I’ve ‘started’ to learn several different languages, all ending up in the same place that I didn’t want to spend the time or money taking classes at a school or a lot of money on a set of training-up cd’s. Recently I’ve taken to learning Italian and started by purchasing a rather in-expensive cd from Earworms (warning, the site is not high on the ‘pretty’ scale) whose method actually works really well. It combines the learning experience with a base of music, the same concept as putting the alphabet to a tune to help it stick in your mind.
As of yesterday however, I discovered Babbel.com, a flex based (+1 point) online language learning tool (+1 point) that is free!(+10 points!!) I registered and had a play through two of ‘packages’ and found the user-experience and ability to learn from it to be excellent. They start off by teaching you single words, which are each associated to an image, they then eventually go on to teach you to memorise them and learn to understand them when spoken within phrases. By the end I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I got through and how much was easily retained into memory. They also marked one of my finished exercise packages as needing a refresher in 4 days time, which I think is great to keep you interested and remembering previous lessons. So there’s my bit raving about how great it is for learning a new language, which isn’t just available for Italian either, but so far it also has German, French and Spanish.
I’m quite pleased to see it’s been created with Flex. It’s allowed them to create a fluid learning step-through environment, making it easy to learn the language. It’s also good to see that they’ve made it really simple for the community to contribute to it. On the home page, for example, there is an area of phrases that require images, and you as a user can click one of these phrases and choose to upload an image that you believe describes this phrase best. You can also mark images that others have uploaded as good/bad as you go through the exercises, although what effect that ultimately has on the image you’ve marked I’m not quite sure yet. All in all I still have to have a thorough play in it, but it is by far the best tool I have ever used for learning a language and I highly recommend you give it a try as well.