Best Free Travel Translation and Language Apps

“No comprendo” or “je ne parle pas francais” are no longer excuses for not standing in line or paying a bill, thanks to the development of travel translation apps that can turn your utterances into the native language and vice versa, so you’ll never again have to worry about the finer points of German adverbs.

Each of these free travel translation apps have pluses and minuses, but let’s focus on one plus they all have: They’re free! Not only do they pledge to tear down the language barrier, but they each have a version that will do it absolutely gratis.

Let’s look at the four top free translation/language apps: Google Translate, Apple Live Text and Translate, Duolingo, and HelloTalk.

Google Translate

Once upon a time, there was a language app called WordLens. It worked with your phone’s camera, and would translate any words you pointed your camera at into a variety of languages. It was a friendly little app that would accompany many people as they traveled the globe, but it was also a lonely little app because it didn’t have any other apps to play with.

Not to worry! Google brought the little app and introduced it to all the apps and phones and tools in the Google universe. It even gave it a new name: Google Translate.

All true, and the happiest of endings is that not only will Google Translate still translate any signs, menus or other printed material you point your camera at, but it can do the same for spoken language as well.

Google Translate is ridiculously useful. It can make the most difficult languages as easy as English (which is actually a difficult language). It breaks down barriers and keeps you from looking foolish if you have to write an email in another language (but beware: sometimes its translations are very literal).

Download Google Translate for iOS and Android.

Apple Live Text/Translate

Here you get Apple’s take on Google Translate. Much like the beloved little app that could, Live Text takes words in a foreign language from multiple sources – pictures, text, spoken words – and translates them into your lingua franca.

It works like this: Open up “Translate” on your iPhone. If you’ve taken a picture of text, highlight that text on the picture and click “Select All.”

After you’ve done that, go back to Translate, paste the text, and select the language of the text and the language for the translation. The translation will appear below the original text.

Spoken words are easier. Click the microphone at the bottom of the Translate window and start speaking. Make sure you’ve indicated the appropriate source language, and the language you want your words translated into.

The “Conversation” mode lets you go back and forth between languages.

It’s only available on Apple devices.


Google Translate and Apple Live Text can help you learn a language, but they’re better at helping you through a foreign language when you’re traveling. If you’re looking to learn a new language on a budget, Duolingo is definitely the way to go.

Duolingo was designed by language experts to make it easy and fun to learn a new language. It’s highly gamified, so expect lots of challenges and rewards and participation medals as you hack your way through the hundreds of levels that take you from nothing to proficiency.

Duolingo is not the fastest way to learn a language by any means – at the recommended 10-15 minutes a day, expect proficiency to take years – but it’s also probably the most painless way to learn.

Download Duolingo for iOS and Android.


HelloTalk sits somewhere between Duolingo and Google Translate: While it’s a language-learning app, it also relies on interpersonal relationships to build language proficiency.

HelloTalk works like this: Once you decide you want to learn a language, HelloTalk pairs you with speakers of that language. You connect, exchange messages back and forth, correct each other’s spelling and grammar, and begin to build a relationship.

There’s also a general feed if you want more anonymity, and experts available (for a fee) to help you accelerate your language learning.

Building a relationship by correcting each other’s grammar: It sounds like a bad Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie, but HelloTalk, especially in its paid incarnations, really is a cool way to learn a new language.

Download HelloTalk for iOS and Android.

You’re downloading a translation and language app; you must be getting ready to travel. If that’s a true fact, brush up on your Danish and then get a travel protection quote from Generali Global Assistance. Because however you say it, staying safe when you travel is important.


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