Thursday, September 22, 2016

The 3 Web-Based tools I'm Using to Teach Myself a New Language


DuoLingo is like Rosetta Stone lite. Having used both, I might even call DuoLingo the Junior Varsity bench-player to Rosetta Stone's All-State phenom. Thing is, DuoLingo is free and it DuoLingo provides a lot of the key features I'm looking for as I inch forward in my quest for bilingualism. 

DuoLingo gamifies the learning process, providing rewards in the form of "Lingots" for finishing lesson units and keeping a continuous streak going (I am was at day 22, btw). It provides exercises in multiple formats, including written and verbal exercises in translation and transcription. Along the way, you're also encouraged to "strengthen" past lessons to keep their status "in the gold" while being encouraged to press forward as well. 

It's not perfect. I'd like to see more options for games and exercises--even for little or no points. But it's okay, I've been pairing that with...


Quizlet is the free flash card program I'd been looking for. Basically, I wanted a way to drill the terms that I was having trouble remembering. Not only does Quizlet give me that, but also the mini-games I had been hoping for. These include a matching game where I can match English and Spanish terms, and "Space Race"  as well as a "Learn Mode" where I can drill through all the cards in a set until I get them all right, and receive stats on which were missed more/most often. I tend to keep a rotation between DuoLingo and Quizlet, where I consistently add misses from DuoLingo to the rotation in Quizlet, where they're drilled until classified as "Rarely Missed."

Both of those are fine and good, but what about getting some "real world" learning?

Google Translate (plus Twitter)

To give myself a little real-world experience, I follow a few Spanish news outlets on Twitter, While I'm not yet at the point where I can read large blocks of text, let alone entire articles, I've found I can handle 140 characters well enough. While Google Translate does a respectable job with large blocks of text, and I've found, from a learning standpoint, I take away more in smaller doses. Tweets are generally Google Translate friendly, and they provide a steady stream of new (and often recurring) vocabulary terms to add to my Quizlet. This is most effective with the Google Translate browser extension, which allows me to highlight and translate with a single click. Much like the other two, there is a mobile app for Google Translate, which enables the ability to point-and-translate text anywhere on the fly (with mixed and sometimes hilarious results).

While the above apps have helped me keep up with my Spanish, I should also mention my ongoing adventures learning Japanese from an anthropomorphic squid named "Tako", another app I'd personally recommend. Do others out there have language-learning app suggestions?

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