When we were approached about reviewing this smart phone application, I was excited. There are tons of applications out there to help travelers learn European languages, or even a few words of Cyrillic or eastern languages, but I find most of them lacking. The idea with Earworms Musical Brain Trainer is that listening to the language downloads will put words and phrases into your long-term memory, so you can actually recall it when you need it. The lessons are put to music or rhythms which improves the brain’s recall function. Given that epic stories from thousands of years ago, like the Odyssey, were put to music so a poet could remember the whole thing, I think the creators on to something here…
I love languages and to be completely honest I speak three of them, but as I learned on the road, that wasn’t enough. To try out this app, I wanted to put it through the ringer so I chose two languages that are considered difficult to learn: Russian and Arabic.
Getting Started: It was easy to download the different languages on my iTouch. You have to buy each language individually and most languages come in a few volumes- beginners should start with volume 1 with introduces a traveler to the key phrases for getting around: hotels, restaurants, etc… Along with the audio, you can read the phrases on your smartphone with the lesson.
How it Works:
For volume 1 downloads, each language come with 10 modules: 1) I would like, 2) To order, 3) Have you got?, 4) To the airport, 5) Numbers, days and time, 6) Where is there..?, 7) Directions, 8) Where, when and what time?, 9) Problems, problems and 10) Do you speak English? Unlike other language applications, there isn’t a cutesy little travel story along with the lesson. It’s a simple repetition of the phrases, by a native speaker and an English speaker. They chat a bit, but it’s clear that the focus is on getting the rhythm in your head. The whole volume was a little over an hour.
The directions suggests you to listen to the whole download on the first day and then regularly listen to the modules over the next few weeks.
I listened to the Russian and Arabic modules on and off for a few weeks, usually while running. I actually enjoyed the melodious repetition. Certain phrases, even with just my casual use of the modules, have really stuck in my head. I would definitely recommend these modules to traveler’s looking for an easy, relatively fun way to learn the basics. Plus listening to a native speaker is going to give you a much better accent.
Will it get you speaking fluently? No, but it does give you enough of a basis to be able to formulate phrases on your own. Although it doesn’t teach you to conjugate verbs, it does give you some verbs that you can use to make your own sentences. I also really appreciated the written text which gives a literal translation of some phrases and some grammatical tips, especially for Arabic, this gave me a real sense of place and culture.
Pros: Listen and read at the same time. Hear a native speaker and an English speaker in quick succession. Upbeat and easy to listen.
Cons: The price is overall a little steep, so use the free demo downloads on their website to try it before you buy it. I think it’s worth it!
Price: $9.99 But check their website for coupons and offers!
Disclosure: We were provided free downloads in exchange for reviewing this product.