How your Phone can help you Learn a Language

This year I decided to learn a new language. Unexpectedly my phone has been the most useful tool – unlike anything I ever had decades ago when I learned languages at school. They say multi-channel learning is the most effective, and my phone has been a great tool to increase the auditory channel of my learning. Here are some ways my (Android) phone has been useful:


Google Translate

OF COURSE – Google translate is easy to access just by typing “translate” in the search bar, but did you know that if you install the actual Google Translate phone app, you can handwrite what you are looking up? This is especially useful if learning a language with a cursive script like Persian or Arabic. For me it’s much faster than tapping letters out on the keyboard. It also has the interesting capability of translating conversations. Tap Conversation, and set the two languages of the people who will be speaking (say, Latvian and Japanese), and it will listen for both languages and interpret for each one.


Google Assistant

My recent Android update seems to have upgraded the responses to vocabulary questions such as “How do you say umbrella in French?” Previously I would get the answer on my screen, with an extra tap required to hear the response. Not helpful if you are using driving time to compose sentences in your new language, as I often do. Now the answer is spoken back to me, which is much more useful.


Google Lens

This is a new tool in the Camera app that interprets photos and converts any text in the photo to text you can paste somewhere, or ask it to translate. When I pull up a photo I’ve taken, I can tap the Lens icon and it will interpret any text in the photo and bring up relevant web links. If I then tap Text Selection, it shows the converted text, providing options to Copy or Translate.


Voice Recorder App

A voice recorder app on the phone has been tremendously useful to record important explanations in class, or to record a tutoring session with a friend correcting my pronunciation. I also record vocabulary lists (best if you can have a native speaker speaking the words) to listen to while driving. I combine several of these recordings into a playlist to listen to while driving. I use Voice Recorder, but other apps will do as long as you can easily upload to your favorite audio/music playback service (I use SoundCloud).


Change the Phone’s O/S or Navigation Language

Another fun thing to do was to change my phone’s operating system to the new language, which gave me useful vocabulary such as “Wifi Hotspot” and “Battery”. If that is too much for you all at once, instead of changing the entire operating system, you can just change the language for the Maps navigation – so that when you drive around you can be navigated in your favorite language, and learn useful words like left, right, straight, etc.

We’ll follow up with options for iPhone users shortly.

-Beatrice Upenieks, CEO

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