O’zbek tilida gapirasizmi? Parlez-vous français? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? ¿Habla usted español? Eske ou pale kreyòl?
Learning a second language is one of the toughest things an adult can do. It doesn’t take a lot of physical effort (although pronouncing some of those foreign words and syllables can be a chore!), but it certainly taxes your brainpower. So if you have no idea what I said in the paragraph above, that’s fine. I hardly do either!
Fortunately, technology can make learning a new language a little easier. There are plenty of resources out there on the web for anyone who wants to spice up their conversation. Here are some of the better ones I’ve found.
This site should sound familiar to anyone who keeps up with recent edtech news: DuoLingo made a splash a while back when they had over 300,000 people sign up for their beta waitlist. They launched their site for public use in mid-June of this year.
The awesome catch to DuoLingo is that, not only do you get to learn a new language, but the translations you perform during the learning process also help translate foreign language websites and other documents. So at the same time you’re sharpening your Spanish, you’re also helping the world access the Internet in their own language, even if it’s only a little bit at a time.
French is currently in beta as well. Their use of gamification really encourages constant learning as well, which I really liked. They’ll even send you an email if you forget to log in for a few days. The number of actual languages you can learn is disappointingly small though: just Spanish, German, French, and English (for Spanish speakers).
Livemocha is one of the more well-known online language learning resources. Simply sign up, choose your language, and get started with one of their various learning activities! They have grammar exercises, narrative videos, vocabulary quizzes, and reading passages; all the standard lessons you’d find in a high school or college-level language course.
So compared to DuoLingo, Livemocha represents a more traditional model of language learning, which has some upsides and downsides. The advantage is that they have many more languages (38 to be exact), and they offer a few nicer features, like manual review of your writings by native speakers of the language you’re learning.
That said, the system of using “tokens” to “pay” for different courses and lessons was a little too complicated for my liking. Consider purchasing the “Gold Key” if you’ll know you’ll be in it for the long haul. The price is sort of steep ($99.95 for a year or $9.95 for a month), but it could be worth it if you absolutely need to learn.
Mango Languages tries to strike a happy medium between DuoLingo and Livemocha. Their lessons have that “just right” feeling that lies somewhere in between casual, conversational learning and tried-and-true vocabulary and grammar exercises. They offered lessons in 16 different languages, including Thai, Chinese, and Farsi.
Each language is separated into a number of “Journeys” (basically the equivalent of a course), which you can purchase separately or bundled together for a discount. The fact that they include a lot of multimedia and interactive features is also nice; it keeps you from getting bored during the tough parts.
Mango can get a bit expensive though. For example, just one “Journey” will cost you about $80; all three will set you back $176. Even this wouldn’t be so bad if they had the full set of Journeys for each language they offer, but they don’t, at least not yet. Chinese, for instance, only has the introductory Journey available.
Rosetta Stone is, without a doubt, the biggest player in the room when it comes to language learning. After all, it’s what the U.S. federal government uses to teach basic language skills to the armed forces, as well as to diplomatic personnel serving overseas.
While they used to offer only local applications, Rosetta Stone now has some web-based learning materials as well. What’s more, they are one of the few services to offer real-time interaction with a native speaker. This can be a huge help once you have the basics of a language down and are looking to improve quickly.
The problem, and I’m sure you saw this coming, is that Rosetta Stone is crazy expensive. Their cheapest product will run you about $180, and that’s just for the first level of content (introductions, simple questions, and the like). Price isn’t the only criticism of Rosetta either; some people have come out and said it’s simply a bad product to use all by itself.
I didn’t want my list to get too long, but there are a lot of other resources out there for you aspiring polyglots. Some of those are below:
- The BBC’s languages website has some good introductory materials
- Busuu and Babbel are somewhat similar to Livemocha and are great for beginners
- InterPals can match you up with a penpal from the country of your choice
On a final note, be sure to check with your local library to see what they have. I didn’t think of this at first, but my library offers some free memberships to language learning websites that could really help me get started!
I hope you enjoyed this roundup! Let us know in the comments what language you’re learning!
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, woodleywonderworks