I apologise for taking inspiration from Frozen’s ‘Do You Wanna Build a Snowman’ when creating the title for this blog entry :)

At about this time two years ago, I made a new years resolution to learn another language. I don’t know about you but during my primary and secondary education I found learning a new language incredibly difficult. My difficulty in learning another language might have came from the fact that my parents do not fluently speak another language at home, maybe it was the skill of my LOTE (Languages Other Than English) teachers, maybe it was the fact that I was not interested in learning another language because I found it challenging or maybe it was a combination of all of the above. Despite my previous difficulty learning another language, I’m here to tell you that it has never been easier! Why has it become easier to learn another language you might ask? Technology, that’s right technology. So how has technology broken down the perceived difficultly of learning another language? Well let me explain it for you.

The rise of smart phones and computer tablets as devices that we use on a daily basis has lead to an explosion of highly creative apps that can help you learn another language. The first app I can recommend is Duolingo. Duolingo - which is free by the way - offers courses in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish and Danish. It was the Duolingo app that first showed me that learning another language isn’t necessarily difficult; it just takes practice. Duolingo works so well because it caters for users of a beginner, intermediate and advanced level. The Duolingo German course has a total of 73 lessons, of which I have completed 39 lessons over the 1.75 years I have been using it for. Within each lesson, there are stages and within each stage there are about 10-25 questions. Duolingo makes the process of learning another language a user-friendly experience in the following ways. When answering each stage’s questions a user will need to: decipher from English to German; decipher from German to English; pick the right picture for a new word; write down text in German or English that might be spoken in the opposite language. Duolingo takes a lot of concepts from video games to help you stay engaged with learning. In each lesson you have three hearts, which allows you to make three mistakes. You can earn ‘lingots’ (a kind of in game currency) for certain achievements and the app tracks your progress through a points system. Duolingo also allows a certain amount of social networking. You can link up with your friends to see how many points they have scored in a week which helps add an element of healthy competition. My recommendation for Duolingo would be to use it as a starting point and use it as an app to understand the syntax of a new language. As outstanding as Duolingo is, you will need other apps to help you on your journey of learning another language - which brings me to my next recommended app.

The next app I recommend is called Mindsnacks. Mindsnacks offers courses in: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese and Mandarin. Each individual app costs just under $7.00 (AUD). There is an in-app purchase available which allows you to buy the entire series for under $26.00 (AUD). I chose the latter option because it represents excellent value for money. So why did I splash out $26.00 for these apps? Well Mindsnacks is engaging and entertaining. Mindsnacks uses a lot of gaming features found in Duolingo such as earning experience points, achieving new levels and seeing your avatar ‘grow’.  The strength of Mindsnacks as an app for learning a new language comes from the nine awesome games users can play. For the German course there are 50 lessons that cover a wide range of concepts such as: body parts, greetings, dates and colours. The great thing about Mindsnacks is that it keeps you interested and playing. For example, if you get sick of a particular game you can move on to another one. Personally, I found Mindsnacks useful because it helped me recall the vocabulary of German faster than Duolingo required me to. In order to keep up with the games (most of which are timed and get progressively harder) I really had to think quickly. An area that Mindsnacks does much better than Duolingo is the fact they have courses in Japanese and Mandarin. Both the Japanese and Mandarin apps allow the user to switch between the characters of Japanese/Mandarin and English. Using Japanese as an example, you can learn one lesson using the Katakana (one of the Japanese alphabets) and then switch to Japanese (spelt using English) later for the same lesson. Another strength of Mindsnacks – Mandarin is that it helps teach the tonal aspect of Mandarin which can change the meaning of certain words.

In addition to these apps, there are a couple of other ICT resources worth mentioning that I have used. Firstly, an interactive website called ‘Ba Ba Dum’ (google it). Ba Ba Dum mainly focuses on the vocabulary and spelling of a language, of which there are 1,500 words to master. ‘Ba Ba Dum’ offers courses, which are free, in 13 different languages such as: German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Polish. For understanding the speaking and listening component of German, I downloaded a series of podcasts from iTunes called ‘Slow German’. I listen to these CDs in the car on my way to work. I’m sure if you go searching on iTunes you could find podcasts in other languages. You can also use Pinterest to get access to heaps of picture boards to help learn another language. I have a couple of boards dedicated to German called ‘German Learning Resources’ and ‘Funny German Texts’. I also regularly use Google Translate to help me with a word I might have forgotten when I read German newspapers and magazines.

So that’s how I currently got to where I am with learning another language. Having gone through this learning experience I can definitely say that anyone can do it. For me the only remaining hurdle facing a person who wants to learn another language is that of discipline. And by discipline, I mean daily practice and making the time. Some people might challenge me with that statement and that’s fine. But I would say to my detractors that nearly everyone now owns a smart phone or a computer with Internet access. With the rise of free and cheap apps learning a new language doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. With the barriers of accessibility and cost no longer being an issue, now has never been a better time to learn another language.

References

Duolingo - https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/duolingo-learn-languages-for/id570060128?mt=8 mind https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/duolingo-learn-languages-for/id570060128?mt=8

Mindsnacks – https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/learn-german-by-mindsnacks/id473825665?mt=8slow https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/learn-german-by-mindsnacks/id473825665?mt=8

Ba Ba Dum – https://babadum.com

Slow German – http://slowgerman.com

Google Translate - https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/google-translate/id414706506?mt=8

My Pinterest Account - http://www.pinterest.com/griffinedu/