I have always thought that the best way of learning a foreign language is going to the country and speaking with the native people of that language. That’s the reason why I went to Canada when I was only 16, and I decided to study a degree in London after I finished the secondary school. However, something that it wasn’t planned at all, it was meeting my Italian ragazzo in London. I laughed at my friend Louise when she first showed me her new app Duolingo. She started dating her Italian boyfriend a month before me, and after months teaching him English she decided that she wanted to learn the Latin language. I also thought about downloading the app, but instead I printed the list with all the Italian verbs following the methods I was taught in school… Anyway, my list is still on my phone and I have probably used it once. The way I have learnt Italian is listening and throwing in the air the most absurd sentences in Italispanish which, for some reason, all of them understood. Now, I’m very fluent talking but I’m very frustrated since I cannot answer any of my what’s app or facebook messages in Italian. Therefore, I’m looking for a fast and fun way of learning how to write in this language and I would like to try with modern methods this time.
I had a look to some of the language learning tools online and this is what I found:
OKAY, SO WHAT MAKES IT GREAT? Duolingo is a crowdsourced text translation platform designed so that, by learning a new language, users inadvertently provide translations for documents. Because of this, Duolingo is completely free! It helps with the translation process as well: along with practicing your reading and speaking comprehension, by re-typing translations, it forces you to use proper spelling. Like Mango Languages, grammar is also subtly integrated into the learning process.
AND THE DOWNSIDE? Unfortunately, Duolingo only offers five languages to study at the moment: Spanish, Italian, French, Brazilian Portuguese, and German. Users are also unable to be judged on their speaking skills, and although you can create a profile for yourself, there seems to be little to no community to practice with.
OKAY, SO WHAT MAKES IT GREAT? LiveMocha is the most-used of the three programs, and it shows through its extended abilities and large community. Users can choose from over 35 languages and a variety of styles to study: vocab, reading and writing, reading and speaking, listening and writing, listening and speaking, etc. What really sets LiveMocha apart is its huge community – users are encouraged to help one another practice, which rewards them with points.
AND THE DOWNSIDE? Since we’re on the topic of points… it’s LiveMocha’s biggest issue. While users can do many activities for free, unlocking new lessons costs “points.” You can purchase points if you need, but by correctly answering questions or helping others, LiveMocha rewards you with free points to use. It’s a bit confusing, and rather unnecessary, considering how easy it is to achieve points. As for the learning style, it felt a little quick, which was a struggle at times. Another problem is communication in the new Livemocha is very limited and the lessons are min-numbingly dull. The technical bugs and errors in their lessons are frequent too.
OKAY, SO WHAT MAKES IT GREAT? Mango Languages offers over 50 languages to choose from, many of which are available in ESL format as well. The system is beautifully designed and easy to navigate. Students are introduced to both grammar and cultural notes as they study. Mango also uses colors to distinguish words in sentences, which proved to be helpful when learning terms for the first time.
AND THE DOWNSIDE? MangoLanguages is not technically a free service, although many can access the program for free through their local library. (You can check here!) In addition, although users can record their pronunciation, you are speaking to a computer. Many language programs provide communities for users to speak with native speakers, which Mango cannot offer.
CUT TO THE CHASE: WHICH SHOULD I CHOOSE?
All three are excellent programs, but if money isn’t an object, we have to recommend LiveMocha first. Being able to talk with native speakers is a huge benefit when learning a language, and LiveMocha’s large community is something to take advantage of. However, if you’re casually studying, consider DuoLingo if your language is one of the few they offer. Otherwise, if used through a local library, MangoLanguages is a great, free language tool, as well.
Sources: Information taken from http://blog.dynamiclanguage.com