vocabulary

Lawless French


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    In spite of the rather awe-striking name, Lawless French is just Laura K. Lawless’ brainchild, as well as an amazing resource for French learners of all levels. Being that French is my eternal épine dans le pied (look that one up!), I’m always up for finding well organized learning resources. Alors voilà! Lawless French is built with such care and intent that I actually spent quite a while there the first time I visited, taking notes, nodding like a dummy and saying ‘Ouah, je n’en savais pas!’ (Wow, I didn’t know that!). I sincerely hope it’s as useful to you as it was to me!

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Japanese Pod 101


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    Innovative Language’s “Language Pod 101” series exist for over 30 languages, and it’s a good thing they are, because they’re tremendously helpful! Innovative Language does indeed offer paid courses, but what I wish to bring to your attention is the following three free resources for Japanese:

    Japanese Word of the Day: A must for beginners. This little applet in Japanese Pod 101’s site is deceivingly complete. Not only do you get a new word every word, but that word also brings with itself just about everything you’d want from it: its pronunciation, definition and even part of the word. But it doesn’t stop there! You also get several examples from each word, providing you with much needed context and new situational grammar. And as though this wasn’t enough, you can go back to any date you’d like (to see every word that’s been added to date), and use the quiz mode to hide all translations and definitions, if you’re feeling brave!

    Vocab Lists: wait, wait, no rolling of the eyes yet. These are not your regular vocabulary list: new lists are being constantly updated with real, relevant vocabulary in the form of sentences (with audio, of course, and kana spelling for beginners). Not only they’re an amazing source of new vocabulary, but they’ll also offer you a sneak peek into Japanese culture. These are so good, I wish these had existed when I was studying Japanese!

    100 Core Words: if you’re just starting out, go here. These 100 words will literally become the foundation of your Japanese learning, and get you asking all the right questions to start understanding Japanese!

     

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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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Lingvist.io


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    Lingvist.io has an interesting foundation story, where (in short) Mait Müntel, one of its co-founders, had to develop a solution of his own for learning French. The meat and potatoes of Lingvist is “Memorize”, a Spaced Repetition based system where you learn words in context, and get them read back to you once you get the answer right. This obviously means that at first you’re going to have (almost) no idea of what’s being asked of you, but this approach is similar to how we learn new words in the real world, so it’s actually a very good idea. It also has a Reading and Listening section with an amazingly large collection of texts and audio (with scripts) that you can use to reaffirm what you’ve learned in the Memorize section. Currently, you can learn French and English from Estonian, English, French and Russian. They’ve also released apps for both iOS and Android.

    I used during my 2015 French language mission, and out of all the resources I used this gave me the highest vocabulary retention rate, without a doubt. I highly recommend it, even while it is in beta phase, but it is worth mentioning that once the beta is over, Lingvist.io may stop being free, although no price chart has been mentioned yet.

    Go to site Currently in beta

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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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