course

Lingualift


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  • Review


    Lingualift is essentially the lovechild of the traditional textbook and the internet. It retains much of the structure and formatting you’ll find in a good textbook, while at the same time doing away with the pretentious wordiness and academic pretense that turns so many people off. You’ll find yourself drawn to using Lingualift because it feels like you have a cool teacher and textbook rolled all in one: although each language varies in the kind of tools it offers, all languages have very nice resources for building upon your vocabulary and grammar. It currently offers five languages (Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, French and Russian) under one subscription, which is a really nice deal considering what other web-based courses charge for only one language.

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ChineseSkill


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    This app is based on the already well known “skill tree” model that was popularized by Duolingo, and holds one more feature in common with it: it’s also absolutely free! Each module has between two and five short lessons, although rather than teaching the language through its theory, this app definitely aims to introduce the student in a more practical way, through spelling exercises with two different speeds, hanzi construction and English-Chinese translation work.

    One of the things I like the most about this app is that it is chock-full of extra features that can almost be seen as “easter eggs”. It backs up every sentence, word and Chinese character you’ve mistaken in such a way that you can simply go back to that section and review only what you’ve done poorly in, or even make them into flashcards; other features include an interactive pinyin board that one can tap to get all of the sound combinations of Mandarin Chinese, and a section to learn how to “hand write” hanzi. Pretty neat, if you ask me!

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Lernu.net


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    Lernu (Esperanto for “Learn!”) was one of the first websites to offer an organized method to learn Esperanto. At 15 years of age, it exists in 41 languages, and it has several courses for all levels (of course, also for absolute beginners), as well as downloads, a forum, a news section, exams, a dictionary. It is the whole enchilada if you’re looking for a site to learn Esperanto from!

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Ninchanese


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    Having started in 2015, Ninchanese is a recent entry to the language learning course world, but one that promises great things for Mandarin learners of all levels. Their gamified approach to learning Mandarin is quite different to the classical standards according to which Chinese is usually learnt: in Ninchanese, a whole level of Chinese aptitude is structured as in an RPG adventure. In order to advance, you clear mini-missions one by one, collecting vocabulary and testing your abilities in each of these sections, and, ultimately “becoming a dragon”. The story is amusing, and its characters and world simple but attractive and well designed. As if it wasn’t enough, Ninchanese also features a separate “Challenge” section through which you can challenge any other member (random, or from your friend list) of the Ninchanese community to a knowledge test; whomever knows more Chinese characters wins.

    I was lucky enough to interview Ninchanese’s co-founder, Sarah Aberman, on the ocassion of a crowdfunding event Ninchanese held in June 2015, and I got some very interesting replies as to why Ninchanese is a necessary new approach to learning Chinese.

    Go to site Currently in beta

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7 jours sur la planète


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    “7 jours sur la planète” and its mother site, “Apprendre le français avec TV5Monde”, are indispensable listening comprehension tools for the French learner. Everyday, new carefully picked audiovisual content is uploaded along with listening comprehension, vocabulary and grammar exercises for learners of all levels. In all honesty, if you wanted to learn French and didn’t have a penny on you, you could base your whole French education on this site.

    You can read more on them in my “7 jours sur la planète” review.

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Rosetta Stone: Tell Me More


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    Rosetta Stone: Tell Me More is the online version of the all-too-famous yellow box version of Rosetta Stone’s software. While it is state of the art technology and an all-encompasing solution for learning a language, it actually was a bit of a disappointing experience as a language learner, for the reasons you can read by clicking here to read my multiple reviews on Rosetta.

    As I was using this for my 2015 French mission, I got the impression the software may actually be really good at a beginner’s level because of the learning patterns employed on its course design, but it was slightly repetitive for an intermediate-to-high level learner, so I would advise long-term learners against using this software. (Also, the price tag can be somewhat prohibitive for some.)

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Erin’s Challenge


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    Erin ga Chosen (Erin’s Challenge) is a free multimedia Japanese course designed by Japan Foundation, the organization in charge of spreading Japanese culture and language all over the globe. There is no need to register to use this website, although doing so is a bonus because it opens up all the benefits of this site, as well as the possibility of recording your own progress.

    Each lesson carries a main video that you can see with modifiable subtitles: for example, if you know hiragana and would like to leap forward into learning kanji, you can make it so the subtitles come up like that. Inversely, if you’re only starting out and want the subtitles in your own language and romaji (to get used to the sounds), you can also set it up. Additionally, all lessons carry a cultural tidbit, explanations, word lists, and interactive games.

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Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese


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    There’s a reason why Tae Kim is one of the few resources in the library with a full rating. Tae Kim’s Complete Guide to Japanese holds a God-like status among Japanese self-learners all over the Internet. Tae Kim wrote it for students like himself, so it is easy to understand but at the same time doesn’t expect you to learn Japanese in English. It spans many more grammar subjects than any textbook you could buy, all for the ridiculous price tag of $0.00 (although if you’re interested in giving back once you’ve used it, you can either donate to him or buy the printed version of the guide).  It’s been divided so that you can easily find what you need, so you don’t have to use it as a textbook but rather as support, too.

    Recently, it was converted into an iOS and Android app, making this essential piece of reading for Japanese learners a lot more portable.

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Mexica Ohui


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    One of the most complete courses around. Mexica Ohui is pretty much a (free!) textbook in website form, and as such, it features exercises after each lesson, which is a pretty nice change if you’d like to test your knowledge.

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Mizton’s Nahuatl Course


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    This course, taken straight from Unilang, derives from Mizton Pixan’s (polyglot, illustrator and by happy coincidence, a friend of mine) notes while he was learning this language. Therefore, it’s not comprehensive nor will it lead you to fluency, but as a grammar base of Nahuatl, there are few better resources.

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Hablemos Nahuatl


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    A blog with some of the best articles and video contents for this language. Among the blogs kept about this language it is one of the most frequently updated ones, and if you’re interested, it also offers a (paid) course you can download from the same website.

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Duolingo


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    Duolingo is Luis von Ahn’s second brainchild (von Ahn is also ‘father’ to CAPTCHA, which you must have seen at least once in your life unless you have been living under a rock). In his own words, von Ahn wanted to know how to deliver quality English language education to the millions of people without access to classes, and he came up with a brilliant idea: the students would “pay” for their classes translating the Internet (and by this I mean the whole internet–from Wikipedia to other less well-known large clients).

    Duolingo works like this: you learn the language of your choosing through intuitive, practical writing and listening/reading comprehension exercises, translating phrases from and to your base language, or writing them as they’re spelled to you. Once you have a certain level (since you earn points for each completed lesson, as if playing in an arcade game) Duolingo will start showing you an approximate percentage of reading comprehension in your target language and invite you to participate in translating or correcting an actual article.

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