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Parlez-vous iPod? September 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Apple, Gadgets.
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Foreign phrases at your fingertips with new series of audio tracks

You’re in a busy train station in Paris and need to buy a ticket, but you draw a blank under the impatient clerk’s wilting glare. Time to panic? Nope, instead you pull out your iPod and with a couple of clicks hear and see the French language phrases you need.

If you’re one of the 40 million people with iPods or other MP3 players, you can take advantage of a new audio and visual phrasebook for travellers called iSpeak French by Alex Chapin ($15.95, also available in German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese).

It allows you to see and hear hundreds of words and phrases, which you can use as study tools to prep for an upcoming trip or as a language reference while you’re on the road. You’re never more than three clicks away from any of the words or phrases.

Downloading the phrasebook into your iPod gives you access to nearly 1,500 audio tracks, organized into categories like finding accommodations, arranging transport and dining out. And when trouble inevitably arises, you’ll be able to say, “My car won’t start,” “The bill is not correct,” or if all else fails, “I want to call a lawyer”, all phrases included in the book.

You can locate the words and phrases on your iPod in the same way you find music files, by browsing Artists or Genres. Using Playlists, you can create your own dictation by choosing titles from various parts of the book.

Words and phrases scroll by on the screen as they play, in French and English. But if your player doesn’t have a screen, this feature won’t be available and you’ll have to make do with the hard-copy booklet included for your reference.

I found that downloading was straightforward enough. But be warned, the phrasebook does use a lot of memory, about two gigabytes, or half of the memory available in my iPod Nano. Depending on how much memory you have, you might not have much, if any, space left for music, audiobooks or other applications.

As language lessons go, this is fairly basic. It doesn’t include pronunciation guides, grammar rules or conversations. But it does make excellent use of the memory and organizational abilities of iPods and other MP3 players. Available at leading bookstores and online at Chapters and Amazon.

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