Review: iLingo Euro Pack 2.0 for iPod

Learn a new language with your iPod as tutor (October 25th, 2005)

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Product Manufacturer: Talking Panda

Price: MSRP $49.95 US

The Good

  • Common foreign words and phrases spoken by natives really do help pronunciation. Easy to use.

The Bad

  • Can\'t choose a language to install - its all or nothing. May have to edit Smart Playlists.

iPod - More than Music

Talking Panda's four software programs turn your iPod into more than a music-playing device. The software uses the overlooked notes menu option of your iPod to teach you phrases in other languages, mix a plethora of drinks, and tune a guitar. Only iPods that support the Notes reader feature can be used for Talking Panda products, such as the 3rd and 4th generation iPods. The first generation iPod and the Shuffle cannot be used. This review focuses on iLingo, the language translation software.

First Impressions

The icons, web site, and product box are visually appealing. The install setup is simple; too simple. I would like more control over what aspects of the software I install. The install process took a surprisingly long time the first time because the installer has to unpack sound files and import them into iTunes. Installing a second product was quicker and relatively painless.

Speak with Confidence

iLingo Euro Pack includes words and phrases in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian, while iLingo Asia Pack has Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Korean. It would be helpful if you could choose which language to install, but both products install all their respective languages.

Each product includes a variety of phrases (over 400), ranging from simple restaurant etiquette to renting a car. The items are arranged by topic area so that you can look up a variety of related words and phrases when you're on the spot. This is great when you're traveling. The voices in the recordings are very clear and there are even a few pieces of humor hidden in the program that keep it fresh.

What makes iLingo truly unique is its portability. Unlike a pocket language dictionary, in iLingo you hear native speakers pronounce the words, giving you more confidence in repeating it when traveling. The caveat to using it while traveling is that everyone around you will be aware that you have an iPod. This alone would dissuade me from using iLingo in a train station or public, unsecured area where it could be vulnerable to theft. It's also a bit awkward to ask someone to wait while you try to quickly rifle through the lists to find the phrase you need. Occasionally the voice repeated a phrase multiple times, but after consulting Talking Panda's web support I was able to stop the duplication.

Product Notes

You can only use one iLingo product at a time, even if you install multiple products. The current, active product resides in the Notes folder. Other installed products are automatically moved to the Notes Backup folder. Each time a new notes-related product is installed the backup folder is renamed Notes Backup 1, Notes Backup 2, and so on. To switch active products, you rename the Notes folders, which is explained in the manual and on Talking Panda's support site. This kludgey system is constrained by Apple's implementation of the Notes feature, but could change if Apple alters how notes are implemented.

Talking Panda has done an admirable job of taking advantage of the Notes feature within the programming restraints. In addition to only one possible active notes folder, there is also a limitation on the number of characters that any one note can display. In Apple's support site it states that each note only displays 4KB or 4096 characters in up to 1000 text files. That's quite a restraint considering you can store text files of any length.

Another annoying kind of glitch that is beyond Talk Panda's control is that the iLingo sound files can show up in Smart Playlists. You should create a playlist for them and then uncheck the files in the main Library to resolve this problem.

Recommended for Translation on the Go

iLingo is a unique and viable product in an iPod market that is saturated with accessories, but little software. It is available for Macintosh and Windows, requires 50 MB of space, and requires iTunes 4.7 or later.

by James Trousdale and Ilene Hoffman


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