Learning another language after your school years and foreign exchange time is over can be a tricky prospect, but luckily there are plenty of resources online to help you out. We all know there are many pieces of computer software, CDs, and even apps to help you learn an additional language, but what are some of the best online tools? In this roundup we will take a look at some great ways to study another language online that are available at a variety of price points including our favorite, free.
It's a Small Online Language Learning World:
1) Language Courses Think of sites in this category as being sort of online versions of foreign language learning computer software. Some are more traditional and are catered towards more of a language overview like the offerings from the BBC (free), others favor a more "intuitive" approach with a goal towards fluency like Mango Languages (starts at $100). Since we've found one of the best ways to improve our accent is by watching TV in the language we are studying, we love the Foreign-language TV feature from BBC Languages which finds news and programs online and downloads their transcripts (for French, Spanish, German, and Italian TV). Our biggest complaint about the BBC site is that we wish they covered more languages in greater depth!
2) Lessons & Community Help: If you are looking for language learning lessons and a way to get feedback from native language speakers on both your writing and speaking, check out Livemocha (free with options to pay). I have been using Livemocha to begin my study of Hindi and have found it to be an interesting way of getting my feet wet in the language. Livemocha offers you not only the opportunity to learn, but also to teach, and I have spent quite a bit of time helping others improve their English. The more you help, the more credits you earn which you can use to unlock more courses. Courses can also be unlocked by purchasing them ($6 a month or $30 a year).
3) One to One Instruction: Yet another option the Internet offers is through online one to one instruction with a language teacher. Linkua (price varies by instructor) is site that helps students get matched up with teachers in the language they are interested in studying and provides the software for the one to one audio/video lessons.
4) The Power of Chat: Practicing your new language skills can be tricky if you live in an area that does not have a large population of native speakers. The Internet does make the world a smaller place, but where do you find people to practice your language skills and chat with? SharedTalk and The Mixxer (both free) are two great ways of finding language partners. SharedTalk is a language exchange community from the makers of the RosettaStone language learning software. Through SharedTalk you can find and chat with a language partner via voice or text chat. The Mixxer is an educational site for language learners hosted by Dickinson College. The Mixxer is designed to connect language learners around the world via Skype so that everyone is both student and teacher. Signup for The Mixxer is done via email and each submission is evaluated to maintain a high educational standard in the language exchange community. Unlike the other sites with community instruction, not everyone can be a teacher on The Mixxer and we think this is a good thing especially when it comes to giving out our Skype username!
5) Use the Internet to Setup IRL Chats: While we know an in real life (IRL) chat is not learning "on the Internet" setting it up does require the use of the 'net and one of our sometimes favorite sites. This might come as a surprise to some, but we have had great success with finding local language partners via Craigslist. We know this is not an option for everyone, but if you live in a populated area it might be a good idea to create a language exchange post on the Activities section of Craigslist. In your ad state what language you would like to practice and what language expertise you can offer in exchange. Unlike experiences trying to find a good apartment, we were really impressed by how well using Craigslist turned out for finding language exchange partners and found that practicing the language in person was a very big help. Using a new language in person the first time can be daunting when not in a class environment and meeting with language exchange partners made this much easier. While I was studying Japanese I met around ten different language exchange partners, one of whom is still a dear friend several years later!
What are some ways you have studied a language online?