Learning a language from an expert, on the web

The internet, with its unparalleled ability to connect people throughout the world, is changing the way that many people learn languages, reports the New York Times. There is no still way to avoid the hard slog through vocabulary lists and grammar rules, but the books, tapes, and even CDs of yesteryear are being replaced by eMail, video chats, and social networks. Livemocha, a Seattle company with $14 million in venture capital financing, mixes a social network with lessons for more than 38 of the world’s more common languages. The initial lessons are free, but unlocking some of the additional features requires a fee to Livemocha (starting at $10 for a set of lessons) or an agreement to correct the work of othersThe lessons, whether they are flashcards, quizzes, audio recordings, or written and spoken essays, are delivered through a web browser. Michael Schutzler, Livemocha’s chief executive, says the web site’s advantage is the ability to practice with a real person. “The great irony is that even if you have years of classroom Spanish, you don’t have a lot of confidence to go into a bar and have a conversation,” he said. The casual connections with real people throughout the world, however brief, are not just fun and surprising but reveal more about how the language is really used…

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