In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, by Douglass Adams, intergalactic travelers could understand any language in the galaxy by squishing a slimy little fish — aptly named the Babelfish — into their ear.

Sounds pretty handy, though a little gross.  Luckily, you can enjoy a similar language translation experience (minus the slime) right in your MP3 player.

iSpeak is a module that’s compatible with iPods, Zune, and most other MP3 players. Alex Chapin developed it. He’s an educational technologist at Middlebury College who specializes in technologies for second-language acquisition.

You use it in the same way you would listen to a song by your favorite artist.  Except with iSpeak you’ll hear and see nearly 1,500 essential phrases covering typical travel situations in your chosen language.

Here’s how it works:

1.)  Go to “Artist”

2.)  Choose the theme you want. You’ll find Conversation, Travel, Accommodations, Food, Services, Entertainment, and Reference. Let’s say you pick “Food.” From here, you’ll be taken to a subcategory.

3.)  Now go to “Album.”

4.)  Select your topic within the theme. For example, you’ll find Basics, Eating Out, Beverages, Meat, Poultry & Fish, Vegetables & Grains, Fruit & Dairy, and Preparation within the Food category.

5.)  Then simply select the phrase you want to hear. You’ll hear the phrase.  And, you’ll even see it on your iPod screen.

** This means you can play the phrase for the waiter or point to the screen to show him/her what you mean if you can’t pronounce it.

With iSpeak, you’ll also get a 64-page booklet. And, it’s affordable (it ranges from $10.36-$12.95 on amazon.com). The only downside is that it’s only available in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese.

Tools like iSpeak can make it easier and more fun to travel to lands where you don’t speak the language. Plus, if you’re a working travel writer, it could be a tax-deductible expense, too. Now, I’m not a CPA. And I’m not in the business of dishing out tax advice.


Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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