The Best App Ever (that’s not Everseat)

If you spoke German, Spanish, and Norwegian, you’d recognize how each language says “How are you?” in those sentences above…

To the modern traveler (and anybody working in tourism), the ability to communicate in another language has become more important as travel becomes cheaper and more and more people start to move to more and more destinations across the world.

There’s nothing worse than being that tourist who assumes everybody speaks English, and demanding that they do so to suit your comfort.

Even just learning the basics – “Where is the beer?” and “Bathroom, now!”, for example – can go a long way in getting you a more authentic travel experience and boosting your image in the eyes of the people you’re speaking to.

Luckily for you, language learning has advanced greatly over the past five years. It used to be that you had two options – pay for expensive language software (like Rosetta Stone), or pay for an equally expensive class at a university or college.

These days you have a lot more options – among them is my favorite app ever (next to Everseat, of course!).

DuolingoDuolingo is a FREE language learning app available on your Apple or Android device. It uses a similar learning program as Rosetta Stone, and I’ve found it to be just as effective (and without the hundred-dollar price tag).

Duolingo uses gamification to reward you for your progress, giving you incentive to complete the different lessons. There are speaking, reading comprehension, and translation parts that each give a boost to the language you’re learning:


I’ve been able to improve my high school German, and am currently preparing for a trip to South America by taking their Spanish program.

They currently have 6 full programs for English speakers, with many more in the pipeline including Ukrainian and Norwegian.

There are only two small downsides I’ve found to the app so far…

The first is that it doesn’t teach regional differences in the language. For instance it may teach you to speak the German found in Germany, but you’d be lost trying to understand the German coming from a Swiss speaker (to be fair though, not even Germans can understand them.).

The second is that while Duolingo provides a great basis for learning a language, it is limited in what it can teach you. You’ll eventually hit a ceiling that only practicing with a native speaker will help you break.

With all that said though, this is a great app if you’re just traveling for a short period of time and/or want a quick and easy introduction into the language.

Check it out before your next trip – it might turn out to be a life saver.

Vôtre en technologie,


You Say ‘Patient’ and I Say ‘Consumer’ – Either Way, We Both Want Convenience

What do you call a person seeking care from a health professional these days? Some say patient, and others say consumer. Either way, one thing is true: when we need to see a doctor, one thing we really want is convenience.

New public policy efforts and the efforts of entrepreneurial thinkers are changing the game on the convenience issue already. We have more choices than we used to, and it is undeniable that as patients, we are becoming better consumers, looking for providers who will meet a range of needs we have and not just treat our ailment.

Should we wait for a regular check-up to get a doctor’s advice? Or should we track our own health indicators and review our own records with one of the many devices bloggers Todd Hixon and Neil Versel have been writing about in Forbes?

Should we go to a minute clinic at the mall or visit the emergency room at a hospital?

Should we take the “next available appointment” or shop around for the magic words: “the doctor will see you now?”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote an entire column last year with advice on how to get in to see your doctor sooner. His prescription? Convey urgency, be thorough, get a referral, and ask questions.

I would not dare disagree with Dr. Gupta. Still, the patient/customer is craving a more efficient solution without having to grovel. And let’s face it: most of us don’t even want to have to call the doctor’s office at all. There is no doubt that physicians and their all-important office staffers would like to get off the phone too. They have work piling up and patients right there in front of them who need their attention.

According to Pew Research Center, 64% of adults in the United States have smart-phones, and if you are a provider not primarily treating people above age 65, the percentage in your patient population may be much higher. As patients and as consumers, we need the option of using personal technology that helps us get in to see the doctor as soon as possible when that is what we think we need to do.

Healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs will keep making it easier for all of us to get timely access to quality care. The rest of us can contribute by asking our providers to invest in technology tools that improve our experience whether we think of ourselves as patients or consumers. Either way, we can all be advocates for greater convenience as part of a better patient experience. Be polite but tell them we need it in a hurry.