A good friend, Chris, told me about a very interesting language app/website called Duolingo (www.duolingo.com). It’s free, and the idea of it is that you work your way through various practice drills to increase your vocabulary in a particular language. They have French, Spanish, Italian, German, Danish, Irish, Portuguese, and Dutch. As you get through the various levels, you can “win” lingots to use in their store for things (I haven’t gotten far enough yet to see what you can “buy”). Chris said it was created by someone who wanted to get documents and articles translated and found that if they created a “game” out of it, people would go online and do the translations to improve their own skills, and in doing so, would provide free translation as well! I have opened an account and am going to try both Spanish and French to see how I do! It is a fun combination of you translating their sentences, you listening to them speak a sentence and translating, or them giving you a sentence in English to translate back to the language.
Chris told me that she improved her vocabular enormously by using it, and my quick look at it has convinced me that it’s a fun way to learn. I’ve now downloaded the app onto my phone as well so I can play when I’m on the subway, or have a spare 30 minutes somewhere.On the phone app version, it also has you listen to a sentence and repeat it back.
You can also “share” your results with friends through Facebook and compete against them. I think I will wait to see how I do in both languages before I “invite” anyone, but it’s a very fun idea!
The other, very useful, app for your phone when you travel is Google Translate. Again, it’s an app you can download on your phone and is a great quick reference for single words or phrases. You can type the word or phrase or you can use the microphone feature and speak into the phone. We tested it a variety of ways, with different languages, and it seems very good at figuring out what you have said. It is easy to choose the two languages you are translating from and to, and it’s easy to switch back and forth between them. This app was enormously helpful at a restaurant, and in a taxi for giving the address, for instance, because the app has great pronunciation!