Language Learning Resources

So often when I speak to friends about my progress in learning Greek, they ask me if I am using Duolingo.

While it’s a great resource and did have me on a pretty successful streak at one point, in Duolingo I lost sight of my goal (learning) and instead focused too heavily on the points system and trying to be number one in my league.  Lately, the app’s users are up in arms about a de-evolution in it’s learning pathways — so when could be a better time than to share some of my favourite language learning resources that are alternatives to the owl app?

Language learning takes time – and in my experience, it also takes variety.  I’ve engaged in a mix of reading, speaking & listening practice, grammar lessons, vocabulary learning, and from time to time I need to switch it up to keep things fresh.  Here are my favourite resources that have helped me along the way:

5.  Mango

Of all my recommendations, I’ve spent the least amount of time with Mango – possibly because it started me out on basics and I didn’t know how to skip to the more advanced stuff.  That said, I liked the user experience and I recognized a lot of wisdom in the way they designed their courses.

From what I’ve seen, Mango appears to work very similarly to Rosetta Stone, with one key difference:  Chances are Mango is free to use with your local library membership!

There’s a browser-based version and an app version, and I think it’s a great starting place if you are beginning at square one.  I reached out to my library to ask about it – they hadn’t actually heard about it but were delighted to add it to their roster.  It’s always worth asking!

4.  The Pimsleur Method

Pimsleur is also available as an app, and I found it most helpful as something to listen to when driving.  Again, it starts you out in a pretty beginner-friendly space.  Pimsleur introduces words and concepts that you repeat back (rote memorization) a few times before it asks you to communicate certain things that require using your brain to bring in and meld words and concepts you’ve learned previously.

In the beginning, Pimsleur’s choice of vocabulary is very travel-based – you’ll start with greetings and asking for directions, but you’ll quickly progress to more complicated topics.

3.  Language Transfer – Free audio lessons

Language Transfer is actually a FREE resource!  And it’s one I heartily recommend.  Audio lessons that you can listen to via the app, or via Youtube if that’s your style.

Language Transfer works similarly to Pimsleur, but it feels more like you’re in a lesson with a teacher than working with a recorded software.  Again, the teacher introduces you to words, grammar, and concepts then mixes them up and lets you create your own sentences – it’s using a methodology called The Thinking Method.  I love listening to these lessons while driving.

They offer a number of introductory courses, and some complete, in-depth courses, all free.  The creator, Mihalis, has also created a guidebook on how to create courses using the Thinking Method, and the Language Transfer app actually has an additional course that is not language based:  Music theory!

2.  Drops

Drops is a fast-growing competitor to Duolingo by the folks at Kahoot.  Personally, I find the games more fun and the categories much more expansive than Duolingo — Dive into topics like “Halloween,” “Giving Presentations”, “Adopting & Fostering”, “Aches & Pains”, “Gym” and many more specific & niche options.

Drops’ focus on being “the best way to pick up useful vocabulary” keeps it from getting caught in the reeds with grammar, like some other gamified language apps.  Drops’ theory is that by expanding your vocabulary you’ll naturally expand your capacity for the language and learn the grammar by proxy.

Personally, I am ranking this so highly not as your all-in-one solution, but as a great tool for learning vocab.

  1.  Nothing beats lessons: Now more accessible than ever!

In 2020, just about everything found a way online and became accessible via Zoom.  It was during this downtime (in October) that I connected with My Greek Teacher Efi for a one-on-one.  We immediately clicked, and I’ve had a weekly lesson with Efi ever since. (Give or take a daylight savings time mistake or cancellation here and there.)

There is no shortage of online coaches willing to offer 1:1 or group classes on Zoom – I find they are low pressure, all you have to do is show up.  It’s through this conversational practice that you really get to learn, ask questions, and use your newly acquired skills.

If you’re looking for a coach:  My recommendation is to join a few facebook groups dedicated to learning your desired language.  In addition to great learning materials and being a part of a community of other learners, this is where these coaches go to post about their services!

At this point, I’m fairly comfortable with my ability to communicate my needs in Greek.  My words come slowly and often I struggle to listen when somebody is speaking at regular speed – but am getting very confident with my ability to read and translate.  It’s a journey, and one I’m committed to!

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