Practice a foreign language on the go, on your lunch break, or on your next international flight with TripLingo, an app that can teach you essential phrases, translate your voice, allow you to talk to a live translator, and provide a crash course on local culture.
Click “more” to see what else you can learn from TripLingo.
First Things First
It should be noted right up front that TripLingo is free to try, but use of the full app requires a purchase. In the trial version of the app, you can access the basics for just one language, although you can switch between languages. It costs $9.99 to unlock all the content for a language, $19.99 to unlock three languages and $49.99 for all languages.
TripLingo includes more than 1,200 phrases per language (including colloquialisms), with available languages being Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Hebrew and Castilian Spanish.
And another disclaimer: You will have to sign up for a TripLingo account. You can do this using Facebook or an email address. Either way, setup doesn’t take long. After that, you just have to pick a language and begin exploring the app.
You’ll notice there’s a lot going on with your home screen. The language you’re learning is displayed at the top, along with the upgrade button. Below those are your Lingo status bar and current badge. Below that, a search bar. Below that, buttons for My Phrases; Translator; Travel Situations; and Flashcards. Finally, along the very bottom of the screen you’ll find tabs for Dictionary, Culture, Talk Live, Word Bank and Options.
Under My Phrases, you can view lists of phrases. For example, TripLingo has already compiled a list of essential phrases for you, but here you can also create custom lists, as well as access a list of Favorite phrases. To add any phrase to your list of Favorites, simply tap the star next to it.
To see what you could be learning with TripLingo, let’s take a look at the essentials list under My Phrases. Here you’ll find useful phrases like “How much does it cost?” and “I don’t understand.” Tap on any phrase to learn more. At the top of the screen you’ll see the phrase in English. Below that, a literal translation. Below that, the phrase in the foreign language. And below that, a slider so you can toggle between formal, casual, slang and crazy versions of the same phrase. (The literal translation changes for each of those options, too.)
Below the slider there are yet more buttons to provide you with additional information. The Context button provides tips for when you might use this phrase, details regarding connotation, etc. The other three buttons — Slow, Normal and Phonetic — are there to help you with pronunciation. Press Slow or Normal and you’ll hear a native speaker say the phrase in the foreign language; press Phonetic and you’ll see the entire phrase written out phonetically, so you can practice saying it out loud on your own.
The lite version of TripLingo allows for 10 uses of the translator feature, which can translate typed or spoken text between English and the foreign language. Either tap the microphone and follow the prompt to speak in English or another language to the app; or tap on “or type” to enter your own text (and select the flag of the input language’s country).
Once TripLingo translates for you, you’ll see the text in both English and the other language, and you can hit “play” to hear the translation spoken aloud. Not only is this tool useful for translating something you want to say from English into another language, but also for checking your pronunciation in a foreign language.
Why mess with what works, right? Here’s an age-old study tool that’s been brought into the digital age. (TripLingo even has each phrase on what resembles an index card!) While the app displays the text for a word or phrase in English, you try to recall the word or phrase in the language you’re learning. You can then tap “Flip Card” to jog your memory or see if you were right, plus tap the Play button to hear the word or phrase spoken in the foreign language.
Telling TripLingo that you already know the phrase will cycle to the next card. Actually, telling the app that you don’t know the phrase will cycle to another card as well. It’s my hope that clicking Yes takes the flashcard out of rotation, and clicking No keeps the card in the digital stack, but I really can’t say for sure what TripLingo’s reasons are behind the Yes/No question.
TripLingo also comes with a 10,000-word offline dictionary; a live translator capability (currently, the only languages this is available for are Hindi, Mandarin and Spanish); a word bank (words are listed according to subject or category, rather than alphabetically, as in a dictionary); and a very educational Culture section.
Under Culture you can learn more about general etiquette, doing business, music and pop culture, dining, safety information, travel tips and more for a country, as well as supplementary language information (for example, proverbs, pronunciation key and brief history).
I have a few bones to pick with TripLingo. First, it’s English-based, meaning you must learn whatever other language you’re interested in learning/practicing using English as the instructional language.
Despite that, I noticed a few major pronunciation errors in the English translations that were spoken (for example, the word “allowed” was spoken as “allo-ved”). And at some point the status bar on my home screen started showing “undefined” instead of a numeral for the percentage of content I had mastered.
And finally, I have an issue with the pricing. In my opinion, $9.99 may be a bit steep, given the fact that live translation isn’t available for every language offered and there are still bugs to be worked out. This isn’t to say, however, that the app seems thrown together; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. TripLingo has been very well thought out and organized, and ambitiously seeks to cover a lot of ground.
If TripLingo can smooth over those hiccups mentioned above, then I’d say there’s nothing that could stop this app from being ranked at the very top of the list of phrase guidebook apps.