Wait, that sounds like a completely tacky advertisement that would appear on a pop-up (do people still use those?). In most cases it would be – except that I have actually discovered a fabulous new language-learning tool: Livemocha. If you read no further than this sentence, here is a summary of what will follow: check out Livemocha, because it is the greatest thing to hit language learning since I started playing around with that software.
Once upon a time, there was a program called Rosetta Stone, which aimed to simulate an immersion learning environment. Now, Rosetta Stone was pretty fun to play with and had some useful learning tools, but I didn’t find it particularly effective in teaching languages with totally different alphabets, plus it is very expensive, has a rather old-fashioned interface and lacks a human element.
Enter Livemocha, the 21st-century improvement on Rosetta Stone. The learning interface and lesson progression of Livemocha are actually relatively similar to Rosetta Stone, so if you’re already familiar with that, you should have no trouble getting used to Livemocha. Livemocha’s real advantages over Rosetta Stone are twofold:
1. It’s free! (It is possible, but not necessary, to enroll in paid tutoring and paid lessons.)
2. There is a phenomenal human element! You see, Livemocha encourages you to submit voice clips and written passages, and other users can critique them. Say that you are a native speaker of English, and you’re trying to learn Mandarin. You will submit clips of yourself speaking in Mandarin or perhaps your Mandarin journal entries, and native Mandarin speakers will correct your spelling or grammar or accent, or simply tell you how to sound like a native speaker. They can even leave audio clips so you can hear what the words should sound like when pronounced correctly! You, in turn, can correct passages submitted by English learners, and this is how you get Livemocha for free. You get “teacher points” every time you comment on a submission (more with an audio comment!), and when you have more than 300 teacher points, you can access all of the Livemocha lessons for no charge. (Getting more than 300 teacher points is about an evening’s worth of work.)
So, not only is Livemocha a great way to learn a language, but it also allows you to network with other language learners around the world! What are you waiting for? Get out there and try it!