There has been a lot of talk about the iPad since it's announcement, but it's been a lot of reaction and uninformed opinion, and very little helpful advice for using the iPad to learn languages.
I'm out of town for three days, and I left my laptop at home and brought only the iPad. Instead of writing posts in advance and scheduling them, I'm writing this post on my iPad. I'm putting this device to the test.
Ok, so that's how I'm using the iPad to write about learning, but...
How am I using it to learn?
First, there are tons of apps available for language learning. From phrase teaching apps to flashcard apps, to dictionaries and translation tools, there are endless options in every language. All the iPhone apps plus the new iPad apps.
The iPad has a full size web browser. This means that all the web sites I use to learn, look up vocab, or even chat in other languages are all here. And the compact, lightweight iPad is much handier than a laptop and the battery lasts much longer. It even fits in the seat-back pocket!
I filled it up with Italian movies before my trip. This way, that four hour flight could be spent getting my ears more accustomed to hearing the Italian language spoken. And occasionally I'll notice a word that comes up a lot, which I don't know, and I can go to the Notes app and make a note of it.
And finally, on top of everything else, the iPad is also a big iPod, so I also have hours of Italian lessons, music, and conversations that I can listen to in the hotel or at the airport, or wherever. I also have several foreign language podcasts that I can watch or listen to.
What could make it better?
The iBooks app needs more language books. Granted, there are apps to allow loading PDF files, but those I have tried so far leave something to be desired for user experience. I'm sure given a little more time, those apps will mature. But none of this makes up for the iBook store's need for more language learning content.
But I also think the idea itself of language books could be replaced by feature rich apps, allowing lessons to be read, exercises to be completed, and audio to be heard where it applies, without the need for pause, fast forward, rewind.
I would love to see an app make use of the touch interface as a way of teaching people how to form the letters of various alphabets. In particular, an app that helped me learn to draw Arabic characters would be awesome.
Are you using an iPad?
Well, that's a good summary for now, and a good place to end my first post written entirely on an iPad. Are any of you using an iPad? Have you discovered any interesting apps or other ways of using this device to help with language study? Let me know in the comments!
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