How to learn a language online

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Learning a new language is probably on most of our ‘to-do’ lists, yet we rarely follow through with our plans. Thankfully, over the past few years, a range of online tools have emerged to help you follow through and learn a new language in a fun and casual environment -- usually with little or no cost.

Consider your options
Learning a new language is a goal for many people, but lack of time and limited motivation make it difficult to follow through,” says Ryan Whalen, co-founder of the popular online learning tool Mango Languages. That’s why he recommends choosing the options that fit best with your lifestyle, in order to get the most out of your learning experience.

“Online language learning options and their mobile apps can help you practice, even if you're waiting in line at the bank, sitting at the airport, or commuting on the subway,” he says. “If you know you can practice a new language on your schedule and drive forward at your own pace, it makes following through that much easier.”

Social media has proven a powerful tool for helping individuals learn and immerse themselves in new language without ever having to leave their home. One site that specializes in this type of education is Livemocha, which allows users to hone their new language skills, while at the same time teaching their native tongue to someone else. Like a modern-day pen pal, not only will Livemocha help you to build new language skill, but it’s a great way to connect with individuals from around the world with a passion for language.

Rosetta Stone
The real key with interactive tools like Rosetta Stone is immersion. Rather than a list of verbs and nouns on a page, Rosetta Stone enables the user to learn through a series of interactive and engaging lessons. On top of the renowned Rosetta Stone classes, students can utilize and refine their new language skills using SharedTalk. The text chat allows you to practice your practical writing skills, while face-to-face voice chat will help you perfect your accent and conversational skills.

Lang-8 is an online community, much like SharedTalk or Livemocha, except that it is completely geared toward improving your writing and language skills. Participants are encouraged to keep a regular journal written in the language they are practicing and then post it online. Other members of the Lang-8 community will then read and correct it for you, allowing you to view and learn from your mistakes. In exchange, you must agree to correct the work of someone who wishes to learn your native language, thereby continuing the cycle.

Smartphone apps
If learning a new language seems too big a task to fit in with your busy schedule, think again. A range of smartphone apps have been especially designed to help language enthusiasts learn a new tongue on the go. Byiki is an app that uses flash cards with both audio and video to teach you a range of languages on your smartphone. Similarly, AccelaStudy pronounces words and shows flashcards to help users improve their vocabulary on a diverse range of topics. While both of these applications are extremely convenient, they should be used mostly to supplement some other form of language learning.