My Current Bookmarks

These were my bookmarks as of May 2014.  Things have changed some since then, so perhaps I will update at some point.  But I still think many of these links are useful, so I’m posting it.

Tonight I’m exhausted and so I don’t feel up to explaining Dual Instruction Schools, which was my original plan for a post.  Instead, I’m going to share with you a variety of websites I currently have under my language folder on my bookmarks.  I hope some of these resources will be useful to you.

General Linguistic Info

ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

ACTFL (American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages) has this guide on ranking students language levels (Novice- Beginner (Low to High)- Intermediate (Low to High) – Advanced (Low to High)).  If you are curious where you stack up, or what is necessary to be considered at different levels, it can be an interesting read, though a bit repetitive in parts.

Living Tongues

This site provides information on endangered languages, a topic near and dear to my heart.  Many languages are being wiped out due to the widespread use of English and other tongues.  (Also as a result of peoples being dispersed due to genocide and commercialization.)  When a language is wiped out, often forms of knowledge and wisdom inherent to the language are wiped out as well.  Please educate yourselves on this topic- as linguists, it is truly a cause to be cognizant of and something to work to change.

Multi-Language Learning Sites

Duolingo

I already gave a product review on this, but it is a still a great beginner site.  It offers several languages in a game like format, with additional opportunities to translate real text.  It primarily offers European languages right now, but they seem to be adding quickly.

Memrise

I haven’t played with this one yet but it looks promising.  Mostly vocabulary instruction, but it does have several Asian languages, in addition to the European ones. (Small update- I’m a HUGE Memrise user now- so I definitely owe this one a separate article now.)

iTalki

$$$ Again, one I haven’t used BUT this site hooks you up with one on one tutors for the language of your choice.  It does cost money, but if you are willing to pay (particularly if you are having trouble locating tutors for the language of your choice), what a great find!  It also might be a great choice if you are trying to up your speaking level before a major trip. (Small update- I’ve used the FREE parts of this site now and have looked into tutoring, just haven’t had a need to take the plunge as I currently have a local speaking partner.)

 

Japanese

AJATT

Khatzumoto has been around for a bit but isn’t always easily found by new language learners.  While not a personally a big fan of his method, he does provide a lot of good resources and tips for learning Japanese.  He also shares a lot about how he personally learned Japanese- and who knows?  Maybe his strategies are right for you.  There’s a lot of information there, so pace yourself.  You can also follow him on twitter @ajatt.

http://www9.plala.or.jp/system19/

Going to admit right now that I am not the best at navigating this site.  However, if you are familiar with video/torrent sites, you probably won’t have lots of trouble.  Basically it is a collection of Japanese videos, both anime and real action J-dramas.  Lots of listening practice!

Lingulift- Top 10 YouTube channels for learning Japanese

Some of these youtube channels are great; others are more culture driven and actually are produced in English.  Still, if you are looking for places to start, a list is always helpful.

http://japaneseclass.jp/

Kanji and Kana learning games… need I say more?

Erin’s Challenge

This will be the site I play with FIRST this summer.  Video lessons for beginning Japanese- it looks kickass.  Check it out!

ASL

ASLU

My current FAVORITE site.  Bill Vicars has provided what I’ve searched for over many YEARS- a quality way to learn ASL.  Most local library only offer dictionaries, which fails to expose one to the grammar and structure of ASL.  In addition, I don’t know anyone deaf or hard of hearing in my community to practice with.  This site has given me the tools I need to finally make the progress I’ve wanted for so long.

ASL with Rob Nielson

Some of this site is free, other portions require a fee.  However, quality ASL sites can be hard to find, so here is a good start for your sign language learning endeavors.

Start ASL

Another great starting point, with complimentary workbook.

Described and Captioned Media Program

So what’s this?  Only the motherload of ASL resources.  Consider it a combo of Netflix and Youtube for Deaf culture and media.  There are deaf movies, instructional ASL videos, and documentaries on Deaf culture all available to you.  You do have to sign up- if you are a student or teacher it’s free.

Spanish

Spanish Proficiency Exercises

Here are some basic Spanish listening opportunities, divided up by level and complete with transcribed copy.  They have a lot of different countries and dialects represented.

Rockalingua

This site is geared towards kids.  That said, kids’ materials sometimes jazz up an otherwise monotonous language study routine.  Flashcards can become dull and sometimes you just want something fun.   Why not ignite your inner child with a sing-a-long or storybook read aloud in your new target language?

Well, this is an incredibly long list but I hope you find it useful.  I’d be happy to share any resources any of you find particularly useful- just hit up my mailbox with links and notes so we can share the language love.  And as I’m unable to come up with a clever quote mashup with the words Language or Polyglot, here are some words some cats would like you to learn.

 

Original Article Posting can be found here.  Originally posted 05/13/14.

Advertisements

Product Review: Duolingo

**Note** These were my views as of April 2014.  I may do an update at some point.

From time to time I hope to review language learning products- be they websites, applications, old-fashioned software, books, or other (who knows what the future holds)- to try to give my fellow polyglot consumers some guidance as to what tools to use and, just as important, to NOT use.  Of course, these are just one gal’s opinion, so take it for what it’s worth.

Product Name: Duolingo

Type of Product: Website/App

What’s it do: Let’s you learn a specific language through a semi-game like format.  You pass certain exercises, which opens new levels and vocabulary.

Languages it offers:  Currently it offers Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.

They are working on adding (hatching as they term it) Russian, Dutch, Polish, Turkish, Hungarian, Romanian, and Irish.  All of these are in target language to English formats.

Available Formats: Website: duolingo.com

Also available as an app in the iTunes store, Amazon, and Google Play.  The website doesn’t mention Amazon, but I have it on my Kindle so there ya go.

Strengths: This format has quite a few strengths.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • IT IS FREE.
  • It offers practice in all skills- that is speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
  • It gives you a chance to help translate real articles online, contributing to the polyglot community as a whole and giving authenticity to what you are doing and learning.
  • Friends can follow you and you can compare each other’s progress and help cheer one another on.
  • The game like format, a simplistic as it is, does tend to keep you motivated.  It gives a concrete amount of practice per session and earning the gem for exercise and the trophy for each level is akin to stickers back on our grade school homework- inherently meaningless but we love them anyhow.
  • It also keeps track of your streaks or how many days in a row you practice.  It can be super motivating to see how long you can go without breaking your streak.
  • It is available on mobile devices as an app so it can easily go with you in a functional format.

Weaknesses:

  • The speaking practice grades you on your ability to imitate the inflection of the speaker, not your actual pronunciation.  (They’ll deny this if you ask them, but trust me.  I’ve done nonsense sounds with the app in the same cadence and pitches as the speaker and it has passed me.  Other times I did the correct words but in a monotone and it could not tell that it was right.)  To be fair, speech recognition software is difficult and expensive to design, so for free this is still giving you some benefit.
  • Some of the translations are awkward.  They give you an option to challenge an answer, but it will still count you wrong in the meantime.
  • This alone will not make you fluent.  The activities are very prescribed, aside from the translations, and thus are not geared toward promoting conversational speaking and writing abilities.  It is a great start for basic vocabulary and grammar, but you’ll need to seek out other options beyond that to improve.
  • You can talk with other people via forums, but the site is not set up particularly well for social networking.  It’s a start for sure and my guess this portion will improve with time, but if you are looking to meet and interact with native speakers, this is not the best format to do so.
  • No Asian languages (or African for that matter)are currently included.  (I will tend to note Russian as an European language due to its similarities with some languages in that region.)

My Overall Rating and Thoughts?

3.5 Globes out of 5

This is a GREAT site for BEGINNERS who A) are unsure where to begin and B) need to form the consistent study habits essential to quality language learning.  That said, in its current format, Duolingo only takes you a small portion of the journey.  Consider this the taxi ride to the airport, not the plane to the great land of Polyglottia.

Still the gaming set up is creative and can help keep you motivated, especially when you are first starting.  And of course, major props to the creators for managing to keep this site and app FREE which is a major plus.  Most of us Polyglots would rather spend our money on travel than stuff!

Give it a try if you are just starting out or maybe need to review a language you learned a while ago but has fallen into disuse.  It’s fun and free, so it’s worth your time.  Just plan ahead to open yourself up to more authentic language use in the future.

 

This is your trusty Polyglot Products Private Eyes, signing off.  Hope this scoop is useful to you!

 

Original Article Posting can be found here.  Originally posted 04/14/14.