In classrooms all across the country, old-fashioned textbooks and stodgy lesson plans are sucking the life out of language learning. These classes leave so many learners apathetic or frustrated as they recite scripted dialog or memorize an endless litany of verb conjugations. Who said that language learning had to be so boring?
These days, thanks to digital technology, we have the resources to resuscitate language learning and make it the adventure it should be.
There are many advantages to digital language learning over classroom instruction, including access to content at any time, in any location, and current technologies make content interactive, as opposed to stuffy foreign language textbooks.
One of the most popular computer based language learning programs is Rosetta Stone, founded in 1992. The program includes twenty-eight languages and can be purchased in CD-Rom format, downloaded, or subscribed to online. Levels 1 through 5 cost $229, including access to mobile apps for a limited time.
Rosetta Stone provides comprehensible input by putting new words and phrases in the context of multimedia elements: video, photos, audio, and text. A free demo lesson in the language of your choice is available on the Rosetta Stone website.
The Pimsleur language learning program focuses on speaking and comprehension rather than literacy in the second language, and includes courses in 44 languages. Lessons can be purchased as MP3 files, CD, or software that includes flash cards and other multimedia features. Introductory packages in the language of your choice cost $150 for the first 30 lessons in software format, $21.95 for the first 5 lessons in MP3 format, or $49.95 for the first 16 lessons in CD format. Lessons can be purchased from the website, but they can also be downloaded at audible.com.
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Pimsleur lessons may even be available from your public library for free, although language availability may be limited. A free lesson is available to try out on the Pimsleur website.
Another language learning publisher, Penton Overseas, is actually out of business, but their audio programs for several languages are more widely available for free through public libraries.
Duolingo is one of the best, free tools available for learning a second language. There are 20 languages to choose from, including English. Learners can access lessons on the Duolingo website or in the mobile app for iOS or Android.
Next page: Tools for making language learning more social