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iPhone App Review: TripLingo

iPhone App Review: TripLingo

May 14th, 2011 by

The most stressful part about travelling to a foreign country is of course if you don’t know the native language. There are countless expensive learning tools available, as well as time-consuming courses that you could take, but wouldn’t an iPhone-based way to learn some essential phrases be great?

Well I’m sure you’ve already figured this out by now, but there is. TripLingo is a language learning system similar to some more epensive computer-based tools that you may have seen sold in your nearby shopping mall. It creates a customized set of phrases and a learning program, has a learning section and a quiz-based flash-card section, and lets you freely look up phrases and words. Its main selling point though is a slider that allows you to “slangify” any phrase, taking it a very formal version all the way up through street slang to straight-up crazy talk.

There are several editions of TripLingo, so for this review I’ve chosen the Spanish-language version customized for Mexico. Each version has a similar interface and educational philosophy, though of course each features a different language.

How It Works

The app is divided up into several sections, each offering a different view and way of learning the same basic material. Before you get access to all of that however, you must first pass through a fairly detailed (though short) quiz to assess your level of knowledge and needs for the app.Once you get through the quiz you can use the app to learn the language.

  • “Flash Cards” is a quiz that lets you go through the phrases one by one in English, and indicate whether you know it in English.
  • “Go Learn” is the heart of the app, where you are taught the different phrases. You can see the phrase in English or Spanish, hear it pronounced in Spanish (and even hear it spoken slowly), see it spelled out phonetically, and use the slider to adjust the “formal-to-colloquial” quotient and learn to how to say something with a little more local flair.
  • “Travel Situation” gives you direct access to phrases organized by category.
  • “Dictionary and Search” is exactly what it sounds like.
  • At the bottom is a set of assorted other functions: Access to your profile, the ability to share a status update on Twitter, a link to cultural information on your travel destination, etc.
  • You can also make different “Trips” with the app, each customized with its own Q&A session at the beginning that will tailor the included phrases to the specific needs of that trip (one “Mexico” trip for business, one for pleasure, etc.).

Pros And Cons

TripLingo is a well-organized and systematic way of learning a new language. How well you manage to learn it and feel comfortable in it is probably entirely determined by the user, and how much he or she is willing to devote to the learning process. The TripLingo system itself however seems like a well-developed way to immerse yourself in a language before getting onto the plane, as well as being a good reference material for when you’re actually on the ground in another country and need to look up specific words or phrases.

The sound quality of the pronounciation of the phrases, while audible and easy to understand, is currently rather poor. The developers indicate in the iTunes description that a future update will include the ability to download higher-quality audio packs, which will be welcome. The current audio quality sounds like it was recorded in a metal room with the speaker standing 6 feet from the microphone. Like I said, you can understand her clearly (especially since you’re reading along with the text), but the quality (whether it’s due to the initial recording or due to poor compression after the fact), is currently not up to the high standards set by the rest of the app.


TripLingo Spanish Essentials For Mexico provides a great way to become familiar with a new language, with a well-developed learning system and easy-to-use tools that create a great learning environment. Other than the sound quality, the entire app feels more like a desktop-computer experience than like something squeezed into an iPhone, giving you a Spanish-language classroom on-the-go. If you’re planning on travelling to Mexico (or Italy, or Brazil, or Germany, or France…) anytime soon then drop a few more dollars, leave the heavy phrase book at home, and give TripLingo a shot.

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