For the last week or so, I spent some time playing around with a couple of iPhone/iPod Touch apps created by a company called MemoryLifter.* As the name suggests, the apps are of the brain food sort. While they offer an assortment of genres—anatomy, chemistry abbreviations, world flags, etc.—I was most interested in the language apps.
Each language available—there are 10 right now: German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, French, Chinese, Japanese, and Swedish—comes with an assortment of area-specific apps, like basic vocab, verbs, education & work, family, shopping & restaurant, and more.
I'll be the first to say: these apps are by no means the Rosetta Stone of the iPhone. But that being said, they are pretty cool and useful. They employ the flash card method of learning. On one side of the virtual flash card is a term, or phrase, with a picture. When you press the speaker icon, the word is said aloud. The opposite side has the translation spelled out, along with an audio pronunciation in whichever language you're trying to learn.
Once you're finished reading through the flash cards—you can go through them as many times as you feel like—it's time to test yourself via a quiz. I enjoy this part the most, because it lets you decide how much you want to challenge yourself. You can choose one of three options:
1. Multiple choice: you're given the word and choose the correct translation
2. Standard: you're given the word and must type in the correct translation
3. Listening Comprehension: you hear the word and must type in the correction translation
One feature that's missing from the apps, which I think would make them infinitely more useful—especially while traveling abroad, is the ability to search for words. Without that, it's near impossible to rely on any of the apps for on-the-spot help if you find yourself at a loss for words.
So bottom line: as they are, using these apps alone won't make you fluent in any language, but they can definitely beef up your vocab and make communicating in a foreign country a little bit easier.
The apps start at $2.99 (verbs) and run up to $19.99 (basic vocab).
Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photos courtesy of MemoryLifter.
*The four apps I downloaded were complimentary.