Although I studied French for six years during high school and college, I never became very good at it. Then I went to France for two months and my language skills improved; I could say important stuff like “O¹ est la boulangerie?” and “Je viens des tats-Unis.” Not scintillating conversation, but it got me around. Still, I could have used iSpeak-“the ultimate audio and visual phrasebook for your iPod.”

I’ll say it is. Published by McGraw-Hill, iSpeak is a downloadable language learning program that not only can be used as a translator while traveling, but also as your personal foreign language tutor.

The program consists of seven sections: conversation, travel, accommodations, food, services and shopping, entertainment, and reference. Each section is then broken down into specific topics. For example, travel subsets include “directions,” “train and metro,” and “borders”; food has “ordering” and “beverages.” The reference section contains “numbers,” “time and date,” and “20 key phrases,” such as “Pourriez-vous le dire plus lentement?” (Translation: “Could you say it more slowly?”, a phrase I know from experience can be quite handy.)

As for the interpreter function, here’s how it works. If you want to ask a question, such as “Where is the train station?” you simply scroll to the appropriate section (in this case, travel), find the phrase you’re looking for in English, and select. Et viol¡. In a lilting voice, the French phrase is spoken in your ear (in this case, “O¹ est la gare?”).

If it’s not Fran§ais you wish to learn, iSpeak offers six other languages: German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese, with more to come. Whichever language you chose, iSpeak is a fabulous, convenient-and clever-way to learn a foreign tongue while on the go.


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