Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Onde estão as malas? - Learning Portuguese with the iPhone.

The other day, as we were watching that Santissimo Sacrameto procession, I found that I was quite unable to communicate with people who only know Portuguese. Regula and I had tried to talk to an elderly man about the background of the procession and found that we failed almost entirely. So I got the idea into my head that I wanted to learn some Portuguese. I was sure that there would be some nice app for the iPhone that could help me.

Scouring the AppStore I first found mobilinga. It comes with a large collection of sentences in Portuguese and German, sporting a speech synthesizer to read the text out aloud. Unfortunately it completely lacks any training concept beyond the ability to sort flashcards into piles for learning. As a beginner I was completely overwhelmed.

The next contestant was uTalk. It provides some guidance by sorting the words and phrases into different groups. It uses little images for each word so that it is not linked to a particular language of origin. The program has quite a limited range of a few hundred words, but they claim that the words were exactly the ones one would need. All the Portuguese words are available as real recordings, spoken by both a man and a woman. Quite entertaining to play with. Unfortunately the program can not remember how well I have learned the words, so its use is unfortunately quite limited to me.

So I spent another 10 Franks and bought AccelaStudy. It also comes with recordings of a real person speaking the words both in Portuguese and in German . Over 2000 words all in all. The Portuguese is actually Brazilian which caused me some confusion at the beginning. This tool includes one game where troublesome words are repeated more often than the ones I am good at. It lets me sort the words into different groups and then work on these groups. Again this tool does not provide guidance regarding the order I should learn the words in.

Now as our holiday is drawing to a close, I have managed to learn the numbers up to 20, I can ask where my luggage is - Onde estão as malas? I know to words for wine - vinho, bathroom - lavabos, beer - cerveja and some others, but even now I had to peek several times when writing this blog. I guess either my age is showing or there is quite a lot still left to be innovated regarding language learning apps on the iPhone.


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