There are many ways to learn a new language: you can move to a country where the language is spoken, attend a formal language class, get a private language tutor, or use books and written materials. Other ways to learn a foreign language are listening to CDs or audio tapes, watching TV, movies, and video shows, memorizing phrase books, using the Internet, or using a combination of all of the above.
But not everyone can arrange to live in a foreign country. Native language speakers may not be available. Written or recorded business materials may not be available in the language you’re interested in (Cochimi, Cibemba, or Kukapa, anyone?). It is true that many of the major languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese, carry cable television programs. Even Koreans, Catalans, Arabs and Japanese have venues available in cosmopolitan areas around the world; but the vast majority of the thousands of languages spoken in the world are simply not found outside their local areas. So what’s a potential polyglot to do?
One answer, of course, is the Internet. Enter “foreign language courses” into an Internet search engine like Google or Yahoo and over 62 million results will appear instantly. From Afrikaans to Punjabi, and from Hebrew to Zulu, thousands of listings are before you at the click of a mouse. So how can the Internet be used to approach learning a foreign language? Get started effectively using these six ways:
1. Do an initial assessment
The first thing you may want to know is where you are in the language learning scheme. An initial assessment of language skills is required; Are you a raw beginner? False beginner? Intermediate level? Higher? Take English as a second or foreign language as an example. English proficiency diagnostic tests are free online at:
• General English test with instant results
• Parlo http://parlo.com/
(diagnostic tests in English, Spanish and French)
• Upper intermediate level test
If you score above 80% on this test, you must take the next one and also show your teacher or tutor a copy of the results.
2. Familiarize yourself with language learning strategies
How did you learn? Knowing this can make the daunting task of learning a foreign language feel less like studying and more like playing. Are you a visual-spatial learner who likes pictures, drawings, graphics, and extensive use of color? A musical-rhythmic guy who would benefit from having his lessons and materials set to music, rhythm, or rhyme? Perhaps you are the athletic type who would have more success learning by movement, movement, mimicry, or even dance? Playing Mozart’s works in the background while studying has been shown to improve learning in several areas. To learn more about how you learn, visit these sites to get started:
• Explanation of learning styles [http://www2.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm]
• Learning Styles Questionnaire Index [http://www2.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/ilsweb.html]
• The Success Types Learning Style Indicator [http://www.ttuhsc.edu/SOM/Success/LSTIntro.htm]
3. Practice reading skills
Literacy is one of the most valuable composite skills of the 21st century. After all, you’re reading THIS now, aren’t you? Few would want to be illiterate in their new foreign language, so practicing reading skills is paramount. Online newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and blogs can provide the necessary practice and learning materials. Check out these reading comprehension skills sites:
• How to read your textbook more efficiently
• Self-study reading lessons http://www.english-to-go.com/
• Read the article at the following address:
At the following address, answer the questionnaire to verify your
comprehension of the reading passage:
4. Helps in the development of listening skills
Considered the most difficult of language skills to develop, listening cannot be taught. Rather, you should practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. Every week, twice a week I would come across a street vendor in the same place, absolutely clueless of what he was saying. I knew what he was selling, I just took a look at his products. But his pleas in street Spanish fell on my language-clogged ears for months. Then one night, without warning, it happened. Just two days before, his shouting was the same incomprehensible insult it had been for months. That night, however, when he launched into his babble, I suddenly understood every word. My listening comprehension skills had clicked. Why then? Nobody knows. Especially not me, and I am a language education specialist with a postgraduate degree!
Practice your listening skills with radio shows in your target language for a change at http://www.live365.com, which has live global broadcasts 24 hours a day in multiple languages.
5. Play and have fun
Vocabulary is often referred to as the building blocks of language. Knowledge of vocabulary is an aspect that separates the levels of language learning. The more vocabulary you know, the more communicative you will be. Here are some unique linguistic sites that help build your language while you “play”:
• The site http://www.manythings.org/ offers “cool stuff for ESL learners” like songs, jokes, quizzes, word games, puzzles, slang, and even podcasts to help stimulate English language acquisition.
• The site of the foreign language course at:
It has activities in 27 languages including Finnish, Mandarin and Quechua.
• On the Transparent Language site you can play in any of over 100 languages, from Afrikaans to Farsi or from Guarani to Yoruba. And yes, they also have Zulu. Check out all their listings here: http://www.transparent.com/games/
6. So, which language do you like the most?
While the selection of online language courses, tutorials, news sources, music and other audiovisual materials is extensive, ALL the world’s languages are simply not available. I am sorry. But many are, and here’s how to find yours if you’re online.
• 108 FREE online foreign language courses are posted at: http://www.word2word.com/coursead.html
• PARLO’s language website offers courses in English, Spanish, French and Italian in: [http://www.parlo.com/parlo21/home/courselist/courselist_en.asp]
• The Easton Language Institute offers 14 languages online, from Albanian to Japanese, Latin, Croatian, Russian and Spanish. The site is online at: http://eleaston.com/languages.html
• A plethora of language learning activities for the World Wide Web are online for practice activities from the University of Hawaii here: [http://polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/lss/lang/nflrc.html]
Although the Internet may not be the complete answer to all of your foreign language learning needs, it can be a great resource in your efforts to speak Spanish, speak French, or speak German. The prestige, financial gains, personal satisfaction, envy, and opportunities that frequently accompany knowledge of a foreign language are unparalleled. Why not start today to try some of these effective ways to use the Internet to learn a language? Be sure to read the companion article “Six Quick Tips for Learning a Language” at: http://EzineArticles.com/?id=72718 By the way, if you find Cochimi, Cibemba or Kukapa let me know. I’m still looking for
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