Next year, my partner and I are planning on relocating to Spain. There is one problem that we have encountered with our impending move, however — neither of us can speak Spanish.
Upon browsing the App Store for a quick solution, the distinctively familiar color scheme of the For Dummies reference series caught my eye, and I knew that Spanish For Dummies would be an app that I could trust to teach us basic Continental Spanish in a clear and concise manner. Find out more after the jump.
Developed by Skava, Spanish For Dummies launches with a default Menu screen, comprising a Search bar, Word or Phrase of the Day, and the main content, conveniently split up into the following nine sections: Words and Phrases, Dictionary, Flashcards, Grammar Basics, Part of Tens, My Favorites, Share, About and Help.
Tapping the Word or Phrase of the Day will display its meaning and pronunciation, complete with audio playback. I found this extremely useful as it ensured that I learned at least one Spanish word per day no matter how busy I was. The inclusion of a Search bar is also a welcome addition and saved a lot of time trawling through the app just to look up the translation of a specific word.
Selecting Help will present an overview of the available categories, briefly outlining what to expect from each section.
Words and Phrases
Words and Phrases comprises 16 categories, ranging from the nice and simple Greetings and Small Talk to the slightly more complicated Directions and Appointments. Selecting a category will display a list of words and phrases related to that topic, including both formal and informal ways of saying various sentences.
To hear the correct way of pronouncing a word or phrase, tap the one you want. This will display an audio playback icon, and include a response in Spanish if the sentence was a question.
When learning a new language, a dictionary is an essential tool to own. Luckily for us, Spanish For Dummies includes an English to Spanish and Spanish to English dictionary that can be accessed at the tap of a button.
Unfortunately, the dictionary itself is not full-sized and only includes a limited amount of words. This is a shame as it would have been handy to have a more comprehensive dictionary on-hand for when you’re out and about in Spain and need a little help.
Spanish For Dummies includes English to Spanish and Spanish to English flashcards which, in my opinion, are a tremendous help when learning something new.
To use, simply choose a category and the app will display a word or phrase related to that topic which you must translate into Spanish or English, depending on the setting. Tap the card to flip over and reveal the answer, selecting the speaker icon for audio playback.
Grammar Basics comprises 15 categories, completely dedicated to the topic of Spanish grammar. For me, grammar is one of the hardest things to grasp when learning a new language, and I therefore found this section of the app invaluable. From Past, Present and Future Tense, to Singular and Plural Nouns and more, I think its safe to say that Spanish For Dummies has this subject completely covered.
Upon choosing a category, the app will display a long list of words and phrases relevant to that particular topic. Simply tap the word to hear its pronunciation.
Part of Tens
Part of Tens features three subcategories: Ten Holidays to Remember, Ten Phrases That Make You Sound Fluent and Ten Common Expressions.
Ten Holidays to Remember lists several of the most important Spanish holidays, along with information on planning a vacation to Spain and places to explore once you reach your destination, while Ten Phrases to Make You Sound Fluent does just that, displaying a handful of phrases that’ll impress any Spaniard when spoken.
Ten Common Expressions compiles ten of the most used expressions, although I’m not sure that I agree with what the developer would consider common as I don’t think I’ve ever said “a swindle!” or “first rate!” ever in my life.
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark your favorite words and phrases by tapping the + icon found alongside the word. Doing this will add that particular word or phrase to My Favorites on the Menu screen, enabling easier access. Spanish For Dummies also encourages you to share what you’ve learned with friends and family via Facebook or email.
For those of us who’d prefer to learn a language other than Continental Spanish, the For Dummies range is also available in Mexican Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Japanese — each of which having virtually the same format as the one outlined in this review.
The user interface in Spanish For Dummies is, in a word, uninspired. On my iPhone 4, the Retina display rendered the graphics pixelated, and so presumably this would also be the case with any iPhone model that came after the iPhone 3GS. While arguably unattractive, it should be noted that the app is nonetheless well-designed and navigating the various categories within Spanish For Dummies is a breeze.
Spanish For Dummies makes learning a new language easy and actually kind of fun. Its portable nature means that you can consult the app when you’re out and about in Spain, or if you have some downtime and feel like studying up on the Spanish language.
However, to become a fluent Spanish speaker, I would recommend using this app alongside another method of learning such as a class or audiobook, in order to move beyond the basics which you’ve hopefully picked up with Spanish For Dummies.