of any age.
In 2020, HelloTalk released content amid the COVID-19 pandemic to provide users worldwide with access to even more educational materials. The new additions included more than 70 free course in six languages, giving people a productive way to use their time spent in isolation.
Hello or Goodbye?
Globalization isn’t going away and we’d all be better served learning to navigate this new world. HelloTalk can play a significant role in building a bridge in cultural and language learning, building a new generation of translators and interpreters, and machine learning. Since we upgraded to the paid version of the app, we’re going to give it a score of 10 out of 10 because where it falters in its ease of use, it more than makes up for it in being a practical way to learn a language.
Triplingo has a plethora of features, many focused on business travel. Once you sign up, the free, basic version has access to most of these features, with the others stowed away behind a premium paywall, which features three levels of payment.
If using premium, a user can unlock access to over 2000+ phrases per language, unlimited voice translator use, audio lessons for languages, and more.
The app offers over a hundred destinations to choose from, where you can select your target country. When you select a country, you can download audio files for the country’s primary language—although this feature is mostly for popular languages like Spanish, German, and Arabic.
One of the best parts of TripLingo, the phrasebook offers an extensive list of phrases divided into separate sections, such as “Just the Basics,” “Eating & Drinking,” and even “Compliments & Flirting”. These phrases are perfect for quick, important questions and statements that might arise during a trip.
For the most commonly used languages, you can choose to say a phrase based on four levels—formal, casual, slang, and crazy. These levels are based on how formal or casual the phrases are in conversation.
The voice translator lets you speak a simple phrase or word into the microphone, and the app will translate it. You can also type it into a keyboard feature on the app, which will then translate the text. If something more complicated needs be translated, you can pay a fee to instantly call a live translator.
To deal with signs, menus, and text in general, TripLingo has an image translator. Simply take a picture of the text through the app, and TripLingo will translate it.
TripLingo lets you avoid roamer chargers by connecting to wi-fi for free calls to increase efficiency, a user can select country codes from a list, and they can access phone contacts.
Etiquette, country info, travel tips, dining guides, and more are a part of TripLingo’s culture guide. The sections have a lot of information within them, too, with the etiquette section containing sections about body language, dining, punctuality, taboos, language overview, and so on.
Conversions, such as currency, length, weight, and temperature vary from country to country. As a result, TripLingo has implemented a “Conversions” section, nicely put into Travel Tools. This section also has a learning center dedicated to teaching how to speak the target language through audio lessons, flashcards, wordbanks, and more.
There’s no telling what could happen in a foreign country, and TripLingo wants you to know how to handle any situation that springs up. The Safety section has general safety tips, emergency numbers, embassy information, medical terminology, and even a hospital directory.
Final Impressions of TripLingo
Instead of spending hours googling basic, cursory questions about a country you’ll be visiting, TripLingo does all of the work for you, condensing a large amount of information into an intuitive, expansive app. While there may be some issues with the translation accuracy, it good enough to get the gist of a conversation, and have the locals understand what you’re saying.
Obviously, it’s still important to learn the country's language instead of relying solely on a voice translator and a phrasebook, and TripLingo gives you the tools to do exactly that, with flashcards, pronunciation cards, and dictionaries all coming in handy.
Overall, this app is absolutely worth downloading, and can be a useful addition for a trip to any country in the world. While apps like Duolingo might be a better resource for actually learning a language, TripLingo can help you handle anything and everything when traveling.
Asking questions is an important part of becoming bilingual. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find fluent speakers for unique questions you might have. The HiNative app tries to answer this issue, creating an app to connect with fluent speakers online.
The result? A must-have app for any language learner, and one that rewards both asking and answering questions.
Basics of HiNative
When first using the app, you will be prompted to select what your native language is, as well as any languages that interest you. HiNative offers an impressive amount of language options, with over 100 options, including country-specific language options, such as Spanish in Mexico.
Once you’ve made your selections, you become part of several communities. Each of these communities specifically focus on either of your language selections. By breaking up the community based on language and interests, HiNative allows you to interact with people who are knowledgeable about either your native language or the language that interests you.
In addition to selecting those options, you can go one step further and select countries or regions that you personally know well, and countries and regions that interest you. By doing this, you get your questions answered by locals, and can answer questions that pertain to your own country.
HiNative offers many free features, but there is also a premium version, which allows you to give priority listing to your questions, bookmark important questions you find, remove ads from the app, and more.
After making those selections, you can go to the question hub, where you’ll find a list of question formats, each allowing you to ask focused questions that range from what the difference is between two words to asking for definitions.
The “Does this sound natural” option even allows you to record your sentence for others to hear your exact pronunciations. Users can then provide ratings based on how natural or unnatural your accent and phrasing sounds, and offer advice on how to improve.
After you post a question, you simply wait for answers from the community. Every user has a rank based on how helpful they are with answering questions. Answers from high-ranking members of the community will typically have more merit than answers from level 1 users.
To test how quickly the response would be to a question, I asked how to say “I want bacon for breakfast” in Spanish (Mexican).
Within a short time, I had an assortment of answers. While there was some variation in those answers, I quickly got a good understanding of how to say a sentence in Spanish that I previously didn’t know.
Users earn points for answering questions, and will earn more points by answering questions that have been posted within 5-10 minutes. This way, HiNative gives a great amount of incentive for users to answer questions, instead of leaving them to stagnate.
If the original poster or a fluent speaker finds an answer useful, they can “like” the answer, giving points to the user who answered the question.
This is just one example of how useful the question hub can be. The multiple question formats, intuitive layout, and speedy, accurate responses all make for a positive experience.
Joining the Community
Of course, asking questions is only half the fun of HiNative. From the app’s homepage, you can view questions in your own native language and country, and for languages and countries you’re interested in.
From the homepage, you can interact with the community, answering questions that pertain to your own personal knowledge. Questions can be filtered based on if they’re unanswered, relate to your language of interest, or if the questions contain audio.
The community is friendly and helpful, encouraging a positive environment for asking and answering questions.
Final Impressions of HiNative
Finding a good source for specific questions about a language or country can be difficult on the Internet. It’s even more difficult to ask those questions and get responses from fluent speakers within minutes. HiNative achieves both expertly.
By providing several question formats and rewarding quick, accurate answers, the app creates a community of users. Some might question how reliable these users can be, but those concerns are easily assuaged by the fact that long-time members who contribute quality content are identified by their ranking. Furthermore, the community is self-policing. If an incorrect answer is given, others can come in with the correct answer, which then can be “liked” by users who are fluent in that language.
Overall, HiNative is an easy app that is useful for any language learner who wants to get answers about a language from fluent speakers.
In the digital age, anything you want is a touch screen away. That includes learning a new language. If you spend a lot of time on the go, a fair amount of your time is spent waiting. You may want something to occupy your time. So, United Language Group took a few language learning applications for a spin. After carefully surveying the options we decided on the highly popular mobile application, Duolingo, as our first review in a three part series of language learning applications.
First, Duolingo is free. Upon download, setting up the app was a quite easy; enter in some basic personal information, how committed you are to practicing, and then you’re off on a linguistic adventure. For the English speaker, the application has 36 languages from which to choose and more being added.
There’s really not much to it. Using a combination of photo pairing, word matching, and translation, each language lesson starts the user with the basic parts of speech and guides them all the way through the lexicon through some of the more advanced topics.
We started with the Spanish lessons. One of nice things about that module is that it allows the user to test their accent and pronunciation using the microphone feature, and grades the speech. (It’s great practice for anyone who hasn’t trilled their r’s in a while.) After testing out the Spanish module, we decided to tackle the lesser known Irish language.
The intention was to use the app to learn an obscure language. The speech feature was the one thing notably missing from the Irish lessons. What was appreciated was that the unfamiliar words and phrases were highlighted so the user can tap them and to show their spelling, meaning, and or variation whether the word appears in English or in the foreign language.
When spelling out the foreign word during translation practice, if you are generally correct, the app gives you a gentle reminder to watch your accent marks or lets you know you have a typo. If you’re totally wrong, it will respond in kind and provide you with the correct word for future use.
Each lesson is scored and allows you to keep track of your daily progress.
Platforms and Support
Not only can you access Duolingo on a smartphone or tablet, but also via the Internet using your same login credentials and pick up on your lesson(s) wherever you left off. If you’re the kind of person who needs or wants to use the app in concert with other people, it is a bit lonely in that respect. To create a learning community, you have to find your own friends through your own social media channels, contact lists, or specifically know the name of another person already using the application.
Each morning, the app sends a reminder to practice the last accessed language. If the user hasn’t logged on in a while, Duolingo will send a message saying it misses you and as much heartfelt encouragement as an app can give, to practice your language lessons.
We also took a tour of some of the other languages offered and they all work within the app very similarly.
To Download or Delete?
We fully completed the Irish course and while fluency wasn’t gained, we can now read, write and speak more Irish than when we started. However, from an academic perspective, we’re left with a desire to learn more about the structure of the language while on the go. (This is something you receive in the online version, but not within the mobile application.)
Furthermore, the online site is a bit more robust: there are discussion boards and more interactive spaces than you’ll receive in the mobile application.
From a user standpoint, on a scale of one to 10, hands down, ULG gives the app a solid 10 for price, ease of use, and support. Children as well as adult learners will benefit from this and with improvements being made, what seems to be, daily, to both the app and the website, learning another language has never been more fun!
5) Living Language
Though Living Language was free and easy to download and set up, we still had reservations about it meeting the need for learning the language structure. We went through the first beginner lessons and found the vocabulary drills are flashcards with transliteration (which you can turn off and on), and pronunciation. Once the vocabulary was mastered, we were introduced to vocabulary matching games, fill in the blank activities, and listening and translation activities.
We took a deeper dive; we found exactly what was missing in the first language learning app experience. Within the application, there are breakdowns of grammar and pronunciation with some brief history of the language and the culture.
Making a Commitment
It should be noted that our experience with Duolingo was a great start as we were able to apply some of that knowledge here. After completing the 10 beginner lessons, there was feeling of accomplishment that we were able to move easily and quickly through a new language. We decided to tackle the intermediate section.
After venturing into the intermediate pool, we were sold. This app has everything required and then some. Upon completion of the beginner lessons we already decided the app was a keeper. After the brief experience in the intermediate section, we decided it was worth paying the $10 USD for the app.
Taking a tour of the Living Language website, it offers English speakers more than 20 different languages to learn and if you’re a fan of the HBO mega-hit, “Game of Thrones,” you can also learn Dothraki. The full website also offers e-Tutoring, downloadable phrasebooks with pronunciation guides and the biggest value add we found: for those learning English, there’s a guide to idiomatic expressions. If you’re traveling, fully supported, bite-sized language lessons are available to help you navigate while you’re abroad. Perhaps you work in law enforcement or healthcare. Language lessons are available that help address some of the issues that may arise while you’re at work.
The Envelope Please
Like anything you buy, you get what you pay for. ULG was more than impressed with the free version of Living Language and as noted previously, we were more than happy to upgrade to the paid version to take our learning further. If you’re looking for a robust, language learning experience that combines an academic approach, this is the program for you. On a scale of one to 10, we give Living Language an 11.
If you’re looking for more language lessons and tips for improving your globalization success, explore the rest of our blog!