Four Awesome Tools for Learning a New Language

Je parle un peu français.

Matt and I both have a background in French. He studied for three years in high school and I took a year (in addition to two years of Spanish and five years of German). Needless to say it’s been a while since either of us had daily practice with a language other than English.

Knowing we’re headed to France soon, we started brushing up on our français so we can communicate with our new friends and neighbors in their native tongue (or at least give it the old college try!). There are a lot of different tools and programs out there that offer language tutorials, but here are our favorites so far:

1. Rosetta Stone. I’ve seen commercials for Rosetta Stone for years and often thought about purchasing a language pack to brush up on French, Spanish or German, but never made the move. We decided to give it a try and I’m glad we did. We opted to download the course and supplement it with the online tools (which ran us about $250). I love that the courses teach you in the way you’d learn a language as a child (matching images and words, sounding out terms, etc.). In addition to the basic lessons, we have the option of playing games, conversing with native speakers and reading stories in French (you can record the stories as you read out loud so you can see where your pronunciation is accurate or inaccurate). I even have access to my lessons on the Rosetta Stone app on my phone, which is perfect for some of the shorter trips we’ll be taking where I don’t want to bring my laptop.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

2. Duolingo. A friend turned me on to this app and it is so much fun! It starts you at the very basics with quick courses that take about five to 10 minutes to complete. You earn points (Lingots) as you complete lessons, allowing you to “buy” new attire for Duo (your guide through the course) or bonus skills (I’m aiming for 30 points so I can learn how to flirt with Matt in French). You set a goal about how much you want to practice each day and get encouraging reminders if you haven’t met your daily goal. Oh, have I mentioned the app is FREE? My favorite phrase I learned so far is: Je suis une mouche (I am a fly).

Image courtesy of

3. TripLingo. I have loved this app since the early days when it was just getting launched by founder Jesse Maddox. I’m fortunate to have met Jesse back when I was living in Atlanta and he is a super nice guy with an awesome story about starting his company (which made me a big fan right off the bat). Where other language courses teach you the formal way of speaking and reading, TripLingo teaches you the common vernacular with slang and “crazy” translations (C’est chanmé!). The free version includes basic content in 13 languages and a premium subscription (which ranges from one month for $19.99 to one year for $99.99) gives you full access to over 2,000 phrases per language, as well as unlimited use of the voice translator, audio lessons and the dictionary. In addition, it includes tips on culture and safety (did you know you shouldn’t ask for a doggie bag for your leftovers in France? That tip might help save your life–and help you save face!).

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

4. French English Dictionary (from VidaLingua). When I want to look up a specific word or phrase, I turn to my French-English dictionary app. In addition to a searchable dictionary, it includes common phrases and audio pronunciations. It also includes a searchable verb list with conjugations and a word quiz. You can download a basic free version that is plenty for just starting out. A full version with even more phrases and terms is available for $9.00.

Screenshot of the app.
Screenshot of the app.

Do you have a favorite language tool or app? Let me know in the comments below!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Marc says:

    Hi Becky,
    Thanks for getting the word out about all the great travel apps and for including French English Dictionary + (VidaLingua)!
    We released a new app called PhraseMates which may interest your readers. It’s a community driven phrasebook for English, French and several other language. A beta version is available for Android at link below.
    Marc Bolh
    Founder VidaLingua


    1. beckyabb says:

      Thanks for the tip, Marc! Sounds like a great app. Unfortunately I’m an Apple gal, but would love to check it out as soon as you have the iPhone version available.


      1. Marc says:

        PhraseMates will be available on iOS this summer.
        Marc, Founder VidaLingua


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