Using a Braille Display to learn foreign languages.

Braille on Apple Products

Hi, has anyone here successfully used a Braille Display to learn foreign languages on apple products? I'm seriously considering one, as I need it for a college French class. My question is, would the display automatically display the proper braille code while reading a document?



Submitted by TJT 2001 on Monday, October 5, 2020

There are multiple options for viewing text in foreign languages such as French, and I'll summarize the differences here and explain the benefits and drawbacks of each.

The easiest method for showing braille in French is to do nothing. Because French uses the standard Roman alphabet plus a few letters with accent marks such as é and à, you would be able to quite comfortably read any text in English and see French text using English contractions and the English symbols for accent marks. The only difference between English and French punctuation is that French uses the symbols « and » instead of the quotation marks that English uses, however it is possible to represent these symbols in English braille. The only problem with this method is that you might find it awkward to read French text with English contractions, though you might not.

The second method involves toggling between contracted and uncontracted English braille, which you can do with just one keystroke, at least on iOS. The advantage to this method is that French appears in uncontracted braille, which will make it easier to read, but accent marks still take up three cells each. Another drawback to this method is that you would need to continually be toggling between uncontracted and contracted braille, unless you want to read English text in uncontracted braille.

The third method involves viewing French text using uncontracted French braille, using the French symbols for accent marks, but continuing to use the English braille symbols for numbers and punctuation. If your textbooks were being prepared by braille transcribers, this is the method that they would use. To my knowledge, it is not possible to achieve this method on Apple devices.

The fourth method is to switch between the English and French braille codes. Like English, French also uses uncontracted and contracted braille. It is possible to quickly switch between English and French braille, at least on iOS, but doing so continually may become tiresome. The symbols for even basic punctuation in French differ substantially from English. For example, dots 46 indicates that a letter is capitalized, and a question mark is indicated by dots 26. Contracted French braille is extremely different to contracted English braille, and learning it would require a significant time investment.

I hope this information made sense and was helpful.

Submitted by a king in the north on Thursday, October 8, 2020

In reply to by TJT 2001

Thank you for your answer.

If I don't have any braille material at the moment, would there be a way for me to learn the writing system without using any braille at all?

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Thursday, October 8, 2020

In reply to by a king in the north

What do you mean by "the writing system"? How words are spelled? The symbols for accent marks and punctuation? I'm just trying to understand what you want and which method for displaying text you've chosen.

If you want to start learning the language, Duolingo is a good starting point, and it might give you a slight headstart when you officially start learning the language.

Submitted by a king in the north on Friday, October 9, 2020

In reply to by TJT 2001

I tried to use Duolingo to get a head start, But I found I completely failed when it came time to spell the words out using the keyboard. I couldn't visualize the words like I could using English and Spanish. I learned both of those languages using braille.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Friday, October 9, 2020

In reply to by a king in the north

Yes, that's understandable as the way French words are pronounced gives little indication of how they are written. I assumed that you could use a braille display with Duolingo, but if that's not possible, you could try an audio language learning program like Language Transfer, though:
  • The course I studied with them placed a greater emphasis on grammar than vocabulary.
  • The teacher for the French course has little experience of French.
  • The French course isn't very long.
  • Because it's an audio course, you might not learn as much speling as you would have liked.
Are you starting to learning French now so that you can have a headstart for your college course? If so, it's probably not very necessary to get too far ahead.

Submitted by a king in the north on Friday, October 9, 2020

In reply to by TJT 2001

I've actually been trying to learn since before finishing high school, so right before the pandemic hit. As of now, I've been exploring options with my university as to what we could do about this, though I'm thinking I'll have to drop the course.
The Braille Display hasn't been entirely discarded, it just won't be possible given the current situation.

Thanks so much for the responses, anyway. This thread should be of great value to me, and them.

Submitted by paige on Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Hi.. i have been trying to leearn spanish using duolingo, and my braille display on my iPhone. Sometimes, it says that i mispelled something. I took spanish junior year of high school.

Submitted by Brad on Thursday, January 28, 2021

It's strange to me that you learn braille french numbers and they're exactly the same as English speaking countries when there's an entire number system for French called the antoine number system. My speaking is better than my writing as I've not written french in years and only found this out a couple weeks ago through a website for the blind. I just think that's trange as if you were to go to france and read numbers, they'd probably use the antoine system and leave non French people confused.

Submitted by Skippy on Friday, January 29, 2021

I didn't get the opertunity to take a foreign language, when I was in high school.
So now I'm attempting to teach myself Spanish, using Duolingo.
I have a focus 40 braille display, along with an elBraille, which is basically a Windows 10 computer that has jaws on it.

How hard would it be, for me to learn Spanish braille?
Do you think learning Spanish braille, would help with knowing how words are supposed to be pronounced?

When you come to something, in duolingo, where they want you to speak, how do you handle that with voiceover?
Every time I've tried it, it says it couldn't hear me, but I've enabled my microphone, so I just skip them.

Any and all tips would be much appreciated.