When learning another language, it is important to utilize some sort of lesson based learning to help pick up vocabulary and grammar. Many web applications do offer language lessons of some sort, whether they have intensive lessons for many languages or simple lessons for just one language.
Livemocha is a language learning community with lessons in over 35 languages and the ability to interact with speakers of many more languages. This gives you a chance to talk with native speakers of your target language, whether for feedback, conversations or questions. Read on to learn about what Livemocha has to offer and how well it works.
Livemocha offers a program that is part lesson based, part community based, with a wide selection of languages offered in the lessons section. The more basic vocabulary lessons cover a certain grammatical rule or vocabulary category. Each includes four required sections – learn, review, write and speak. There are also four optional sections – read, listen, magnet and quiz – to help you further master the vocabulary. These lessons do not have a huge amount of content but also do not require any tokens to unlock.
There are also “active” courses available for the various languages with lessons. Active courses require tokens (earned by active participation on the site) to unlock various lessons. Available lesson components include a video dialogue, grammar, vocabulary, reading and role play. Each component takes 25 – 45 tokens to unlock, but you learn a bit more than just pure vocabulary. Additionally, there are other writing and speech practice courses, as well as additional vocabulary work.
The community is an extremely important part of what makes Livemocha interesting. Utilize the community to get feedback on exercises completed during the lessons, whether spoken or written. You are able to chat with other members to learn about cultural things or just to practice speaking aloud or chatting via written messages. The community is definitely a great strength of Livemocha and provides you with an opportunity to learn and grown thanks to fluent and native speakers of your target language.
It is important to note that the lessons are not the strength of Livemocha, and many problems are found with the set-up of the lessons. First, let’s take a look at the intended audience of Livemocha lessons. Lessons are really only intended for beginners at the most basic level. While Livemocha claims that lessons can bring you up to an intermediate level, that is certainly not true. The lessons are good for learning a basic set of vocabulary, however the amount of content you are expected to remember every lesson is sometimes overwhelming. The pronunciation is generally pretty accurate so it’s also a great way to learn the basic sounds of the language.
In addition to only being good for up to a beginner level, there are a number of faults with the way lessons are setup, particularly in the free “basic vocab” lesson plan. Learning in these lessons is primarily via flashcards, learning to associate a word with an image. The lessons are identical for every language, using the exact same stock images to represent the exact same vocabulary words. The translation is lazy and not always exactly grammatically right. Most exercises in the basic lessons are worthless. The active lessons that require tokens to unlock provide some unique content although lessons focus on the same subject and basic vocabulary regardless of language. The dialogue and grammar components do help to expose you to a bit more than basic vocabulary which is a slightly redeeming characteristic.
Understanding the Community
The community is definitely where the strength of Livemocha lies. First, the community is great for feedback on exercises submitted during the lessons. I submitted both a written and audio exercise during a basic Spanish lesson and received some great feedback. I got a few tips on pronunciation and some encouragement to keep at it which is always nice when learning a new language. For my Spanish submissions feedback was swift, although it took quite a bit longer when I submitted a Hebrew exercise.
Another great way to utilize the community is to learn about cultures from around the world. As a registered user you are able to submit photographs of wherever you live and share tidbits about the way your culture works. You can peruse other user’s photos and stories. Getting involved in the comments is a great way to practice a new language as well as learn some further information.
If you simply wish to spend some time chatting with a native or fluent speaker of your language, there is a chat section that is easy to use. Simply select the language you wish to display and Livemocha finds users who speak Spanish and are learning a language that you speak. From there, it’s easy to start a simple conversation. I had a few great conversations and picked up some Spanish slang as well as getting some great practice in. You can also chat via microphone if you want to practice actually speaking the language aloud.
Finally, the community is a great way to help out other users. You can provide feedback on submitted exercises, which is a great way to give back and to earn tokens to unlock lessons and components. It is rather unfortunate that tokens are so necessary as it encourages users to give quick and unhelpful feedback to earn tokens at a more rapid pace. I would prefer to see a set-up where lessons are free but you cannot get feedback from the community without contributing “meaningful” feedback to other users. At the very least, earning more tokens for better responses would be a great start.
Livemocha definitely has very obvious strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know which parts are usable and which are not. If you are learning the language from scratch, Livemocha can give you some initial vocabulary help, but the lessons are probably not going to get anyone anywhere. Feel free to dispute, but I personally believe that the lessons don’t really have much to offer.
Livemocha provides a powerful community that I believe is a fantastic supplement to lessons coming from another source. The community is great to speak with and learn from, no matter what vocabulary you are learning. Take advantage of this massive and active community to converse from day one of learning to speak your target lesson.
What are your thoughts? Do you swear by Livemocha or have you had a negative experience? Have you ever use another language learning app you loved? Share your thoughts below.