Language Learning Apps – Worth the Hype?

Living in an increasingly globalised world, language skills have never been more popular. Whether you are considering learning a brand new language inside and out, or simply learning a few phrases to get you by on your holiday, chances are you aren’t the only one looking to pick up some tips.

The smart phone generation has given us endless technology at out finger tips, and with 4g set to give the UK faster internet speeds, idle thumbs will have even more time to update their twitter, ping some birds at pigs, or pester your friends with snapchat selfies.

Apps that teach you a language are becoming increasingly popular, especially free apps. From holiday makers to those looking to increase their language skills but not commit to either a physical class, or teaching packages such as Rosetta Stone, or to those just wanting to pass time of the trains (or waiting for your candy crush lives to refresh).

And it isn’t just apps that are cashing in on those looking to explore over the language barriers, but phone makers themselves, one of the Galaxy S4’s new features included a talk to text translator for 9 languages at present.

But can a phone or tablet really teach you another language, or does it just teach you key phrases? Some come pretty close, Duolingo teaches you the basics, then mark you as you practise on real content, and Keewords uses flashcards to help you build your vocabulary, but with levels and points, are they ultimately just an education game rather than a learning?
So to throw out the question, have any of you had any luck with Language Learning Apps? Or even better, seen anyone trying to use them in public?

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!