Many applications are available to learn new languages, but most of these take a lot of time and dedication and can be very costly. Being able to communicate even the simplest words abroad is such an asset to your experience. For example, maybe you have a specific food allergy you need to express to your restaurant server; or maybe you need directions to the nearest bus station. Here we are listing out a series of budget language learning tools that can help you get kick-started into learning a language before and during your arrival.


DuoLingo is a small free iOS, Android and Web application that allows you to learn from 21 different languages (including French, Spanish, German and Italian). Their methodology pairs auditive learning with images into a game-type interface that records your progress and experience. The inclusion of a voice recognition system also pushes you to speak the language. Additionally, the application has recently included a conversation simulator which applies the language you’ve learned in a typical conversation setting. With 20 minutes of daily practice, during your morning commute for example, you can gather a solid foundation of words and sentences within weeks.

Try DuoLingo here


Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard type application for iOS, Android and Web. It allows you to download various flashcard decks of words and images and helps you memorize words by having you associate a difficulty to each word. Anki’s algorithm then prioritizes the frequency in which you will re-read the card for best memorization. It’s been said spaced repetition is scientifically the most effective way to retain new words. Another useful feature in Anki is its custom flashcard creator that allows you to input new words and cycle them through your deck for further memorization. Though this application can be very powerful, it does come at a cost of 34.99$ on iOS but is free for Android and on the web.

Read more about Anki

Phrase Books & Dictionaries

Having a small pocket phrase book and dictionary can be of huge help whilst trying to communicate on the spot. This tool may not be great to learn a language, but at the cost of 15$, you can be sure to refer to it when in search of a specific word or phrase. Often times with a difficult language, it can be helpful to hand over the book to your recipient to point out the word in question. Depending the language, there are many free translation applications such as SpanishDict for iOS and Android that do not require data and accomplish the same uses as a phrase book.

Music, Radio Stations and News Channels

One of the more frequent difficulties in learning a new language is getting your ears accustomed to hearing the new language. Listening to radio stations and news channels are excellent ways of getting accustomed to hearing a language because these sources are forced to speak with proper pronunciation at intelligible paces, making it much easier to follow along. Using English subtitles is also a great way of associating new words.

Listening to the music of these countries may or may not get you dancing, but by listening and reading lyrics, you can quickly gather new words and sentences.

Keep in mind, it is quite common to find multiple dialects of one particular language. By listening to the local radio stations, news channels and musical groups of where you will be travelling, you can begin to adapt your ears to the language prior to your arrival.

Build Abroad T-shirt

In case you missed it, Build Abroad has paired up with Iconspeak to create a t-shirt that presents icons from food and construction tools, to travel and adventure necessities. With all these recognizable icons, a simple gesture pointing to an icon can save you from repeating a word in your broken dialect. If you’re interested in purchasing an ICONSPEAK + Build Abroad t-shirt, While not a recommended way to learn a language, the t-shirt can definitely help in a pinch when traveling.


Finally, without a doubt, the best way to learn a new language is to travel and practice abroad. By immersing yourself in a new culture and pushing yourself to speak their tongue, you will learn 10x faster than any application or other tool combined. By using some of these tools mentioned above, you’ll be much more comfortable in practicing a new language and will see a great advancement in language comprehension.