Language learners benefit from hearing that language spoken but must often choose between hearing stilted, slow, precise examples or trying to keep up with real-life examples that happen too quickly. This is a particular challenge for students who may speak one language but must attend lectures given in another (for example, lectures given in English to listeners for whom that is a second language).
The music world can help. Musicians and dancers are familiar with technology devices that let you slow down a recording without changing the pitch. This is a great way to play along with a recording at a slower pace, or to change the tempo of a dance to make it easier to learn. Previously these “beats per minute slow downer” devices were separate, and pricey, gadgets. Now you can get this same functionality in an app for your mobile device.
Tempo SlowMo is one of them. Available for iPad and iPhone, this free app allows you to open an audio file (.mp3, m4a) and play it back at 20% to 250% it’s original tempo without changing the pitch. For spoken audio this means you can slow down or speed up the speech without turning the speaker into a bass growler or a chattering chipmunk.
Is it easy to use? Yes. Open the audio file, play it, then use the spinner to speed up or slow down the speed.
How do you get audio files into it? You can pull anything from iTunes but we all know that getting things into iTunes is not always the easiest process. Never fear. You can also pull audio files from your DropBox account. Even better, you can use a WiFi connection to connect your laptop to the app and download any audio file from your laptop. (This option uses my favorite technique: it gives you a URL to type into the browser on your laptop then makes the connection.) The app also let’s you record directly through the iPad’s microphone so you can record your own speech.
Can you get audio files out of it? Yes, by sending them to DropBox or as an email attachment.
Is it really free? The basic app is free. It has low-key advertising that appears out of the way of the app at the bottom of the screen. You can pay to have these not appear ($1 to $4.99 depending on the level you choose). It also has several enhancements that cost $.99 each, including:
● Playlist – create, update, save and load playlists of tracks.
● Pitch Changer – alter the pitch in 0.5 semitone increaments between -12 and +12 semitones. (Great if you instrument isn’t quite in tune with the recording!)
● BPM Tapper – determine the BPM of your track. (A metronome)
● Equaliser Control – isolate specific frequency bands with this 10 band equaliser.
● Balance Control – change the volume per channel.
Here’s the app’s iTunes page: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tempo-slowmo-bpm-slow-downer/id460008289?mt=8
And here’s one of several videos demonstrating it: http://youtu.be/R2Fv0rDd3HQ