Learning a language!

So in my continued quest to learn a language, I’ve decided to take it up a step and take things seriously. I’ve been looking at the options, and am actually looking to complete a languages degree with a distant learning university. In the meantime though, I thought it’d be a good idea to get a bit more understanding and build my vocabulary in my chosen languages (Spanish and German if you’re curious) to make it a bit easier on myself when it comes to completing work for the degree.

So how am I learning these new words? Not by just reading a dictionary, I can tell you that much! I learn best by being told something, then applying it. So I need something that tells you the word, then lets you put it in a sentence so you can see how it affects the grammar and puts it into perspective.

There are plenty of language learning options on the market, and I’ve looked at a few of them. The most popular appears to be Rosetta Stone, so I made that my first stop. They were offering a free 30-day trial, which was perfect for me! I spent a few days giving it a go, but found that there was no direct translation offered. For example, I’d be learning the word for ‘run’, but not be 100% sure that it was the word for run, and not simply walk or jog. This might just be me being picky, but I couldn’t justify spending the cost of Rosetta Stone on something I wasn’t totally comfortable using. One thing I will say about the programme though, is that there is a lot of repetition. Excellent for getting words into your head, but can be a bit monotonous.

Next, I checked out a site on the offers website Groupon. £19.99 for a year’s language subscription for a number of languages didn’t sound bad to me. So I went ahead and paid for the year’s subscription, and used it for only a few days. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get on with it. It was like a rubbish version of Rosetta Stone, and we know how I got on with that.

Onwards and upwards, the next thing I tried was an app on my phone. I thought it’d encourage me to have a go when I had time to spare, because, let’s face it, we nearly always have our phone to hand. The app in question is called Duolingo. It’s a free app, available on both Android and Apple as well as being a webpage, with a number of languages on offer. I first read about the app when researching how to learn a language, and at that time it was still in it’s early stages. Now it’s been developed, as apps do, and is more like a game than hard work. While this may be off putting for some, it works well for me as I try to develop my Spanish skills. I find myself using it often, with 10 minutes I have spare in my lunch break, or for considerably longer when I get home.

In my opinion, the best thing about Duolingo is that you learn all aspects of a word. You translate from English to Spanish and Spanish to English, type what you hear and speak the Spanish. You learn a word, and then learn it as part of a sentence. There are, of course, other languages available, and coming to it as a total beginner with Spanish, I feel that I’d be able to conquer another language with it too. screenshot 2014-06-14 at 22.03.41

You have to complete a certain level before being able to proceed onto the next, and can practice the words and phrases you’ve already learnt to keep them fresh in your mind. You’re also able to practice what you’ve already learnt by taking on a challenge with either a computer or another Duolingo user. Your progress is tracked, and you earn points for completing levels, taking part in challenges or even for just practicing. There is a leaderboard, but I don’t often look at it as the motivation to learn the language is enough for me.screenshot 2014-06-14 at 22.03.33

All in all, I’d definitely recommend giving Duolingo a go if you’re looking to brush up language skills or undertake a whole new one. It’s free of charge, with everything available, instead of being free up to a certain stage at which point you have to pay to access the rest.screenshot 2014-06-14 at 22.04.16

screenshot 2014-06-14 at 22.04.04Have you tried Duolingo, or can you recommend another way to learn a language? I’d love to hear about it!

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