Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Livemocha

Julie Lindsay shared this link in her Across My Desk (Weekly), so I thought I'd check it out for myself...and now I'm hooked! Livemocha is a social network for learning languages. It makes so much sense that I wonder why it has taken us (well, me) so long to get to this point.

I've found myself being drawn to language learning at various points throughout my life so far. At high school I learnt bits of German and then a few years of Japanese. In Year 12 I learnt some Russian in preparation for some voluntary work in a Russian Summer Camp. While teaching at a school with Spanish as a LOTE (Language Other Than English) I did a basic course in Beginning Spanish. A couple of years ago, I did further study of Spanish at my local Technical College. And, yet again, I'm drawn to learning for two main reasons:

1. I'd like to be able to travel to Japan and REALLY experience it.
2. Should I ever have a child, I'd like to be able to bring them up bilingual.

So how does Livemocha work?
After registering for an account (I chose the free version and so far it is meeting my needs) I selected the course/s I wanted to work on and began my first lesson. The lesson content is the same for each language, just with different vocabulary (obviously!) The first part of each lesson involves seeing images, listening to the spoken language and seeing the written text (translation is available). At the end of this part you can choose to make a flashcard set from the vocabulary. The second part is a review quiz covering the content just seen. The third part is a written task to apply the vocabulary learnt. This is then submitted to the network (and this is the best part) for a native speaker to review for you! The fourth part is a spoken task, recorded with your computer's microphone, again submitted for review. Whenever you submit a task, you are invited to review someone else's task. You get Mocha points for completing lessons and also for reviewing the work of others.

Why I love it
The way I see it, this is collaboration at its best. We are all teaching AND learning at the same time. I need others to support me with Japanese and Spanish, others need me to support them with English. I understand the struggles of others as I struggle too. Helping others is easy, but the help of others is invaluable. It makes so much sense!

The not so good bits
Sometimes the vocabulary is inconsistent across the different parts of the lessons. For example, in my first Japanese lesson, there were new characters in the speaking part that weren't introduced in the vocabulary lesson.
Involvement can become time-consuming. I find that a lesson takes about half an hour from start to finish, and then on top of that I end up doing quite a bit of reviewing others' work. This hasn't been a problem while I'm on holidays, but once work starts back, I'm not sure how it will go.
Some of the written tasks involve divulging information about upcoming holidays, directions to your house etc. I am not comfortable providing this online to strangers, so change the task in order to protect myself. I'm also cautious of how this may be used by people to make connections beyond the language learning arena as I've already had a message from someone (not a regular user of Livemocha) suggesting we meet up.

How could you use this?
If you would like to learn a language this is a great way to do it, particularly if you have some prior knowledge of the language. I wouldn't suggest using this with students given my objections regarding personal safety/privacy.


  1. Sounds like it might be good for maintaining my low level of Japanese skills in case i make it there one day ;)

  2. Hi,
    Thanks very much for the link. It looks like a great way to supplement my language study.


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