New Language Learning Tools

Language as a significant part of our public education system was key to many who have been raised learning several languages. A previous post outlines the benefits to the human brain of learning more than one language (http://www.tell-ls.com/the-benefits-of-a-bilingualbrain), and there are many more benefits to consider when thinking about understanding foreign cultures, travelling or being able to adapt to a variety of environments.

Having been raised by a parent who was a foreign language teacher in post-secondary schools, I was always told that the best way to learn a language is by having a native speaker as a teacher who immerses you in it. So in my French classes, starting grade 6, my teacher would only speak French in the classroom from day one. And it worked! That style of teaching allowed many young people, who also had some opportunities to speak the language outside the classroom, to reach a high level of proficiency.

But then real adult life starts and there is little time left to take classes with a native speaker. We might be able to do it a few times, then before we know it, ten years have passed and we were not able to do anything about our wish to learn Portuguese. Rosetta Stone is pricey and similar tools are hard to use for just a few minutes on our PC or mobile device.

The good news: there are some new, inexpensive and fun ways to acquire language skills through websites and apps. Not only do they make it interesting and fun, they also make it easy!

Learn a New Language While Gaming or Watching a Movie

www.lingua.ly: This application allows students to read news and entertainment articles in the languages they are trying to learn. The site offers a good variety of languages to choose from.

Double-clicking on new words allows you to retrieve their meaning, listen to their pronunciation and add them to a vocabulary list that can be studied and practiced with quizzes later. In addition to the website, an Android and an IOS app are available.

www.duolingo.com: Here, lessons come in the form of brief challenges that can be completed in a few minutes. Very reminiscent of video gaming, the student loses hearts when answering incorrectly. Once all hearts are lost, the student has to start over.

If lessons are completed successfully, the student moves up to the next level. Information that has been learned so far, can be reviewed with quizzes. The gaming aspect of this app makes students want to go back and it also allows practice during shorter time windows such as commutes, doctor’s waiting rooms, etc.

Mango Premiere (mangolanguages.com/mango-premiere):  Films can be watched with subtitles in English, the language you are learning, or both. Or you can watch the movie in “engage” mode which gives you plot highlights, as well as words you might hear and cultural notes before each scene. Then you watch the scene with whatever subtitle option you choose.

If you pause the movie, you can hover over the foreign words with your mouse to get phonetic spellings and then click for an audio pronunciation guide. After watching the scene there is a lesson about it that includes dialogue breakdowns and quizzes. Each scene can be watched as many times as desired.

Here are a few more language learning sites that serve as helpful tools:

www.chineasy.org: Learning Chinese made fun and easy.

www.ankiris.net: Create your own flash cards.

www.forvo.com: Pronunciation guide.

For more resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/travel/foreign-language-translation-smart-phone-iphone-apps.html