Is it your New Years Resolution to learn a new language? Or has this been something you’ve always wanted to do? Well now, the tools for language learning are becoming so much more advanced and cheaper – making language learning easier than ever before.
I’ve tried the big guys. I’ve spent hours in Rosetta Stone, and tried listening to Michel Thomas teach me Spanish in audio format. I’m not sure why, but those didn’t work for me.
Rosetta Stone is expensive. I am not sure why it needs to be so much, but you’re looking at $250 or $300 just to get started with it. Some might say that you need to invest a lot in order for you to force yourself to do it. But I bet that 90% of people don’t even get started with it because of the price. And the software is surprisingly hard to set up. Every time I start Rosetta Stone, it feels like it’s forgotten who I am, asking what language I want to learn and what level I want to start at. Only once I’ve made the correct selections for those does it take me a screen that reassures me that it did not forget all the progress I’ve done. And then the units left to do in the current module become little triangles with no labels, and I’m not sure what I’ll be learning next.
Michel Thomas was interesting because you could purchase it as an audio book on Audible.com, but it meant listening to hours of repetitive talking, having to speak out loud (regardless of where you were – on the bus or in a coffee shop), and no active feedback to tell you that you are actually learning something. It was one-way learning.
There are literally dozens (perhaps hundreds) of language-learning options. But lately I have settled on Duolingo.
Duolingo has a web app, an Android app and an iPhone app, which I really appreciate. All platforms synchronize well. I like being able to do some of my language learning on the go – while I am out waiting for something. If I know I have 15-20 minutes to kill, I load up Duolingo and invest that time wisely in learning something new.
Duolingo make a little game out of language learning, as you get points for passing lessons, extra points for not making mistakes, and can compete against friends in a leaderboard. It’s also intelligent enough to re-test you on things you learned previously from time to time, to make sure you have not forgotten anything.
The way it works it that it will ask you to write out a phrase that you heard in audio, or translate a phrase from the target language to English. This is not a course you can do in a busy or noisy environment as you need to listen sometimes to the words being spoken. The words are spoken by a computer voice which makes it a bit hard sometimes but I don’t have a real problem with the computer voice. I took another course (previously reviewed memrise) using an amateur speaker, and her very specific regional accent was more annoying than helpful. (Although I appreciate the effort she did to record audio for so many hundreds of words and phrases.)
All in all, it’s worth checking out if you want to learn a new language or brush up on one you already kinda know.