It’s amazing how quickly three years of high-school Spanish class evaporates when you’re standing in the middle of a marketplace in Barcelona. And although you’re happy to see how your pathetic sign language and caveman-like grunting entertains the woman next to you, the Lonely Planet Phrasebook apps have finally come to nurse your damaged ego.
With audio recordings that accompany phonetic spellings of more than 600 common phrases for everyday situations, Lonely Planet offers phrasebooks in 17 different languages such as Spanish, Japanese and Swahili.
The phrases are organized by categories such as transportation, health and shopping for quick and easy searching. Touch any phrase listed and listen as a male voice pronounces it aloud, which can be incredibly helpful when learning languages such as Mandarin and Arabic with completely foreign alphabets. Worst-case scenario, just hold out your iPhone and let it speak for you like your own personal (monotone) translator—though the voice talks quickly, so you might have to play it a few times.
But these phrasebooks have their limitations, and users may be restricted by the selection of phrases. There’s no doubt it might make shopping easier and help you locate the bathroom without making a fool of yourself, but the app falls short of providing any substantial knowledge of the language and is pricey at $9.99 when up against other cheaper phrasebooks available for the iPhone.
Better to think of it more like overpriced Band-Aid for your unilingual pride and a way to master a few sentences to impress your friends when you get home.