Name 5 things you have always wanted to do but could never find the time. Now, narrow this down to one thing that can make you smarter and improve your brain power.
Did you say “Learn a Language?”
Have you ever wanted to learn French, Spanish or maybe German so you could understand the locals when you traveled the world?
Do not let your age be a deterrent, especially if it comes to learning a language. Do it! It is healthy brain food and can be fun at the same time.
I know, a lot of experts say “the younger the better” to insure effective language learning. We don’t have the same retention capacity as we did when we were younger. We can’t assimilate words as easy. Our brains aren’t as sharp as they once were. We can’t concentrate as well. Blah, blah ,blah, blah, blah, blah…………blah. You know what, screw what the experts say. There are a lot of factors to be considered in learning new skills later in life and the most important ones are your motivation to learn, your available time and what learning style works for you.
Why do many experts argue that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn a foreign language?
It is the environment at young age, it is the free time and the ‘fresh mind’ young people have to commit to the study of a foreign language. There are fewer preconceived notions of what is being learned and at a young age the mind is absorbing everything that is being taught, not just a new language.
This does not necessarily mean that mature learners or even us fine folks known as “Baby Boomers” can’t do the same. Some studies suggest that mature learners have a higher level of problem solving and this helps them question and understand various grammatical and syntactical points better than a youngster.
Well, I have always wanted to learn another language and living in the beautiful desert southwest, Spanish seemed a logical choice. Si? No? My own experience indicates that motivation is the key factor in language learning regardless of your age. If you are motivated to learn, you will commit to the task and even find it an enjoyable experience.
First, I recommend not looking at foreign language learning as purely a means of communication. It gives you far more than that. Go on and learn a language because it’s fun, it increases your brain power and it will give you a distinct advantage in searching for new jobs if that is what you are destined to do. It will also give you the ability to understand what silly things foreigners are saying to you when they don’t think you understand them.
There are many ways today to go about learning a new language. You can travel to a foreign country and immerse yourself in their culture. You can travel to the library and immerse yourself in their foreign language books. Or you can do what I have done and travel to my office desk and immersed myself in the available language learning technologies online. That’s right, you can sit at home, in your underwear, sipping a frosty adult beverage and learn a new language. How easy can it get?
I have listed below what I think are the 5 best technology based language learning programs available today. Some are costly and others are totally free but the true worth of this exercise is how much you gain from it as a life experience. They are in no particular order and the one you choose to use is completely up to you. I have been using one program for a couple of years now and find I have been very successful in learning my new language. I will tell you which one at the end of my blog.
“No mira a escondidas.”
Rosetta Stone began with one man’s quest for a better way to learn a language. Allen Stoltzfus began studying Russian in the 1980’s, but became frustrated with his slow progress. Fortunately, he knew there was a better way to learn a language, through immersion, which he had experienced years earlier while studying in Germany.
Allen’s command of German was a direct result of being a part of the culture and the world of Germany, instead of sitting in a classroom. He immersed himself in the language, and discovered German the way he had acquired his first language…naturally and without translation.
And so, an idea was born. Allen envisioned using computer technology to simulate the way that people learn their native language—with pictures and sounds in context, and with no translation. Allen went to his brother-in-law, John Fairfield, who had a Ph.D. in computer science, to explore the possibilities. John loved the idea, but he and Allen had to wait until technology caught up with their vision.
That time came in 1992 when Fairfield Language Technologies(Later named Rosetta Stone) was founded in Harrisonburg, Va. It was that year that technology had advanced enough to allow design expertise to the structural and visual components of the program, which quickly went from a dream to a reality.
Allen passed away in 2002, but his legacy of achievement and innovation inspires the company to this very day. The company is currently providing language-learning solutions for 30 different languages in more than 150 countries.
Everything at Rosetta Stone revolves around a simple idea: learning a language should be fun, easy and effective. They approach language learning the same way that you first learned a language – using a natural method that teaches new language directly, without translation. That means no more confusing grammar explanations or mind-numbing vocabulary lists to memorize.
As the leading language-learning software in the world, Rosetta Stone makes learning a new language second nature. Millions of learners in more than 150 countries have already used the software to gain the confidence that comes with truly knowing a new language. They are continually improving their software technology and adding new products.
The Pimsleur Method
The Pimsleur Method is a foreign language course that promises to teach you the basics of your chosen language within 10 days using proven methods created by Dr. Paul Pimsleur. This program is used by the FBI.
When you order the Level 1 Program, you choose between software, MP3 format or CD’s to listen to. The lessons, each 30 minutes in length come with interactive flash cards, conversations and “quick matches.” You are scheduled to listen to only one lesson per day.
The entire program is 100% audio based so it can be listened to in the car, the home, or downloaded and played on an MP3 player.
The Pimsleur Approach to learning a foreign language is to teach adults a language the same way babies learn language – orally. According to them, learning language begins with learning sounds and pronunciations, not with grammar rules or vocabulary lessons.
The Pimsleur Approach works on the idea that you should absorb grammar rules through understanding how conversation works orally, just like you did when you were learning your first language.
The website says that while there are over 1 million words and phrase in the English language, there are only 2500 that we use consistently and that we need in order to communicate with the average American. The Pimsleur Approach identifies these same language building blocks for foreign languages and only concentrates on teaching you those, so that you can quickly be conversational in your chosen language.
The Language101.com program was set up by Brent Van Arsdell in 2007 and is designed to be an effective and fun way to learn languages online. It uses an SRS (Spaced Repetition System) to teach words and phrases. According to it’s developer Language101.com’s only goal is to do one thing and to do it well. That thing is to teach you to speak and understand a very large amount of your favorite foreign language very quickly.”
The amount of material for each language is different – for example there are currently 66 lessons for Spanish, 48 for French, 42 for Russian and just 10 for Irish and 2 for Danish.
Each lessons consists of a short conversation, or series of phrases or words, or a song or a poem. The basic lessons include such conversational phrases as ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’ and ‘What’s your name?’. Other lessons might teach you numbers, colors, dates, or focus on a particular situation, such as getting directions, shopping, staying in a hotel, eating out, and so on. You can listen to the all of the material together in some cases, or to each bit separately. The recordings, which are made by native speakers, are available at normal speed and slowly with each word pronounced separately.
There is a dictionary feature which includes translations and examples of usage – words in blue are included in the dictionary. You can add any of the words you look up to your study plan, which means they’ll appear when you’re using the SRS.
Rocket Languages is a recognized leader in online language learning courses, having further developed and refined the products to keep pace with customer, e-learning and technological requirements.
Recent course enhancements include language and culture lessons to help learners speak naturally, software games for a fun and effective way to reinforce the lessons, interactive quizzes with instant feedback, Rocket Language certification tests, equivalent to the A1 and A2 levels of the Common European Frame of Reference for languages, and Online Member Forums, so learners can interact with other members and the Rocket Languages teachers.
For an inexpensive and little-known language-learning program,Babbel exceeds expectations, delivering high quality courses for anyone who doesn’t mind an online-only program.
I like Babbel’s core content better, as well as the ability to pay per month and quit any time, but Babbel does not have real-time Web classes hosted by trained instructors. For beginners who aren’t ready to commit just yet, Babbel offers an inexpensive way to dive into great content in 13 languages.
Babbel mobile apps provide portable, situational travel instruction in seven languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Portuguese. Integrated speech recognition technology allows you to assess your pronunciation skills, and the intelligent review manager provides you with feedback on weak areas in your vocabulary—and provides targeted exercises. And, because the vocabulary is arranged by category, you can focus on the lessons you want, such as the vocabulary of travel and business.
Don’t all of these programs sound great? Your options don’t end there though. There are actually a dozen or more excellent online programs to help you on your quest to learning a new language.
OK, Since you have been such good readers that I am going to give you a couple of free programs to look at as well.
FREE LANGUAGE LEARNING PROGRAMS
Duolingo is one of the best free program for learning a language and it offers programs in 13 different languages.
Part crowd-sourcing project to translate the Web and part language-learning site, Duolingo has tremendous features that work surprisingly well at getting you to practice a language—but not necessarily master it.
Mid-level or experienced speakers of other languages won’t like that Duolingo does not easily let you skip ahead to the point in the program that’s right for you.
You can test out of sections one at a time, but doing so requires serious time.
I believe Busuu is the fastest growing online language learning community with over 50 million users as of today. The site is named after a Cameroon language of the same name, which according to their website, is now spoken by only 8 living people!
I love Busuu’s Language Garden visual shown on your personalized landing page (you’ll see it once you have registered). It’s attractive, intuitive and a pleasant departure from other sites that just show a boring table or list.
So there you go……….all the information you needed to begin learning a second (or third) language. Why don’t you break out your best underwear, pour that frosty adult beverage, sit down in front of your computer screen and make a commitment to yourself to broaden your intellectual skills and impress your friends.
Go on, learn a language. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.
In case you were still wondering….The program I am using is Rosetta Stone and I am learning to speak Spanish. I purchased it at an incredible discount (see my other blogs about money saving websites for more details) and love learning at my own pace.