Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

Newsletter: TripLingo Translation App for iPhone

I speak English as my first language and 4 other European languages to varying degrees of proficiency. I sat through endless hours of class, having conversations, puzzling over grammar, and memorizing syntax. In other words, I learned languages the old-fashioned way. I secretly resent the Rosetta Stone advertisements that explain that learning a language can be easy. I'm pretty facile at languages, and I don't remember it being easy to learn!

I didn't start out learning languages because I needed it for business travel, but being able to speak other languages WHEN I traveled was a huge advantage. So as I write my review of this month's language app, I'll remember the real reason for having such an app: communicating with others in a way that establishes respect for the culture.

TripLingo Lite for iPhone

I downloaded the TripLingo app and chose French for my language. The Lite version allows you to choose from 11 languages, but only one of them. If you buy a language pack, you can have more than one on your iPhone at a time.

Upon starting the app, I had to create an account for myself. I gave it my first name, my email, and a password, and the app started up. I was presented with a home screen containing the name of the selected language, the apps assessment of my language ability, a search box, and 4 buttons: My Phrases, Translator, Travel Situations, and Flashcards. Across the bottom are 5 more buttons: Dictionary, Culture, Talk Live, Word Bank, and Options.

As you might expect, the most enticing features require you to purchase something to add to the app, but I was able to utilize the Essentials list in the My Phrases section. There I could choose a useful phrase such as "How much does it cost?" and have the app show me 4 different versions of the phrase: formal, casual, slang, and crazy.

Naturally as a formal student of French, I chose that one, and from my iPhone came a perfectly pronounced phrase, "Combien cela coûte-t-il?" What I truly appreciated were 2 buttons just below the slider, marked Slow and Normal. As someone who loves French and who knows that the French appreciate their language being spoken to them, I was thrilled to be able to slow the phrase down so that I could practice it and repeat it.

Building Vocabulary

Other parts of the app encourage you to learn basic phrases by giving you a flash card quiz. It will show you a phrase in English, for example, give you a chance to view it in French, pronounce it for you, then ask you whether you indeed knew the phrase. As you learn the phrases, the progress bar showing your language status lengthens, and you've got an incentive to keep going.

Even though I took a year of French in grad school, I went out of my way to take a 6-week conversational class before my first visit to France in 1996. I realized then that the French I knew might not be very helpful in restaurants and stores. Well this app is like a conversational French class in your pocket. The only thing missing is someone who can give you feedback on how well you're pronouncing the words. If you can find a native speaker to give you feedback, that's the best option. Otherwise, you will no doubt receive feedback when you try your phrases on the locals. Be patient, be polite, and they will help you!
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