And off we go on the summer of languages. As you can tell, I'm off to a lousy start. I think much of that revolves around the fact that while I love learning languages, I'm not very good at teaching myself. Also, much of what is out there for language study focuses on absolute beginners and mid-level beginners - neither of which am I.
However, it is also brilliant for helping me to remember all that I had learned in school, so much of it turns out to be an excellent source of review. Today, I'm going to focus on three of the language apps that I use and recommend for anyone wanting to learn a language or review a language. These three are wonderful because (a) they are not limited to a solitary language, and (b) they're easy to use.
Most of you probably already know of this app. When I started to work on my languages again after a hiatus of ten(ish) years, Duolingo was the first app I downloaded onto my phone.
There are many - not the least of which is the myriad of languages one can choose. It's also helpful if English is your second language. For almost every language course they offer for English speakers, there is an English as a second language course for others. For example, you are a native English speaker, you can learn Korean, but if you are a native Korean speaker, you can learn English.
One of the other things about Duolingo that it involves games. Sometimes it can be difficult, but for the most part, I enjoy it.
One of my biggest problems with Duolingo was actually the Korean language. I've done quite a few languages on Duolingo: I finished French, working through Spanish, dabbled in Irish, German and Dutch, and also Korean. And, as many know, I've actually taken classes in Korean. I felt that the Korean was incredibly difficult. For one thing, the sounds were hard to follow, and secondly, it didn't help that they taught vocabulary in a different manner than I was used too.
(Korean language has different endings for different levels of formality. They also utilize different endings for writing as opposed to speaking. The endings I learned were polite spoken Korean, whereas Duolingo taught formal and/or written Korean. Not a problem, per say, but definitely confusing.)
The other big drawback that I have with it, is that there can be a couple different ways to say things, and Duolingo's programming has it one way, so it's marked wrong. That, however, is being fixed as more people use it.
This is a new favorite. I just found this app while trying to find a better app to learn Korean. Usually, my standard practice is this: find an app that offers multiple languages and test it out with a language I'm already comfortable with (Spanish or French) then test it out in Korean to see how it goes.
I'll start here first because I haven't progressed as far in the app to know what I don't necessarily like yet. The one drawback to this app is its limited language choice, but hey, that's not bad. I do also find that the it can be a little difficult to navigate some of the word options. This is probably more true with languages that have different 'you' forms like French and Spanish opposed to Korean.
One other thing that I dislike (and it could just be my phone), but I have a hard time listening to my voice recording. It's hard to improve if you can't hear how you say something.
I find the app easy to navigate. There are a lot of mini-games to help me learn and remember the words. The phrases are simple enough to learn, and I like the story at the end of each lesson. It does really help me work on my language.
Another plus, it allows you to jump right into the second level without having to go through all the basics. This was especially helpful with Spanish and French since I just wanted to use it to review.
So Memrise is different from the other two language apps. This one also provides a myriad of languages, but this one is more of a vocabulary based app. In other words, it comes across as a series of flashcards more than a learning program. I first used Memrise to work on my Korean language and it was extremely helpful in that aspect. I have not used it since, but I'll give my review anyway.
I really like how it helps build the words up over time and uses the review to help words stick. I especially liked the little sayings that helped the words click. Those little tricks were helpful in getting down the basic information.
Also, it was nice having all the options to choose from when deciding to learn. Instead of having to progress one by one, I could just choose a section to study.
Unfortunately, that ease of use was also one of the things I eventually didn't like about it. At first, I couldn't figure out why I wasn't progressing in the program, then I realized that I needed to choose a different lesson (groups of cards). Each group is relatively independent from one another so you don't automatically proceed from one to another.
Learning any language comes in steps. You have to learn the basics (colors, numbers, family, sounds, etc.) before learning the harder aspects of a language. A good language teacher can help navigate it all, but many of us reading this aren't in school anymore. We don't have the luxury of having a teacher. That's where these apps can help out. I just reviewed three of them, I actually use several more with my language acquisition and reviews.
For those just getting started in a language, LingoDeer and Duolingo are your best bets (especially if you're looking at European languages). For those wanting to review, Memrise is brilliant as well.
On Saturday, I'll discuss ways that we can continue to improve our language skills after the basics.