Sunday, January 24, 2010

5 Ways to Learn the Language

5 Ways to Learn the Language

Traveling to a new country can be a very daunting experience. And even more so when you don't know the country's language. While you're probably not going to learn to speak a new language over night, there are some great options out there to help you get started, learn a few key phrases, and even take along with you to use if you find yourself lost in translation.

1. Franklin Five-Language European Translator ($19.99)

If you're on a budget and in need of an electronic translator, this one's for you. It has over 5,000 conversational phrases and 210,000 total translations in German, French, Spanish, Italian, and English. Categories of phrases include directions, shopping, emergencies, dining, and lodging. It features a QWERTY keyboard, phonetic spell correction, metric and Euro currency conversion functions and Rolodex memory. Franklin makes more extensive translators that cost a good bit more, but if you're simply taking a vacation and need a little translation help, this one works just fine.

2. Odyssey Translator iPhone App ($4.99)

As with anything, there are tons of iPhone and Blackberry apps for language translation. Unfortunately, most of them require you to access your phone's data plan to even use them. When you're traveling overseas, this can be a problem due to access limitations and extra fees. The Odyssey Translator is one that does not require data access. It offers translations of typical questions you might ask went traveling. It comes in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German, French, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese and each language is sold separately. The app even says the phrase out loud.

3. Rush Hour Spanish Audio Book ($19.95)

This three-CD set from Berlitz has been called "cheesy" by a Fox News reviewer but it helps you learn language the old-fashioned way: by song. Berlitz calls it "language-learning entertainment" and it does get you singing along. You'll "listen, repeat, and sing" with two characters, Jon and Elena, who meet at a gym. Before you know it, you'll have learned several new Spanish phrases and quite possibly find yourself humming a tune on your next vacation to a Spanish-speaking country.

4. 30 Words Translation Cards ($8.95)

Flash cards have been around for years and carrying them into a restaurant with you probably isn't the most exciting thing in the world to do. But these are different. The two-sided, accordion-style cards contain over 700 words and phrases, along with the phonetic spelling for each one. In addition, you can print free content to go along with your cards. They're available in European Spanish, South & Central American Spanish, French, and Arabic and they cover non-typical travel topics as well as the usual. They're even waterproof!

5. My Coach Language Series for Nintendo DS ($29.99)

If you have kids, there's no need for them to not know the language as well and Nintendo DS offers translation tools that pose as games and puzzles for Spanish, French, Chinese, and Japanese. There are drills that take advantage of the DS microphone. You can even track your progress as the game grades you on your skills. OK, admittedly, this might be fun for grown-ups, too, but it's definitely something the entire family can use to help prepare for their next vacation.

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