My wife is from Uruguay, and in preparation for an upcoming trip, I've been using my iPhone and iPad to study Español. In the process, I've found a wealth of free and paid learning material that has made my iOS device a terrific tool for improving my Spanish skills. In keeping with this issue's Best Apps & Gear theme, I will focus on a few of my favorite apps. Next issue, I will describe more ways to use an iOS device to learn a foreign language. In the meantime, if you find great language learning tools, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
An advantage of iPhone flash cards is that they can repeat challenging words in a way that optimizes learning. Electronic flash cards also have audio and are superior to paper flash cards.
One of my favorites apps is AccelaStudy ($9.99, app2.me/4189). Available in 17 languages, the Spanish version has over 2,100 words divided into 65 topic areas (colors, weather, technology, etc). You can create your own study sets and practice with them in various modes including flashcard mode, a spaced repetition mode, and several quiz modes all with stats to track your progress. I frequently use "Audio Auto Advance" mode when driving. In it, each word is spoken and displayed on the screen, and after a brief delay, the app speaks and displays the translation. It's an excellent and painless vocabulary builder.
Super Duper Dictionary
I really like the Word Magic's Unabridged English-Spanish Dictionary ($19.99, app2.me/4185) which serves as a powerful standalone dictionary as well as a translation and learning tool. The app is a compendium of several regular, idiom, colloquial, proverb and foreign-word dictionaries plus a gigantic collection of technical glossaries. When connected to the Internet, 40,000 color pictures are used to identify meanings and context. Word definitions in both languages are displayed along with synonyms, antonyms and examples. Verb conjugation and de-conjugation is included for all verbs. There are 200,000 phrases you can find through the search.
Alternatively, SpanishDict (Free, app2.me/4186) is a free straightforward dictionary with a link to its more robust on-line dictionary. It also includes a word game and several hundred phrases in 25 categories like "airport" and "shopping." The app is a product of spanishdict.com, a wonderful resource that includes 60 free video lessons, the ability to translate text, a complete dictionary, verb conjugation, and various learning tools.
LearnSpanish (Free, app2.me/4188) is a surprisingly engrossing app. The app and first lesson are free, and then it costs $2.99 per lesson or $44.99 for all 30 lessons. The lessons take the form of a story: a young British man visits Argentina to learn Spanish, and ends up taping these lessons with a "hot Latin Spanish teacher" using a "magic" whiteboard. The writing on the whiteboard is the Spanish dialog encoded in colors depending on the part of speech. Cartoon versions of the main characters and other visuals enhance the lessons. Overall, it is well-thought out and fun approach to learning.
One of my favorite reading learning tools is eReading's illustrated Gulliver's Traveler ($1.99, app2.me/4184).
The story shows one paragraph per page, with each page containing an illustration along with the paragraph's wording. It's as simple as switching each page back and forth from Spanish to English and listening and reading.