Lonely Planet Audio Phrasebooks for iPhone

Can't order lunch in a foreign language? Lonely Planet offers cheat sheets in a collection of audio phrasebooks.

Lonely Planet Italian Audio Phrasebook

Teaching yourself a few niceties in a foreign language requires more than an hour in front of a phrasebook. Piecing together sentences out of unfamiliar accents and sounds is neither easy nor accurate, and could earn you looks of bemusement or horror if your neophyte's pronunciation produces a garbled or unintended communication.

That's what makes Lonely Planet's collection of audio phrasebooks for English-speakers (about $10) so eminently usable. With phrases organized into categories for transportation, money, dining, and so on, travelers can easily browse for pertinent communications. Like print phrasebooks, the foreign spelling and transliteration are present. Tapping the entry triggers the audio pronunciation. In the case of the Italian phrasebook, a quick-talking male narrates the traveler's way through trips to the pharmacy and purchasing train tickets.

Some customization features would elevate the application from basic usefulness to a true learning tool, such as offering a choice of male or female voice and speed settings to accommodate different audio learners. However, there is some succor--if you can't adequately reproduce the new sounds, just hold the iPhone up in front of a local and let Lonely Planet do the talking.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.