By Paula Bostrom on Mon, 08/26/2013
For our family vacation next year, we've decided to take a trip to Costa Rica. I know it's still 10 months away, but I'm already dreaming of gorgeous beaches and zip lining through the jungles.
The problem is, most of our vacations have been to English-speaking destinations. So I've decided to learn Spanish.
Besides a one-year course in high school (which was a long time ago) and words I've picked up here and there by living in the Southwestern United States, I am not even close to communicating with someone whose only language is Spanish.
I know some people will speak English in Costa Rica, especially in the touristy parts of the country, but I want to be able to communicate with ease. I'm looking at several free apps to help me learn Spanish. Although, it's said nothing in life is free...
1. Rosetta Stone Travel Spanish (free)
Rosetta Stone is probably the most well-known language study system. That's why I looked up this one first.
In the app, there are three free lessons that can help me learn the basics of getting around Costa Rica, such as: using transportation, telling time, or dining out.
The thing I didn't like about this app is that it made me log in with Facebook or my email before I could even get started.
After completing the three lessons, I was given one option for purchase: Shopping Phrases, for $4.99. I guess that was because when I logged in I listed myself as an adult female.
2. Learn Spanish 24/7 (free)
This app is also specifically designed for travel and that's what I'm needing.
It gives phrases to study, including important ones such as: "I'm allergic to __" or "I don't feel well." Or when I'm out to eat, "The check please." There are multiple choice tests, puzzles, or write-in answers. The priority mode allows you to focus on those items not well learned yet.
After learning the free phrases, I could purchase an in-depth version for $5.99.
3. Living Language — Spanish for iPhone (free)
This app was featured in Apple's Essential Apps for Learning Foreign Languages in 2011 and 2012.
There are six lessons in the free version. Lesson one included many basic words I already knew (like buenos dias). Lesson two introduces more formal greetings. The words and phrases are first given in Spanish then you flip the card for the English version. You can also press Play for the spoken translation.
The complete app includes 45 lessons for $14.99. There are three levels: essential, intermediate, and advanced. Each lesson gives you grammar, dialogs, vocabulary, and interactive games.
4. Speak Spanish — for Survival and Travel (free)
This is not an app for introducing Spanish, but it gives you the 200 most essential Spanish words and phrases.
This app is not described as "fun," but rather provides audio flashcards in patterned algorithms that are supposed to help with quicker memorization. The core phrases are supposed to teach you everything you need to know to "survive the streets" of any Spanish-speaking country.
The full app is $19.99 and boasts the equivalent of two years' worth of high school Spanish classes.
5. iTranslate (free)
If I'm not fluent in Spanish by the time we leave for Costa Rica, (which could happen, unless I actually finish one of my great ideas!) I can always use iTranslate. This app translates words and phrases from English to Spanish.
Just type in what you want to say in English and it translates to Spanish. I used the phrase "How do I get there?" and iTranslate gave me the written answer. I also pressed the speaker button to get an audio version. The thing I didn't like about this was that the audio version is spoken so quickly I could barely understand it. Spanish is a rapidly spoken language, but I'm not there yet. If the audio version were slowed down it would be much better.
This app is a good deal as it also includes 19 other languages, including French, German, Japanese, and others.
If you upgrade to the premium version for $1.99 for three months or the better value of $4.99 for a year, you get added features. You can speak the phrase or word instead of typing it, translate and listen to long texts, and there are no ads.
All these apps are labeled as free, but for my purposes, I will need to shell out some dough in order to learn what I want to for my trip. Desearme suerte—Wish me luck!