Thursday, March 5, 2015

Language Learning Resources

I took two years of Spanish in high school and another year in college. I really enjoyed learning the language and have dabbled in practicing over the years. I have few chances to use it in my every-day life despite the fact that according to this Wikipedia article, Spanish is the second-most spoken language in this country and holds the world's fifth-largest Spanish speaking population. Still, I love being able to speak what I can of it and for years have, like so many who learn languages, understood more of it than I can speak.

I want to change that this year - at least to a degree that will make me feel like I've made progress. Other than purchasing a workbook for intermediate learners, I am taking advantage of many, free online language tools. I thought I'd share some of them with you in case you would like to take advantage of these for Spanish or another language you are interested in.

Many libraries offer a free database called Mango Languages with many language choices that is a great tool. Looking at your library's website, it will likely be found under a tab called "resources," "databases," "research tools," or something similar. You can take a placement test to see where you should start and then you just GO! There is no written work with Mango Languages; you simply either repeat what the speaker says or you try to remember the correct answer to a question, say it in your chosen language, and then check to see if you are correct or not. You can repeat lessons if you like. Your progress is saved since you create an account and all you need is a library card to have access to the service.

I also use Anki flashcards. There are a number of similar flashcard programs available on the Web. Quizlet  and Memrise are two more. I am familiar with Quizlet, but Memrise is newer to me, though often recommended by other language learners. These programs have decks of cards already created by users, so you can just jump in and get started by grabbing a deck. A more effective method of studying is to create the flashcards for yourself, but using a deck right away is a nice way to begin.

YouTube is another terrific resource for language learning. Not only will you find some lessons in your chosen language, but you can also just listen to native speakers on their channels. Choosing a topic that interests you and then finding that topic by a speaker in your chosen language is a good way to just listen and absorb the language. I, for example, enjoy watching some beauty blogger channels and so I have a couple that are in Spanish. Since the topic interests me, I understand quite a bit of what is being talked about even if I don't understand every word.

Steve Kaufmann has a channel that supports his online language-learning software. The software may be something you are interested in, but he has some terrific tips for learning languages in general. I don't remember how many languages he currently speaks, but I think it's somewhere around 10!

Another website, new to me, is Duolingo. Again, there are many languages to choose from. They also allow placement tests and this site has written practice available. You earn badges along the way and you can invite friends to participate with you as well. This seems like a fun site! They also have a place where you can help translate real, online articles to give you even more practice writing. I just learned about this site, but think it will be a great addition for added variety.

Finally, for some inspiration, in case you think you can't learn a new language, have a listen to Benny Lewis' Ted Talk and be encouraged to start your own language adventure! After watching this video, I am reminded that if I expend the energy, I can also find native speakers all around me. I just need to be brave and practice. Do you speak a language other than your native tongue? Do you speak more than one?

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