Learn a foreign language with your iPad

Use your iPad to help you learn a foreign language

Picture listening to a talk show in a foreign language, picking out the words you're unfamiliar with, and saving them immediately with their description for later review. After your show has finished, perhaps you'd like to play a quick game to cement those new words into your vocabulary. Finally, maybe you'd like to spend the rest of your afternoon reading news articles in this new language. Whether you are travelling overseas or learning a language as a student, your iPad can assist in this process. 

1. Using the built-in apps and options. For example, you could use an app like  Dragon Dictation  or a purpose-built language app from the App Store like iTranslate  to speak the language and copy it into the Notes  app. The Accessibility options have a number of ways to have text spoken to you in a variety of languages.

2. Using apps from the App store like Google Translate or iTranslate or games that build and reinforce vocabulary. 

Use Accessibility Options

The Vision accessibility options on the iPad  provide a means to listen to spoken text on your iPad. In addition, the Voiceover option provides a function called the Rotor; a virtual dial where you can select what and how text and objects are read to you. One of the criteria in the Rotor is Language. There are 36 languages which you can select. 

Accessibility Vision: Speak Selection

Speak Selection


2.  Dialects. You can select the dialect of English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portugese, Chinese. Eg for Spanish, select either Spain or Mexico. 

3.  Speaking Rate. As you move the slider, the voice will go faster - if you move the slider right (the Hare) or slow the voice down - slide it to the left ( the Tortoise). 

Speak Selection: Properties

Speak Selection: Properties

Accessibility Vision: Voiceover - The Rotor

Not all the languages can be spoken back to you when you select: Speak Selection. However, if you turn on in Accessibility settings: Voiceover, there are 36 languages that can be setup to read back to you. Use the Vision accessibility option of: Voiceover to read some German text back to you.

Instead of your iPad reading the German back to you using a default Australian voice, you can use the Accessibility function of the Rotor to change the spoken language to German. Whatever is read to you is read in a German accent. This option seamlessly changes the spoken language as it encounters it in your displayed text. 


Use Apps from the App Store

iTranslate is simple as it is useful, allowing translation of multiple languages in both directions.  Even better, instead of the most common method of translation input; typing a phrase, iTranslate allows speaking into your device to receive your delivered translation within seconds.

Google Translate: There are so many useful and fun features with Google Translate, it’s hard to believe that the app is free. You can use voice command for translations for over 15 languages, as well as listen to spoken translations in over 20 languages. There are also over 60 interchangeable languages available for text translation. The interface is simple to use and draws from Google’s vast resources to deliver accurate translations, including suggested alternatives for misspelled translations

Busuu is a free app available in several different languages that offers the unique feature of connecting learners with native speakers. After you’ve spent time learning through the 3,000 words and key phrases, you can interact with over 25,000,000 users to practice what you’ve learned. The app also uses audio/visual techniques to learn with photos and voice. If you’re looking to learn French, Russian, or even German, the Busuu apps are a must.

Brainscape:  Whether you create your own flashcards or rely on the expert information available through the app, Brainscape focuses on teaching by using intervals of time and what you already know. You’ll be asked to rate your knowledge of material on a scale of 1-5 and the app will quiz you based on the material you need to focus on more.

Mindsnacks: If you’re looking for a free and fun way to learn a new language, MindSnacks is an awesome app that is available in a variety of languages. The app uses games to help teach people of all ages. Through interactive play, the app will teach you essential vocabulary and conversation skills. Spend time learning Spanish, Chinese, Italian, and many more languages for free.

Babbel: Whether you want to learn Polish, Indonesian, Dutch, or another popular language, Babbel has a free app to help you do it. With pronunciation evaluation, the app even ensures that you’re saying the words correctly. You can choose the lessons you want to focus on and learn basic or advanced language skills to fit almost any conversation needs.

Want more apps?  Here's a link to 80 apps for learning a foreign language.