Sunday, February 20, 2011

Me and my iPod.

This weekend has been a rough one. I decided to finish both essays that I have to hand in on Friday, since I don't know how much time I will have next week (I got another job on Friday and will have to go through some training for it, spanning over several days). So I put down an offer of X glasses of wine at a cozy café in Oslo with a friend yesterday (more or less my vision of paradise) in order to read about cosmopolitanism and democracy and inclusion. Bitter, who, me? I'm making up for it by going to the movies tonight with some assorted partners in crime from St Petersburg to see Black Swan and working on my Hungarian homework. Yes, I got homework from my Hungarian language partner! I'm translating a snippet of Norwegian into Hungarian, because she thinks I'm reading too difficult books anyway. She's most likely right, Hungarian has me completely defeated.

BUT ANYWAY. My language learning life has become significantly easier since Christmas when I became the proud owner of an iPod Touch. Naturally, I should've gotten one ages ago, but I have a problem when it comes to spending money, so I usually just wait until someone gives whatever I want to me.

So, how can you use your iPod to make your life easier as language learner? Well first of all, and obviously, dictionaries! I have always been very interested in electronic dictionaries, and I had one as early as 2003. It was perhaps what made me interested in languages to begin with (come to think of it, I've only been a language enthusiast for five or so years) since it all of a sudden enabled me to read books without dragging a dictionary along. All of a sudden I could read French books and I went way past my class all the way to France! Back then it was a C-Pen scanner dictionary. Since those naïve days of Marguerite Duras, Anaïs Nin, Emmanuel Carrère and Guy de Maupassant painstakingly read with grim determination I have invested in an Ectaco Arabic handhold dictionary that didn't work (worst piece of crap I've ever bought) and a C-Pen scanner for Russian that didn't work either since it could only look at words in their dictionary form...

With an iPod Touch you never need to buy another device for this purpose. I have bought the Oxford Russian dictionary (pricey, yep, but you can save flash cards and all the words have pronunciation), a Hungarian-English dictionary that's absolutely brilliant and that cost almost nothing, and I will most likely acquire a serious German dictionary as well when I get more serious about German.

Naturally, there is an ANKI application for iPod. Need I say more?

It is as easy as it gets to find Russian or Hungarian or whatever radio stations that you can listen to whenever you have Wifi.

There are several language courses for iPod, but I have not looked into those since that's not really my kind of thing. I have only downloaded a one Hungarian word a day (with pronunciation!) application, and I'm sure there are loads of others for other languages.

What more can you do with an iPod? I want suggestions!

When I started working with the book Standard Arabic (terrifyingly sexy in its absolutely hard-core approach) I was quite annoyed at how one of the first words they introduced was "diligent". Who on earth uses that word anyway? Now I find myself thinking "diligent" rather often, and feel that I have some of my diligence to thank my iPod for. I think it may be brought me back to "our world". Soon I'll be back on the Forum as well, just you wait.


  1. Standard Arabic? :O That's something new. Can't wait to see you back on the Forum as well.

  2. Since, obviously, ANKI concept is not for me, I use an app called Babbel for my Swedish (there are other languages available, unfortunately only separately). It's extremely helpful, though it sometimes provides different forms of the nouns (sometimes they are in singular definite form, sometimes in plural definite, sometimes in singular indefinite, but I get the concept and don't care, in ANKI the situation is nearly the same).
    I wonder why you haven’t bought ABBYY Lingvo dictionaries. At least Russian-English is included in the price, and there are much more inside but for extra money.

  3. Is Babbel a flash card app? And how do you mean the situation is nearly the same in Anki?

    Well, I was browsing through the dictionaries in the App Store and I think I got the impression the Oxford one was the largest. I'm not sure if the Lingvo one has some advantages. In the conjugation/declination paradigms in Oxford they don't show how the stress changes, and they don't mark у-locative for those words that have that after в/на. And you can't look up other forms than the dictionary form, but the dictionary autocompletes for you as you write, so usually that's no problem.

  4. Leo: Standard Arabic was 4-5 years ago ;)

  5. I'd say that Babbel is kind of a mix of flash cards and Rosetta stone :)
    As I said, they have pre-defined sets of words, usually one set has 10 words. First, you see the word, it's translation into English, a picture which helps you memorize and you hear the pronunciation. Then (on the next screen), you're asked to tap on the first letters of the new words you've just seen. The next step is practice of the words, you're asked to identify them just by hearing them and then to type them up.
    But this is not the end. After you compete practice, the words go to your revision stack and in some time the programm will signal that it's high time to revise words :) As far as I understand, they have a mechanism to calculate your spelling mistakes, how often you revise a word and still misspel it, and some other factors I have no idea about. In ANKI you do that yourself.
    Anyway, Babbel is a free application, you can try the demo yourself :)

    Here's a list of ABBYY Dictionaries:
    I assume the most valuable for you is Russian explanatory dictionary ($4). I use this dictionary on my mac (, and there are stress if it changes ( To be frank, I don't get what y-locative is :) so cannot check if they have such a service %(

  6. I don't find ABBYY in the app store, only a collection of dictionaries. I guess I just took the Oxford because it was the biggest I could find and I need as many weird words as possible ;)

    ANKI also figures out when to repeat for you (the span of time needed if your knowledge is good, poor, non-existent etc), so I think they may use the same system. I think Mnemosyne was first, and then other people built on that formula. Or something. :P

    Y locative: в аду, на краю, в саду...

  7. So the Anki thing is the 18$ one? Say, maybe it's a stupid question, but does it sync with your computer deck or the one only or are both possible? (I still don't know whether I'll be using an ipod touch soon, but the possibility actually exists.)

  8. You can sync it with your computer, just make sure to sync all the time, every time you have done or changed something somewhere!

  9. What happens if I don't? *scared*

  10. If you make changes at multiple locations without syncing inbetween, you only get to keep one of those changes :(