Often a major challenge to learning a second language is the lack of time a person is able to apply the words and phrases outside of a textbook. Lingibli offers a solution, by working in conjunction with physical barcode labels that you print, cut out and tape to objects around your home or office.
Then all you have to do to squeeze in study time is scan the label with your iPhone and presto, you’re learning. Komm mit! I’ll show you how it works.
Naturally, for you to get the most out of Lingibli, it needs to know which language you’re trying to learn. So the first time you fire it up, the app will ask you to provide your native language as well as the language you’re looking to learn or improve.
After you make your selection, Lingibli will begin downloading that specific language’s materials. For the purposes of this review I chose German. Since German is a language I already know well in addition to my native language, I could view Lingibli’s lessons with a better idea of their usefulness and accuracy.
In addition to downloading the correct language information from Lingibli, you will also need to print your barcode labels, cut them out and affix them to the appropriate household items or rooms, for example: bed, book, chair, computer, door, food, kitchen, lamp, mirror, table, window. Through the app you can email these to yourself, then download them and print them.
It’s important to note that the labels will be printed with the words in your native/first language, not the language you are learning. The idea is that every time you see one you’ll try to recall the name of the object in the second language and/or you can use the Lingibli app on your phone to scan the label and get more information.
In the app, the middle tab is marked by the icon of a QR code. This is the tab you select each time you want to scan a language label. Just use the camera on your phone to line up the image of the label inside the viewfinder rectangle. As soon as the app recognizes the QR code, a narrator will announce the word (aka the name of the object) in the second language.
For example, my Lingibli app knows my first language is English. I’ve set the language I’m learning to German. I hold my phone up to a label marked “door.” As soon as Lingibli recognizes the code, the narrator tells me “Tür” and the app displays information about the word.
On this display screen, I can now see a drawing of the object, plus the word written in both English and German, and I can hear it repeated in the second language if I press the speaker icon. Below all of that are some examples of the word being used in a sentence. Again, the option to hear each of the phrases spoken is given.
Under the Words tab you can see how many words in that set of barcode labels you’ve scanned versus have left to scan. Selecting any one of them will take you to its display page where you can hear it spoken, etc.
Under the Phrases tab you’ll find an area where you can enter notes for yourself, plus phrases grouped together by subject category: Top 35, Basic Talking, Emotions, Traveling, Eating & Drinking, Shopping & Money, Time, Numbers, Hotel, Getting Help. (Two of these — Top 35 and Emotions — were available for me with the free preview.)
The Languages tab is where you can change your native language, plus pay for full or additional content. See, Lingibli let’s you try a few words and phrases with the free installation, then gives you the option of unlocking the rest of the content for $4.99 per language or $24.99 for all languages (there are almost two dozen available so far). You do have the option of previewing content for any language for free before choosing to pay the $4.99.
For some people, affixing labels to random objects throughout their home may not seem appealing. Also, after you learn that set of 20 words, what then? Will there be more labels available for download in the future?
The pronunciations — for the German at least — were accurate and, in my opinion, would be a great resource for someone who wants to practice pronunciation. Also, the scanning concept built into Lingibli could be incredibly useful for beginners who need some help memorizing the absolute basics.
However, it would require a big jump to go from memorizing the fact that the word “Tür” means door and learning/understanding/using some of the phrases included in the app, such as “Schließ die Tür ab, bevor du gehst” (Lock the door before you go). The latter involves verb conjugation, declension of the indefinite article, a deeper understanding of word order and so on.
My point is: Without any grammatical instruction included in the app, a gap exists between the basic material and the more advanced material. Maybe the developer’s idea was to create an app that could cater to a wide range of language skills, but all this means is that the app will quickly become useless to absolute beginners who master the labels in a few days, or it will frustrate them since they aren’t given the tools to cross the bridge between memorizing some phrases and actually building sentences.
To be fair, Lingibli invites users to “start learning a new language” — it doesn’t promise a complete course to mastering it. Taking that into account, they’ve accomplished what they set out to do. If you’ve been thinking about learning a new language and want to explore that further, Lingibli can definitely get you started.