Looking for the 21st Century Version of Berlitz Language Tapes
August 13, 2018 8:54 AM   Subscribe

The problem with apps like Babbel and Duolingo is that the vocab isn't really focused on practical travel phrases or vocabulary. I'm not looking to become proficient in French, just trying to be a better tourist. Unfortunately, the Berlitz app is really bad.

I'm going on vacation to France next month and I'd love to work on learning some key travel phrases and pronouncing words correctly. For example, I'd really like to focus on the good old standards of "understanding how much change/what something costs, where is the bathroom, what do you recommend, or which way is x,y,z".

Are there any apps out there that are more focused on learning a language for travel kind of like those old Berlitz tapes? Instead of vocab related to boys, girls, farms, and apples I'd like to focus on counting, directions, ordering, catching a bus vocab.

I'd REALLY love an app that does let you use the microphone to play back your pronunciation since I feel like I'm having a really tough time with that.

Ideally it would be an app that I can run on an iPhone and I'm willing to shell out for something good and highly recommended.
posted by forkisbetter to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Mango Languages, though it doesn’t do the microphone thing. You can probably get it for free with your public library card. It’s not gamified like Duo, but it’s all about teaching helpful travel phrases :)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:01 AM on August 13, 2018

I think it's good to work on a language in multiple contexts, so you are more flexible in the real world. Something like Duolingo can help with pronounciation, while something else might help more with other aspects.

I've found Pimsleur to have merit. Pimsleur is audio based -- listen and repeat (not in an app, just out loud) -- and is designed so you do a lesson of 30 minutes a day, every day. It jumps into fairly useful content, as you want -- after pleasantries you get to counting, directions, time, shopping and so on. It's expensive, but might be available in a library or if you use other ways of getting audio content inexpensively.

Another thing that I've used for basic vocab are flash cards - you can make your own, so you can control what you want to do with them. There's tons of apps for flashcards, obviously.

Also, I wouldn't worry too much about accent -- you've spoken to people who speak English with strong accents, right? And it worked out okay! It'll work the other way, too!
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:24 AM on August 13, 2018

Best answer: I had decent success with the Pimsleur Japanese language tapes; they scaffolded enough that with occasional vocab checks for unusual words, I got by okay when traveling. I used them for a quick brush-up on my high school French, too. They have them at my local library, and I liked them better than the other language tapes they had. No playback, though.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:28 AM on August 13, 2018

Bravolol teaches common useful words and phrases. You can record your voice. No internet connection required. Upgrade for $4.99.

TripLingo is a voice and image translator with a phrase book and offline dictionary in multiple languages that also includes local emergency numbers and culture notes. Free with basic access to all features in every language; premium subscription for all content. More for reference but has some learning components. No playback option though.
posted by eyeball at 10:59 AM on August 13, 2018

Fluenz is a program that I never did check out, but I did find this example video helpful. (Is Duolingo still trying to teach you "the men are rich and calm?")
posted by sageleaf at 5:58 PM on August 13, 2018

Best answer: I also had a good experience with Pimsleur, for Hungarian.
posted by actionstations at 10:09 PM on August 13, 2018

Best answer: Thirding Pimsleur (for Italian). The conversational bits I learned there stuck with me the most over the years, and I was also a heavy Duolingo user. Many lessons wrap up with a separate reading and pronunciation section.
posted by missmobtown at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2018

Best answer: OpenCulture links to many, many online courses in many languages.
posted by blob at 3:28 PM on August 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The OpenCulture link is amazing!

Having good luck with the Pimsleur so far, but very intrigued by some of the Foreign Service Institute quick courses on metropolitan French.

posted by forkisbetter at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2018

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