5 Apps to Help You Navigate Language Barriers Abroad

One of the top concerns for novice and experienced travelers is navigating language barriers while overseas. Not knowing the local language shouldn’t deter you from hitting every destination on your bucket list, especially not when there is a wealth of tools available to help you connect with locals and transition more smoothly than ever.

Here are five apps to help you navigate language barriers abroad:


There are five key phrases everyone should learn in the local language before heading there: “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” and
do you speak English?” ITranslate offers words, phrases and translation capabilities in over 100 languages to help you learn these quickly and look up others as you need them while you are abroad. The best feature comes with the Pro version: you can download the language(s) you need and access it without WiFi or paying outrageous roaming fees.


Need help with pronunciation of those key phrases? YouTube is an excellent resource to help you learn before you go. Even knowing just a few phrases like the ones noted above can establish respect between you and the locals, and can increase the likelihood that they would be willing to help you.

Google’s Word Lens

This is especially useful if you have food restrictions or plan on using public transportation, and a personal favorite of mine. With Google’s Word Lens, your smartphone translates written language on street signs, menus, or maps. You are able to easily decipher ingredients in packaged foods and understand when the next bus or tram is coming in to the station. This feature is available through Google Translate, is free and also allows you to download the language(s) you need to translate while abroad.

Google Maps

How can Google Maps help with language barriers? Excellent question, my friend – Google Maps allows you to download maps of the areas you plan on traveling to, which can help you in asking locals for help. With the Google Maps tool, you will know which landmarks are close to your lodging, street names, and other valuable information that can minimize language barriers.


Want to learn more than basic phrases before heading abroad? Whether you have time on the plane beforehand or a few days before you leave, Memrise utilizes games and other fun tactics to help you retain new languages easier. With more than 200 languages available through both the free and pro versions, Memrise has quickly risen through the ranks of language learning tools. Expect to pay a monthly subscription rate for the pro features.

Tech is constantly shifting, making the world a more accessible place for travelers worldwide. So, the next time someone expresses concern about language barriers while abroad, just let them know that there’s an app for that.