If one of your New Years Resolutions (remember those?) was to learn a new language, there are quite a few ways you can use your Mac or iPhone that will have you speaking in a foreign tongue in no time flat.
Keep Your Word
Keep Your Word is combination dictionary and flashcard trainer for the Mac and iPhone. For $24.95, you can create your own word dictionary, add images and tags, and organize them in whatever way works best for you (alphabetically, grouped by adjective, etc.). You can even let the app put your words in Smart Groups that function similar to the smart lists in iTunes. Once you’ve got your words assembled, choose one of three exercise modes — flash cards, quick quiz, or printed test — to help you learn them.
If you’re looking for a free app to get you started on the road to learning a new language, ProVoc is a good vocabulary training tool. Use it to listen to words on your iPod or print double-sided flash cards. Although it’s not as robust as Keep Your Word, ProVoc makes good use of your Mac best features. Use iSight to include images or video clips in your library, Spotlight to search for words quickly, and the Dashboard Widget to help you learn through repetition. Although ProVoc is no longer under development and has no user support, it’s a terrific free alternative to its commercial counterparts.
Want to learn a really exotic foreign language, like Telugu or Gujurati? Chances are Eurotalk will have something for you. The company has put together learning sets for more than 115 languages, for every level of experience from children to advanced users. Eurotalk’s free iPhone app simply teaches you how to say “hello” in 115 languages, the CD-ROM sets offer iPod integration so you can listen to lessons on the fly. Depending on which resources you purchase, Eurotalk’s language programs will run you between $34.99 and $179.99.
Foreign language software vendor Byki may not offer as many languages as its competitors, but it has an active community of contributors, iPhone apps for eight languages, and offers tons of free downloads with no restrictions. The deluxe CD-ROM set costs $49.95 and offers extra learning activities, advanced pronunciation practice, and other additional features.
If you’ve mastered your foreign language vocabulary lists but are still having difficulties with enunciation, use DialectX to improve your foreign accent and sound as if you were born speaking the language. It’s a simple free app that provides voiceback delay so you can teach yourself the nuances and subtleties of a new language by listening to yourself speak.
CD-ROMs are great for some people but others prefer total immersion. If you want to learn Spanish but don’t have a trip to Latin America scheduled anytime soon, check out “Bueno, entonces…” designed especially for the iPhone and iPod touch. It’s a series of 30-minute, fast-paced classes that gradually ramp up the difficulty level until you’re speaking fluent Spanish. It’s creators warn, however, the series is not for the faint of heart. “This is a super fast and challenging class… If you prefer to learn at a slower pace, this is probably not for you.” ¿Comprende?
Of course, the grandaddy of all language learning software is Rosetta Stone. It’s the product of choice for the U.S. State Department, NASA, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Rather than rely on rote memorization techniques, Rosetta uses an highly interactive immersion process that mimics the way you learned your native tongue. Learning a language from Rosetta won’t come cheap, however. Prices for CD-ROM sets start at $259 and peak somewhere north of $500.
Once you mastered your foreign language of choice, don’t forget to adjust your Mac’s keyboard accordingly so you can email people using the correct character sets. Check out these instructions on how to manage the foreign language keyboard settings in Mac OS X.