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HomeArchiveVirtual classroom offerings: an overview

Virtual classroom offerings: an overview

Kate Galante

Kate Galante

To conclude my series on online language learning, here is a list, in alphabetical order, of some of the website programs I examined besides Livemocha. – This site is only for Spanish. It offers a variety of free audio, video and written material and charges $9-$13 per session for one-to-one tutoring via Skype and Google Talk with native speakers from Colombia. It also offers a children’s program. – German company Babbel integrates a speech recognition tool into its language-learning system. The feature allows you to practice and fine-tune your pronunciation skills as you learn a foreign language. The browser-based speech analysis gives you real-time feedback, gauging how close your pronunciation is to that of a native speaker. Babbel offers a lot of options and reasonable prices: one month (paid month by month) for $12.95, three months for $26.85 and six months for $44.70.  The free language courses at the BBC’s website may not work in all countries. It offers a 12-week program using a Spanish mystery drama. – Busuu is a Spanish company that offers free beginner courses leading to more advanced paid courses. It includes a lot of interesting options, but, except for the online community that consists of writing exchanges with native speakers, interactivity seems minimal. Prices range approximately $7.50-$20 a month, depending on the length of your plan. – The Fluenz concept is that adults and teens do not learn language in the same way as children but rather require explanations. Thus, a video tutor gives the learner explanations in English. Currently, the product is available only on disk, but the company plans to have an online program available by the end of the year. Disk prices start at $238 and go to $518. A convenient feature of the home website is a live chat allowing you to ask questions about the program. – Hello World is an outstanding site to supplement children’s language classes. There are 24 different activities in the form of games, songs, poems, lessons, worksheets, voice recording, printable flashcards, coloring projects and greeting cards. You can access some of it for free. If you want access to all of it, the price is $60 for a six-month subscription. – Out of China, iTalki offers paid one-on-one lessons, but fails to explain whether they are text, voice or webcam. The program also encourages members to conduct free language exchanges through forums and content creation. Professional teachers offer rates as low as $2 per hour. – Here it is, an entirely free service. Hosted by Dickinson College, and called Mixxer, it allows members to connect with language partners around the world and chat with them via Skype. The site also provides opportunities to write and post blogs with language-learning partners. Each post includes a space for other users to comment or correct writing. – Learn 2 Lingo is dedicated almost exclusively to one-on-one teaching via live chat and webcam. It provides teachers for about $13 per 30-minute lesson. You may choose a language school and have it assign you a teacher, or you may choose from a list of private teachers. The site is easy to use and provides sufficiently clear demos of the program’s method. – Mango is not for the student in it for the long haul, but rather for the casual traveler. It has a speech recognition program but does not seem to be otherwise interactive. It offers three packages called “passports”: Spanish, $150; Spanish On The Go! (audio versions of passport lessons), $100; and Spanish Bundle, $200 (includes MP3 audio versions of On The Go!). – My Happy Planet is a free global language-learning community for people who want to find language partners or learn a new language from native speakers. The site allows users to upload educational content so there are plenty of resources available, regardless of the language you are studying. User-created content includes videos in multiple languages and lessons for students at various levels. – For those of you who are academically oriented and unconcerned with interactivity, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a free Web-based publication of the content of virtually all MIT courses that have already been taught, in many cases accompanied by videos of the lectures. It does not grant degrees or certificates or provide access to MIT faculty. There is no enrollment process, and you may work through the materials at your own pace. Currently, it is offering downloads of Spanish I, II and III, as well as advanced composition and literature courses. – Open Culture is dedicated to free cultural and educational media on the Web. It offers a variety of free podcasts. – Rosetta Stone may be the best-known language program, but I found its website confusing. I tried contacting them, but they failed to answer me. According to an outside source, Rosetta Stone offers a $1,000 product that includes “Rosetta Course,” a traditional lesson-based module; “Rosetta Studio,” a place where a user can talk to a native speaker via video chat; and “Rosetta World,” an online community where you can play language-related games. – Tell Me More offers three packages: three months’ access to its resources for $199, a year’s access for $499, and a year’s access including a personal coach for the first three months for $949. Tell Me More features 1,000 hours of learning activity, some of which it describes as “interactive” (apparently strictly virtual). It also includes a speech recognition component. – Verbal Planet is another program dedicated to one-on-one teaching via Skype. It features a user-friendly site with excellent profiling of its teachers, many of whom offer the first lesson free to help you make a decision. The lessons last 45 minutes each, and prices range from $13-$38, depending on the tutor you pick. Verbal Planet also offers iPod and MP3 language and audio courses.


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