multilingual

Learn Any Language On Your Own


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    Learn Languages On Your Own is a great referential site for everyone looking to unlock the key to self-learning. If you’ve read The Polyglotist for any length of time, you probably know I greatly encourage studying this kind of metainformation before going on to learn any language!

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Readlang


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  • Review


    Readlang is an incredibly useful resource to find written and audiovidual materials in more than fifty languages. Its users upload all sorts of contents (be it text or captioned video) that can be reviewed on the go. The beauty of the system is that any morsel of text, word or full expression, can be tapped or clicked to reveal its translation, which automatically becomes a flashcard that can be handled in any number of ways: edited, formatted, exported for Anki… it’s a truly valuable tool for learners of all languages, at any level.

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Italki


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    Italki covers an amazing portion of the needs of any language learner. Written practice with native corrections? You’ve got it. Doubts about grammar? Ask away. Making native friends? Absolutely. Language specific blogs? More than you can count.

    However, what truly makes Italki so amazing is its tutor and teacher directory (in which you can also find yours truly). Outside the Internet, coming across a tutor whose prices and schedule match yours is actually really hard work: the whole process can actually be rather demotivating. That’s where Italki comes in: with tutors and teachers for over 67 languages located all over the world, with tariffs for everyone and classes from 30 minutes to two hours, you will definitely find that tutor you’ve been looking for!

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Rosetta Stone: Tell Me More


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  • Review


    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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Issuu


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  • Review


    Issuu is a website and app that offers reading material in a plethora of languages. It’s a rarity in that it is a free (or if you want a premium account, extremely cheap) way to read all sorts of contents in your target language. As long as there’s someone publishing in the language you want to read, you’ll find something interesting; even if you’re a beginner and feel a bit intimidated by the task of reading, in Issuu’s archives you’ll find simpler practice material, such as informational brochures, short stories, and more.

    You can read my long review of Issuu by clicking here.

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Tatoeba


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    Tatoeba.org (which is Japanese for “for example”) is another crowdsourced project that the language student shouldn’t do without. Let’s say you’re learned a new word, but this word is isolated; you don’t know what context to use it in. You only have to pop it (in your language or the target language) into the search engine and specify what languages you wish to receive results in, and Tatoeba will return full phrases using the word you want to learn.

    Tatoeba is very useful in that unlike other multilingual dictionaries, this one isn’t sourced in web translations, but rather in human volunteers translating sentences into their language everyday, which means there are people translating English into French and Italian, but also Xhosa, Nahuatl, Ainu, Hawaiian and other decidedly minor languages. The human side of Tatoeba is what makes it slightly imperfect, although thankfully it has a veritable army of corpus maintainers (AKA editors) to make the sure a quality standard is held up. Tatoeba also is a tad bit incomplete: the English corpus is huge in comparison to other languages’ corpi, but they’re growing every day.

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Lyrics Training


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    Studies have shown that studying a language through music accelerates the vocabulary retention process and makes it easier to imitate native accents. Whole study methods have been built around this principle, so why not add a little music to your language learning regime?

    Lyricstraining.com is home to an interesting game: you have to fill in the gaps of a lyrics sheet while listening to its corresponding video on Youtube in such a way that you have to both listen and write. If you fall behind, the video will stop until you write the correct word you got stuck at. Don’t stop the music!

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Bab.la


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    Bab.la is a website that truly understands language students. Its dictionary section not only allows you to search back and forth between twenty four languages (in varying pairs), but almost all languages count with audio bites to make sure you’ve got the pronunciation right, as well as a neutral example to use the word in context and live examples taken from the internet, synonyms, and of course, which grammatical part said word is: all wrapped in an easy to understand, easy to use format.

    As though this wasn’t enough, when you go back from the dictionary section to the main site, you will find a huge number of games, quizzes, conjugation charts, recommendations, blogs, forums…

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Lang-8


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    Lang-8 is a social networking site slash blog hosting service, but it is one in which you’re warranteed to have readers, and possibly the kind of reader you’ll like the most: natives of your chosen language! In Lang-8, your readers will correct your entries written in the language you’re learning in exchange for you correcting theirs. The way in which they stimulate mutual corrections is via a point system, which push your account up in several rankings (such as “most corrections”, “most popular member”, etc). It’s actually pretty competitive in there!

    Lang-8’s free and paid services do not differ too much–a premium suscription shows your posts to native speakers as a priority above enables you to download your corrected entries to PDF, allows you to customize your page and URL, remove ads, upload pictures to your posts, among other options. Other than the possibility to check your corrections offline via PDF, the free service is quite respectable.

    Lang-8 has grown astronomically since its inception, which is surprising because it is still maintained by a minuscule Tokyo-based team, including its founder, YangYang Xi, whose own blog posts announce changes to the site… before being corrected by the whole community.

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Transparent Language


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    I’ve yet to try Transparent Language’s actual courses (due to lack of time, not of interest), but in the meantime I’ve found its language blogs to be incredibly entertaining and educational. All of them are maintained by a team of natives or experimented teachers with a passion for their own languages, and it shows. The kind of contents range from simple cultural explanations to full posts written in the language, and obviously (as you’d expect from a blog), after reading you can participate and ask your questions. The screenshot only shows six languages, but in reality there are 27 blogs for 26 different languages (plus an English blog for Portuguese speakers), and the company blog. If your target language exists among their blogs, without a doubt they’ll be helpful to you.

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Linguee


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    Linguee is a hybrid dictionary, half dictionary, half translation search engine. The interesting part about this dictionary is that it allows you to look up both isolated words and full expressions, returning, rather than an explanation, actual translations taken from a wide variety of sites (so you’re actually looking at some translator’s work and not at a machine translation). Linguee also takes the additional trouble of measuring the frequency of the word you wanted to find in its translations, thus giving you both the most commonly used word and less common ones.

    However (and as always), nothing’s perfect. Linguee’s really good as it will find the word you’re trying to learn used in context, but it has a limited translation bank, so the context may not always be what you’re looking for (as in, it may return technical translations, or less-than-excellent translations). Don’t hold it against Linguee’s team–they’re only the ones providing the connection between you and the translation.

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