6 Easy Languages To Learn For Your Southeast Asia Trip

languages to learn for your Southeast Asia trip - A photo of Southeast Asian people.

Languages open doors, right? And guess what? They also open hearts! But have you ever thought about what languages to learn for your Southeast Asia trip? There are over 1,200 South East Asian languages to choose from, and I know learning all of them is nearly impossible. So, which ones should you pick up to make your travel productive and extra special? Stick around and I’ll show you, and recommend language apps to help you!

Now, if you’re scratching your head thinking, “How do I even start?” Don’t sweat it because there’s an easy solution for that: the Ling app! It makes you fluent in Thai, Vietnamese, Bahasa Indonesia, and more, all in a fun, engaging way. But hey, this adventure is about you, the languages, and the doors you’ll open. Ready to sprinkle your Southeast Asia trip with words that matter? Let’s turn those “How do you say…?” moments into stories you’ll tell for years.

6 Languages To Learn For Your Southeast Asia Trip

Stop being anxious now, and let me help you decide which languages to learn for your Southeast Asia trip. Are you traveling because you’re on a leisure trip? Are you a businessman trying to expand your business? Or maybe an expat looking to settle in? Whatever your reason, learning local languages can transform your experience.

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1. Bahasa Indonesia – Backpackers’ Best Bet

Heading to Indonesia? You’re in luck because Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia, is pretty chill to get the hang of. No crazy verb conjugation and tenses or to make your brain do backflips trying to remember if a table is male or female—it’s not!

But, get this: just when you think you’ve got it down, you chat with someone from a different island and bam, they’re throwing words at you that sound like they’re from another planet. For sure, you’ll experience this when you try to order ayam goreng (fried chicken) and end up with ikan bakar (grilled fish) because of an accent. Keeps things interesting, doesn’t it?

Sure, you might stumble upon words that twist your tongue in ways you didn’t know possible, especially with those regional dialects that love to throw curveballs. But imagine the doors that open when you drop a well-timed Terima kasih! (Thank you!) or Bagaimana kabarmu? (How are you?). So yeah, learn the Indonesian language, and as a bonus, you’ll understand Malay, too!

2. English – The Global Connector

I can still remember when I was a seafarer, the first time I haggled in a market in Bangkok, armed with nothing but English and a smile. “How much?” I asked, pointing at a Tom Yum Goong. The vendor, with a grin, replied in English but with a Thai tone, and just like that, we understood each other.

English, in Southeast Asia, acts like a universal passport. It’s fascinating, really. I know, for English speakers, you’d think you’d get lost when you hear someone speak Southeast Asian languages. But English, oh, it’s your trusty compass. With this language, you can make yourself understood and, most of the time, make new friends.

languages to learn for your Southeast Asia trip - A photo of two backpackers holding a camera.

3. Thai – A Melodic Challenge

You know how a slight change in tone can turn a sweet melody into a sour note? That’s Thai, where your tone can mean different things when you say “near” and “far.” And let’s not even start on the script—beautiful, yes, but not as easy to learn as you think.

But learning Thai is totally worth it if you’re traveling in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand! Did you hear about Bangkok’s stellar reputation as the world’s street food capital? Yep, in fact, Frommer’s article gave it the top spot for its unbeatable street food scene.

So, why not start learning Thai? But not just for the food—though it’s a fantastic perk. Think bigger: business negotiations that go smoother because you’ve shown respect by speaking the local language or nights out clubbing where you can truly be part of the crowd, not just an observer.

4. Filipino (Tagalog) – The Heartfelt Connection

Tagalog, my native language, holds a special spot in the Philippines, right up there with English. But Tagalog is not limited to locals. Across Asia and even the globe, you’ll bump into Filipinos, spreading their innate hospitality. You need help with something? Ask a Filipino, and for sure, they will not think twice about lending a hand. This is why Tagalog is one of the languages to learn for your Southeast Asia trip, no doubt.

Why lean into learning Tagalog aside from this language being spoken by hospitable Pinoys? For starters, it’s more approachable than you might think. The alphabet? Same as English with the addition of “ñ” and “ng,” so you can skip the headache of learning new symbols.

The catch? Verbs. They twist and turn in ways that’ll have you reach for a language app. But, oh, the places those verbs will take you—into the heart of business negotiations in Manila or swapping stories with new friends. For travelers and business folks alike, Tagalog is an essential tool in your Southeast Asia adventure kit.

5. Khmer – The Key To Cambodia’s Heart

Stepping into the ancient realm of Cambodia with Khmer on your tongue will unlock a treasure chest of cultural riches. Sure, the script might look like a series of elaborate puzzles left by ancestors, daunting yet intriguing. But manage to crack even the simplest of phrases, and you’re instantly part of something bigger, something ancient.

And then there’s that incredible moment when you realize you’re not just reading signs but understanding them, connecting with Cambodia’s soul on a level beyond the reach of any translation app.

So, do you want to see yourself exchanging greetings with a monk or understand a market vendor’s price without needing to point and guess? This is your sign to learn Khmer, a one-of-a-kind SE Asian language, and tackle Khmer’s script. And believe me, it’s worth every bit of effort.

Southeast Asian languages to learn - A photo of a foreigner meeting with Chinese people.

6. Mandarin Chinese – Your VIP Pass

Mandarin is a widely spoken language in Southeast Asia. It’s like your secret key in a video game. Here you are, ready to explore, and boom—Mandarin opens up new levels. Whether you’re traveling because of business or just want to wander around, learning Chinese Mandarin and speaking it is like saying, “I’m in the club.”

Now, getting Mandarin under your belt isn’t a walk in the park. Grammar’s chill, sure—no tenses to wrestle with. But those tones? They’re the real boss battle, where one slip can flip your sentence upside down.

Yet, here’s the kicker: every Ni hao (Hello) you get right, every menu you read, it’s like scoring points. Makes every bit of effort worth it, doesn’t it? So, ready to level up your Southeast Asia trip with some Mandarin magic?

3 Apps To Learn Southeast Asian Languages

Woohoo! You’re headed on an awesome Southeast Asia adventure! But wait! Don’t forget to download the best language-learning app before your flight takes off. Trust me, you’ll be so glad you did. So which one, right? Well, I’m an expert in this field, so let me give you my top apps to learn Southeast Asian languages.

1. The Ling App: Best For Comprehensive Learning Of 60+ Languages

Want to master Southeast Asian languages like a native speaker? Make the Ling app your first stop. “Another gamified language app?” you say? Not with the Ling app, my friend. The Ling app will help you become fluent in over 60 languages, including those Southeast Asian languages we talked about earlier.

So, what sets the Ling app apart? Its speech recognition feature, which fine-tunes your pronunciation, is especially handy with the tonal twists of Vietnamese or the rhythm of Thai. This kind of learning echoes the authentic sounds of each language and makes every conversation more than just words—it’s a connection.

For those ready to dive into the vibrant cultures and languages of Southeast Asia, the Ling app is your digital passport. Believe me, this app is filled with fun, comprehensive, and expertly-made lessons you won’t find in any other language learning apps!

Devices: Android, iOS, Web


  • Comprehensive Language Coverage: The Ling app is a language buffet with over 60 options, from Thai to Tagalog. The lessons? Thorough in every way!

  • Gamified Learning Experience: Learning’s a game here. Beat levels, earn points, and master languages without the bore.

  • Expert Collaboration: Real talk from native speakers. It’s like having a local show you the ropes, making every lesson a cultural trip.


  • Free with beginner lessons and an introductory Chatbot.

  • Monthly: $14.99

  • Yearly: $79.99 (7-day free trial)

  • Lifetime: $149.99

2. italki: A Marketplace Of 130+ Language Experts

Ever wondered if there’s a place where foreign language learning feels just right, tailored like your favorite shirt? Meet italki, a bustling digital marketplace brimming with over 130 languages! italki will help you find that perfect tutor who gets your language goals, whether you’re all about mastering street slang or diving into business talk.

Curious how you’ll find ‘the one’ among so many? italki’s got trial lessons. Yep, you can actually take a tutor for a test drive! Want to write a post in Mandarin Chinese or Bahasa Malaysia and get real-time feedback? Scribble away in italki’s Notebook.

And if you’re thinking, “But can I practice with someone who’s learning my language?” Absolutely! The Language Exchange feature is like a linguistic swap meet – you help them, they help you, and everyone’s learning.

For those who’ve set their sights on conquering Southeast Asian dialects with a plan that fits like their favorite pair of jeans, italki is a good place to start crafting your language journey with others who are just as stoked about native languages as you are.

Devices: Android, iOS, Web


  • Professional Teachers and Community Tutors: Mix, match, and find your language match. Formal or casual, italki’s got the tutor for you.

  • The italki Language Challenge: Race to fluency with challenges. Set goals, win prizes, and maybe brag a little.

  • italki Group Classes: Learning’s better with friends. Join a class, learn together, and make the world your classroom.


  • Community tutors: $4 – $30/hour

  • Professional teachers: $10 – $80/hour

  • Lesson packages: Varies

3. Mango Languages: Practical Conversation Meets Cultural Immersion

How about a language app that could be your cultural detective and conversation coach all rolled into one? That’s Mango Languages for you. It will teach you not just the words but the stories behind them.

What’s the magic trick? Mango Languages uses these cool Phonetic Popups to make sure you’re not just saying things but saying them right. And those Memory Building Exercises? They’re your brain’s best buds that make what you learn not just visit but stay for good.

And hey, are you in the business world, healthcare, or maybe hitting the road as a globetrotter? Mango Languages’ got your back with courses cut out just for you, packing your bag with all the right words for the trip!

Devices: Android, iOS, Web


  • Organic Language Acquisition: Forget the rules. Mango’s all about talking the talk, naturally.

  • Specialty Language Courses: Your career’s language wardrobe. From business to medical, speak the lingo, ace the game.

  • Cultural and Specialty Short Courses: Party in any language. Learn the cheers and jeers for Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s, and more.


  • Free for the first lesson only.

  • Premium for single language: $79.99/year ($7.99/month)

  • Premium for all languages: $179.99/year ($14.99/month)

  • Enterprise plan: Contact Sales
best languages to learn in Southeasy Asia - A photo of students from different countries.

Why Learn Southeast Asian Languages

  • For Travel Enthusiasts & Backpackers: Ever got lost and found yourself in the best-hidden café in Hanoi? That’s what knowing a bit of Vietnamese can do. Saying “thanks” in the local lingo can turn a simple moment into something special. You’ll make friends and, most of all, memories.

  • For Business Professionals: Let’s say you’re attending a meeting in Singapore. You start with a simple Terima kasih (Thank you in Malay). Boom, the ice breaks. Speaking a local language is a way to show politeness, and it shows you’re here to play ball and respect the culture while sealing the deal.

  • For Students & Language Learners: Bored with Spanish or French? Try Mandarin Chinese or Filipino. It’s a brain gym that gives you a workout with new sounds and scripts. It’s also a great conversation starter. “You speak what?” suddenly makes you the most interesting person in the room.

  • For Cultural & Heritage Enthusiasts: Fascinated by traditional dances or ancient temples? Understanding the local language lets you in on the stories behind them. You’re sightseeing, and at the same time, you’re experiencing the culture on a deeper level.

Make The Most Of Your Southeast Asia Trip With The Ling App!

And that’s it! I hope you learned something here. But wait, have you packed the Ling app yet? It’s the ultimate travel buddy that brings languages to life right in your pocket. With the Ling app, the days when learning is a chore are gone. It’s fun, easy, effective, and, can I say… addictive?

Can you imagine yourself bargaining in a bustling market or making new friends in all parts of Southeast Asia, all in the local lingo? The Ling app makes that happen with games, quizzes, and real conversations that stick.

Curious about how much you can learn before your trip? Try the Ling app’s 7-day free trial! Yep, in just one week, you could be saying “hello,” “thank you,” “where’s the beach?” and more like a pro.

Download the Ling app from Google Play or the App Store and see the difference for yourself. Ready to master those languages to learn for your Southeast Asia trip and turn your travel dreams into reality? Your first step starts here!

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