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Learning a Language? There's an App for That!

When you’re trying to learn a new language, practice makes perfect.  How many times have you said to yourself, “I would love to learn another language in my spare time?” Since many of us lead very busy lives, finding that spare time to practice and learn can be challenging. However, if you have a smartphone, there are plenty of apps available that give you the opportunity to practice on the go.

Here’s a list of some of the better apps available for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices:

•    WordPower (iPhone and Android): WordPower helps you learn new vocabulary in one of several   languages, teaching you the “core” 2000 words most important words you need to communicate. You can read foreign vocabulary, listen to native pronunciation, then give it a go yourself. You can also record yourself to see how your pronunciation measures up.
•    24/7 Tutor (iPhone): Learn Spanish, French, Italian or German with this collection of iPhone apps. Learn vocabulary, listen to native speakers and track your progress with quizzes.
•    Byki (iPhone): According to their website, Byki helps you learn a new language especially quickly because it “hacks” into your memory and fills it with foreign words and phrases.” Interesting…
•    GidRapid (Blackberry): GidRapid makes language learning apps for the Blackberry in a variety of different European languages, featuring flash cards, word lists and quizzes.
•    CardLingo Language Flash Cards (Android): This app lets you type in new words and phrases as you learn them, then turns them into flash cards that you can review anywhere.

There are so many apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry that this list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s available.

So, next time you’re waiting in line somewhere, why not find an app you like and start learning another language?

Muuzii: Accurate Translation for Travelers

If you’re looking for a translation app to travel with you, there’s no shortage of contenders.  Translation apps are easier to use than a clunky phrasebook, and many of them can do cool things like translate text from pictures and translate text to speech. However, the vast majority (if not all) of these apps have two main drawbacks:

  • They require that you own a smartphone.
  • Their translations are automatic and not 100% accurate.

For example, check out this amusing (but confusing) translation from celebrated translation app Word Lens, purchased by Google back in May:

 

What are they doing to that poor mozzarella?

Translation errors like that are good for a laugh, but in more serious situations you might want something a little bit more accurate.  Also, not everyone owns a smartphone, oddly enough. Muuzii is a new translation tool for all mobile phones (not just smartphones) that promises more accurate results because it does not exclusively rely on machine translation.

With Muuzii, users send the text they need translated over SMS. Muuzii automatically translates it, then has a professional translator review the translation to ensure that it is accurate. According to Venturebeat, they’ll not only make sure the translation is accurate, but also fix any awkwardness or ambiguity:

“Each team member makes sure that the response is not only accurate, but also the best way to get your message across. If the human translators think there might be a better way to phrase it, they’ll train the database to choose their preferred option next time it encounters a similar request.

So, when you find yourself in a sticky linguistic situation, you won’t deal with the awkwardness that the limitations of app technology create.”

Then, the service texts your translation right back to you.

The main drawback is that the service is only available in English and Chinese, as a subscription for American AT & T customers.

Would you use something like Muuzii? Let us know in the comments!

New Apps Help Keep Canadian Native Languages Alive

In an attempt to keep some of Canada’s most endangered native languages alive, advocates are turning to Apple, according to Canada.com. Working in conjunction with First Nation tribes and the First Peoples Cultural Foundation, a group of developers called FirstVoices has just released apps for the Sencoten and Halq’emeylem languages on the iPad, iPod and iPhone.

Sencoten is spoken by the Saanich people of Vancouver Island. The language is in dire straits; at this time, only about 10 people can speak it fluently.  Halq’emeylem, which is spoken by a group of related tribes in Vancouver’s Fraser Valley, has about 225 speakers according to Ethnologue. However, according to Wikipedia in 2000 it was estimated that less than a dozen were actually fluent. Read more

Top 3 Language Translation Traveller Apps

In today’s digitally connected age we are fortunate to have connectivity and access to our smart phone/tablet of choice virtually everywhere we travel. Regardless of location, in most instances we will be able to utilise our smart phones and tablets in some capacity. One of the advantages of this new era in technology is that the savvy traveller can now take advantage of the many wonderful applications designed to enhance any type of trip. When it comes to traveling to new lands it is always handy to have easy to use, informative and fast language translation tools at your fingertips.

As technology tears down cultural boundaries it is now becoming much easier to communicate across borders. Smart phones and tablets are now more then ever before allowing for language barriers to be broken in ways we never once imagined. If you’re like me and seem to not be able to go anywhere without your personal electronic devices then this is a great opportunity to review some of top language translation applications currently available.

Obviously (and I’m not just saying this because I’m biased) none of these will replace or do the same job as a professional translator or interpreter. But if you need to get by and/or want to have some fun while you’re on your travels these will help. So here you go… 3 language translation apps for the modern traveller. Read more

Welsh Theatre Gets Its Own Translation App

Want to watch a play in Welsh but can’t speak the language? There’s now an app for that.  Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru has announced that they will be releasing a smartphone app called Sibrwd, which means Whisper in Welsh.

Traditionally, the theatre industry has relied on subtitles for translation. However, subtitles can be distracting for audience members, forcing them to split their attention between reading and watching the play.

 Sibwrd aims to improve on that experience by feeding audience members just the information they need to know to follow the action.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru executive producer Carys Ifan explained to the Telegraph:

“It’s not a full translation. There are quite short sentences every now and again at key moments. The idea is that people will take their own smartphone, download the app and then they’ll hear things that we think they need to know to guide them through the play.”

In developing the app, the theatre company had two goals. First, of course, they wanted to make it easier for people who don’t speak Welsh to enjoy their plays.  As Ms. Ifan put it:

“We want as many people as possible to access our work. People will go and see an opera in French or Italian but wouldn’t think about going to see a Welsh language piece. So it’s trying to entice people to make that leap.”

If the app goes over well, the concept can be used to help make plays in other minority languages more accessible. Hasan Bakhshi, the director of creative economy at Nesta, which helped fund Sibwrd’s development, told the BBC that his organization provided funding in part to “capture and disseminate the insights from that project in such a way that other theatre companies can use[.]”

According to Bakshi,

“One of the things that was attractive about this project was the potential international applicability. It’s not necessarily tied to the Welsh language.”

Of course, it seems like enticing theatergoers to bring out their smartphones runs the risk of causing even more distractions. Will people really be able to resist reading the latest text message to come in or seeing what’s up on Facebook?

What do you think? Are smartphone translation apps for plays a good idea or not?

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Jaako