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-   -   Language apps on mobiles/computers (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/travellers-questions-dont-fit-anywhere/language-apps-on-mobiles-computers-59834)

Fern 23 Oct 2011 21:30

Language apps on mobiles/computers

I'm looking for some what used to be language cassettes (showing my age) or downloads, so listen to on my commutes

French, Spanish and Russian i'm on the look out for. I tried learning languages at school and uni, but I don't even know the difference between a verb and a noun, so I think listening would be a better way to learn than text books trying to explain language theory.

Can anyone recommend anything or any alternative ways of learning languages?

backofbeyond 24 Oct 2011 07:50

Over the last five or six years five family members, myself included, have been trying to upgrade their language skills and have tackled French, Spanish, German, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, German, Swedish and Arabic with various degrees of success.

Between us we've used just about every method available ranging from books, the three main language courses available as CDs etc (RosettaStone, Pimsleur, Michel Thomas), evening classes, 1 to1 tuition with native speakers and going to live in the country. We all pretty much agree that, starting from scratch, the most helpful / useful route has been using the Michel Thomas CDs. We've bought some of them and borrowed others from local library's. The introductory course (2 discs) is cheap at around £15 or so. If you get the disks and have any computer skills you can convert them to mp3 for car use.

However, I've tried listening to them in a car while driving and concluded that it doesn't really work. To get the most from them does require total concentration, something you don't have available while driving (not if you want to arrive in one bit anyway). My suggestion would be to listen to music on the commute and put some time aside in the evening when you can block out everything else.

stickysidedown 1 Nov 2011 15:04

Although Michael Thomas does tell you not to concentrate!! But you are right, after a short while I just found I tuned those CD's out, its the same reason I dont often listen to music whilst riding.

Unfortunately there is no such thing as a free lunch, or a matrix style download of skills into your brain

I did however find I was learning basics quite quickly using a free software through Byki express, I think you need to pay for more comprehensive learning modules but I found without too much of my evening exhausted I was becoming familiar with words, structure and patterns when I was trying a little Polish.

Strangely I found I knew more of the information the following morning than immediately after the tutorial session and would spend my day uttering random phrases as I worked around the site to the bemusement of my colleagues.

So I would try combining those learning materials with things that were immersive in the language of choice, like podcasts of talk radio, spoken books etc whilst riding

good luck

eightpot 2 Nov 2011 23:05

Have a look for night schools in your area - my local council fund a language school which runs courses in most languages - I did Arabic for a couple of years and it only cost around £110 a term. Was much more succesful than trying to learn from a CD.

estebangc 2 Nov 2011 23:58

You may try "Learn Spanish/French/Russian/etc in your car", especifically designed for that purpose.

Just a comment: nothing can substitute completely sitting and studying/doing homework, IMHO.

Good luck,


backofbeyond 3 Nov 2011 08:44


Originally Posted by eightpot (Post 354587)
Have a look for night schools in your area - my local council fund a language school which runs courses in most languages - I did Arabic for a couple of years and it only cost around £110 a term. Was much more succesful than trying to learn from a CD.

I've been trying to find an Arabic class round my way for a while without much success - plenty of Euro languages but that's about it. You're right though about CDs, you do need more but they are good for getting you off the ground.

Our most successful attempt (my son, learning Mandarin) used the Michel Thomas discs to start with, until he had some limited ability but enough to start taking a class. After a year or so he then went to live / work in China (teaching English) and organised 1 to 1 tuition for himself in Mandarin. The discs got him started though and gave him enough confidence to sign up for a class.

MountainMan 3 Nov 2011 16:43

As a sign of my age, I have some Pimsleur System French cassette tapes that I bought years ago which were purchased for the noble purpose of learning to speak with my girlfriend at the time. The approach seems to have been bypassed in popularity by the Rosetta Stone but is still fairly widely used.

I recently pulled them out again and low and behold, they still work.

Interestingly, I found out that the best system for using them involves...wait for it...using a Walkman.

No kidding, the tapes repeatedly prompt you for questions and when you are improving your skills it helps to stop the tape to give you time to retrieve words from memory. I also find it invaluable to stop and rewind and have the question repeated. Many times it is at such a fast speed that their words jumble together and if you don't listen to it a couple of times, you can't make the separate words out. The old cassette technology works surprising well for this.

So if you get really stuck, I can send you some tapes and an old Walkman to try it out. You can walk around town with it and the kids will you think you are really retro cool:)

saralou 5 Nov 2011 01:44

There are a ton of free podcast you can download to your computer or IPOD of of I tunes! We are leaning Spanish. sara

Fern 10 Nov 2011 21:01

thanks for all your tips, sources and hints. Sara, what sort of podcasts? When I load the itunes shop, I don't know where to start!

farmerdan 11 Nov 2011 04:29

I'm curious.. Is there not a program that can be used on a netbook that will translate without wifi? I know this doesn't teach you a new language but it would help me out..

saralou 11 Nov 2011 05:16

i Fern

go to itunes store...hit podcast button on top search bar....far right is podcast quick links....hit language learning....choose a language

also try hit apps button... then in search bar top right enter language the hit return ... there are lots of free apps.

Mega cool iphone app.....word lens. translates written language for you just point phone at it.

Also cool is free Translate app Google translate you speak to it in a language and it types out the translation!


gypsyprincess 11 Nov 2011 12:30

I am so lazy that I hardly ever use it, but when I do I love it! Free except for the podcasts and set up like Rosetta Stone, it hits all the vitals, and you can set up online tandem for language exchange!

Learn languages for free online | Learn English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese | busuu.com

farmerdan 12 Nov 2011 15:11

Isn't a network needed for google translate and the iPhone app?

saralou 16 Nov 2011 06:47

Fern check out apps

Google translate
word lens


Fern 16 Nov 2011 23:04


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