Soon my girlfriend and I will be traveling around Asia/Oceania for a year and normally before travelling I will learn some of the local language. I have a little bit of a formula of the stuff that I normally learn such as "can I have", greetings, days of the week, numbers 1-100 and a few other things.

With the sheer amount of countries we'll be traveling to (over 13) it's sadly a little unrealistic, my initial thoughts were maybe technology has progressed enough to fill this gap. With google translate I could translate between English/Dutch/French into the local language and then have them read it. While this is nice in certain locations, others such as China and the more remote regions of countries we'll be traveling to this isn't very feasible.

What alternatives do we have or how could we approach this problem so we can better communicate with locals and people during our travels?

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    Google Translate for Android has a conversation mode, so you can turn it on, speak in your phone, and it will convert it to audio in the target language. It is also possible to automatically detect the direction of conversation and convert from one language to another and vice-versa. I don't know how well it works in practice, but it might be better than typing and reading.
    – GoodDeeds
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 13:55
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    @GoodDeeds You have an answer in the comment already, can you re-post it as an answer?
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 13:56
  • @Willeke The question explicitly asks for something other than google translate, so I am not sure if it really answers the question.
    – GoodDeeds
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 13:57
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    I actually didn't know the app had a conversation mode, though will it work if I don't have an internet connection on my phone? @GoodDeeds
    – li x
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 14:34
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    @GoodDeeds It would seem google translate conversation mode doesn't work offline sadly, support.google.com/translate/thread/5022774?hl=en I was hoping to get answers that weren't just google translate to be fair :-)
    – li x
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


Personally, I've found the language learning app Duolingo to be useful for learning the basics of a language. Duolingo (and its many competitors) rely on spaced repetition, meaning it remembers what you got wrong and right and drills down on your weaknesses.

Now I need to emphasize the "basics" here -- you're not going to get anywhere near fluency -- but if you want to learn exactly the kinds of basic greetings, numbers, simple food vocabulary etc that you mention, it hits the spot, and as little as 30 min a day can give a perceptible leg up. It's also quite good for drilling non-Latin scripts if you want to try to learn to read the language as well.

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