An App for Language Learners on the Go: A Review of uTalk
It’s a grievance we hear from our clients all the time: you want to practice your foreign language outside of class, but you don’t have time to sit down with a course book or spend hours in front of the computer. The folks at uTalk understand that you’re on the go, and therefore, they’ve developed a simple, user-friendly foreign language-learning app that offers useful lessons in bite-size, 10-minute chunks.
ATTENTION LANGUAGE LEARNERS! Interested in getting in some extra foreign language practice? We’re teaming up with uTalk and giving away a FREE PREMIUM ACCESS CODE that will let you check out everything we’ll mention in this review. But time is limited: Leave a comment HERE to enter today!
uTalk is an app available for iPhone users and supports over 120 languages. It offers a free introduction to all languages; from there, the basic package is $9.99, and the premium package is $15.99. If you can swing it, we recommend the premium package, as it comes with an extensive phrasebook, so you’re never without a dictionary. A huge advantage to uTalk is that it’s fully functional offline, so if you’re in an area without internet (e.g., while traveling) or don’t want to rack up huge data fees while away from WiFi, you can still use it to your heart’s content.
uTalk lessons are structured similarly. They are organized by topics, the majority of which are centered around real-life themes, such as going shopping or spending a day at the beach. We’ve found that these topics are especially useful for those who are in a foreign country for business or vacation, as they deal with things that travelers frequently encounter (e.g., ordering at a restaurant, checking in at a hotel). uTalk also includes lessons on basic (yet necessary) features of language, such as the alphabet and numbers.
As mentioned above, premium users are armed with an extensive phrasebook, which can be of great utility when you see a sign with a word you don’t recognize. Our favorite use of the phrasebook was in conjunction with reading foreign-language books: simply read at your leisure, and when you encounter a word you don’t know, quickly look it up in the phrasebook.
Though the lessons cover useful topics, they don’t seem to be organized in any meaningful way, which means they should be viewed as standalone lessons rather than part of a sequence. In the future, we’d like to see a bit more structure regarding the order of the lessons (e.g., learning basic numbers before asking for directions).
Each lesson comes with six activities. First, there’s a practice session in which you’re introduced to the key vocabulary items. Then, there are five games, all of which are fun, interactive, and — best of all — last only about 5 or 10 minutes. The games help build your vocabulary, test your memory, and allow you to compare your speech to a native speaker.
The games are engaging and effective for improving your vocabulary for real-life situations you’re likely to encounter. However, there is very little direct grammar practice, so uTalk should not be considered a replacement to an in-depth course book. Still, it serves as an excellent supplement to language classes, allowing you to practice the vocabulary you’ve learned in class.
Motivation to keep going
All language learners run out of steam every now and then. Indeed, maintaining motivation is tricky, and the developers behind uTalk understand this. When you complete an activity, you are backed by a rewarding point system that allows you to track your progress. Best of all, completing activities unlocks new destinations on a virtual map (see below).
After finishing a lesson, you “travel” to a new place, and receive a little history and geography lesson along the way. So in addition to becoming a world traveler, you might get some inspiration for the next foreign language you want to learn!
uTalk Premium is a $15.99 value — but we’re giving it away for FREE! Simply leave a comment HERE and you’re automatically entered to win a free premium access code.
Ultimately, uTalk is a great tool for busy people who want to practice while they’re on the go. Its lessons are useful, its activities are fun, and its point system is rewarding. As noted previously, it doesn’t cover much in terms of grammar, so it’s not meant to be an all-in-one tool for mastering a foreign language. Still, it’s an excellent start, and will help both expand vocabulary and improve pronunciation. And the fact that it can be used offline means that you can practice your languages skills anytime, anywhere. If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, see the uTalk website for more information.