4 Best Free Language Tools
You’ve booked an Adventure Travel Trip with Explorer Chick. You’re rearing to go. You’re just dying to jump off a waterfall and swim in the ocean (maybe even go skinny dipping?). But, then you remember, “I don’t speak Spanish.” How in the world am I supposed to get around with my spotty Spanish at best? Aha, you decide you’ll buy that Rosetta Stone you always see on TV and hear about on the radio. But wait, it’s hundreds of dollars. WHAT?! No way. That right there is the cost of a new surf bikini, an umbrella chair, a massage, a night out dancing with cocktails for your entire crew—plus the hottie teaching you merengue, and a big lunch to soak up the night before. ¡No, gracias!
Fear not Explorer Chicks and Language Barrier Warriors. We’ve listed our four favorite FREE language tools to help you travel with ease. Whether you just want a refresher course from what you learned in high school, need to know enough to get around, or want to dive straight into fully learning a new language these tools will have you dancing the Merengue in no time.
1. Google Translate
Ah yes, Google Translate, is one of the many tools that Google has created and shares freely to make the world go round. I love Google Translate. It is an “On-Demand” translation. Just pull up the app or Google “Google Translator” and boom, there you go. Type in your word and it kicks out the translation. For example, if you’re running around the Dominican Republic looking to buy Avocados and no one seems to know what you’re talking about, you can learn the Spanish word for Avocado instantly (Aguacate. Seriously. I had no idea. Avocado looks Spanish, right?).
After purchasing World Lens, Google added an amazing feature that translates written language instantly using your camera. You simply hold your camera over the text and you’ll see the words transform into the language of your choosing. If nothing else, download it right now to your Android or iOS and play with it. The technology is astonishing. And, this feature is available offline. As for the “On-Demand” translation, unless you have an Android, it is NOT available offline. Android users can get instructions for downloading a language for offline use HERE. However and hopefully, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it’s available for iOS users offline.
2. CoolGorilla Phrasebook App
Phrasebooks are a World Traveler’s God Send. They are like a personal assistant whispering those need-to-know words in your ear as you order food from a restaurant, hail a cab, or get directions. Organized in different categories including Essentials, Travel, Food, and Drink, the Cool Gorilla phrase book is easy to use. Not only can you look up common phrases and words in a pinch from your phone, but it also talks. If you have no idea how to pronounce a word or phrase, let the Hairy Primate do the dirty work. Hit the microphone and the phrase will be read out loud which you can share. And the best part of this app is it works OFFLINE! This is crucial when traveling overseas. Unless you have an international plan, you won’t have access to your data, and Wi-Fi is rarely readily available. Cool Gorilla is available for both Android and iOS in several languages.
For the Explorer Chicks who want to do more than just get by in a foreign land, Duolingo offers free software to LEARN Spanish. What sets this app apart is how it teaches you Spanish. Its not the same memorization and conjugations that you learned in High School. Instead, you practice the essential Spanish by writing, speaking, and listening to it over and over. Its also designed like a game where you go through different level trees. As you progress, you earn Lingots which can be exchanged for more learning tools or power-ups in the Lingot School. Plus, you can invite friends and have a friendly (or not so friendly) Lingot earning competition. You can also set goals for completion and Duolingo will send you notifications. The convenience, price (FREE), and comprehensiveness is what truly makes Duolingo stand out. Its available on Android and iOS which makes learning a new language convenient. Waiting in line at the grocery store? Learn Spanish. Spending some time in the bathroom? Learn Spanish. You get the point. The web version is more interactive allowing you to join in discussions and even help translate the web.
4. BBC: Mi Vida Loca (Spanish)
Are you a Netflix junkie that watches episode after episode of a show because you have to know what happens next? Then BBC’s “Mi Vida Loca” is for you. Its like “Dora the Explorer”, but for adults. It’s a television series that is filmed from your perspective. The plot is that you travel to Spain to stay with a friend. However, your friend is not able to join you and instead, you tag along with her roommate, Merche. Merche takes you on a wild Adventure all while you learn essential Spanish when traveling. Each episode has both English and Spanish subtitles so you can read along. It also stops from time to time so you can participate and learn. After an episode, there is a practice section and the opportunity to print out new vocabulary and language rules. The series has a total of 22 episodes and heart throbbing theme music. Bet you can’t watch just one!The BBC’s Language section features other languages including French, Chinese, Greek, and German. Each language has their own webpage and available tools. After you conquer one language, move to the next!