Popularity Contest: Learning a Language on a Budget, Week Five

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Popularity Contest: Learning a Language on a Budget, Week Five Listen to this article

Popularity Contest: Learning a Language on a Budget, Week Five
photo credit: woodleywonderworks

So this week we are going to talk about what to do when you are trying to learn a language that just isn’t as popular as some of the biggies.  One of the nice things about living in the Internet Age is that we are so connected – all over the world.  So I’m fortunate because I’ve got friends all over the world, some of whom speak English, some not.  Either way,  I like to learn at least a little of their languages so I can better communicate with them.  If you haven’t guessed, it’s kind of become a hobby for me.

So what do I do when I want to learn a language a little out of the mainstream (for English speakers)?  Here’s what I’ve found…

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the companies that offer a wider selection of languages for your training.  Many companies offer a handful of languages, but only a few offer a wider range of offerings.  Among them,  the high-end player, Rosetta Stone, currently offers training in 31 languages.     But if you want to be impressed, then you should compare that to the folk over at EuroTalk who offer language training in 120 languages!   And we don’t want to forget Byki which offers support for more than 70 languages.  Be warned, however, the more popular languages have more options and in-depth training available, than do some of the less popular languages (from an English-speaking consumer perspective).  Still, it’s nice to see the options continue to grow!

On the mobile front, Lingvosoft offers products for just under 50 languages – with more depth than other mobile product lines.   Their products are available mostly for Windows Mobile, but they also offer a growing line of iPhone products.  As I’ve mentioned in previous postings, their iPhone products have a little more polish than their Windows Mobile counterparts, so I’d love to see this line expand further.   Not to be outdone, Eurotalk offers more than 100 languages with their beginner-level uTalk program.  uTalk is also available for Android at androlib.com.  Again, this is a product series that I would to see grow – this time to more advanced products.  Also of note, Lingopal offers their phrasebook in 44 different languages on the iPhone.

Now let’s turn our attention to the things you can find on the Internet.  If you’ve been reading this series, then you know that I believe that the Internet it your friend.  You can use searches to find all kinds of things, but you have to know what you want to look for.   This sounds like it should be a simple thing, but sometimes it’s not.  To start, I’ve found that there are a couple of searches that have been really effective for me.  Using Google, I search for phrases like “Spanish Grammar” or “Spanish Language Lessons”.  Of course, you will replace the word “Spanish” with the language of your choosing.  I’ve also found that using the native name for the language, can also help greatly and widen the scope of your search.

You can also find more resources for languages by performing searches on their language family.  Your initial search for the language itself is likely to have yielded information about the family of languages to which that language belongs.  You can use that information to perform a wider search for information about the language.  For example, if you wanted to learn more about Polish or Serbian as languages, you might try doing searches for “Slavic Languages” or “Slavonic Languages”.   That kind of search will often lead you to websites that will lead you back to other sites specific to the language you are trying to study.  I know that may sound a little convoluted, but it’s helpful to know that many things on the Internet are interlinked or interrelated, and sometimes the best path to what you want isn’t always the most obvious or straightforward one, so knowing more than one way to approach is often helpful.

To give you an example of all the resources that are out there, I went out and did some searches.  Here are just a few of the  interesting sites I ran into on the net:

Chinese: Chinese GrammarLearning Chinese OnlineChinese 101ChinesePod Grammar

Serbian:  Larisa Zlatic Study Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian Grammar,  Learn Serbian, Serbian 101

Swahili: An Introduction to Swahili Grammar, Swahili Learners’ Reference, Swahili Method for Beginners

Afrikaans: Basic Afrikaans Grammar, Afrikaans Grammar, Learn Afrikaans

Navajo: Navajo Language, Navajo Dictionary/Grammar, Wikipedia – Navajo Language

Polish: Polish Grammar, A Concise Polish Grammar, Polish Grammar in a Nutshell

Lastly, I found a number of websites speicializing in foreign language books and study (literature and learning).   Among these are Schoenhof’s, Powells, Multilingualbooks.com, and, of course, Amazon.

So as you can see, there are many, many resources out there for learning languages, even when the language isn’t one of the mainstream languages for native English speakers.  Starting with the Internet is always a good idea.   It’s really easy to perform just a few simple searches to yield a wealth of resources for almost any language you might be interested it.   Don’t be afraid to try different related words in your search, like the native name for the language you want to study – sometimes the results can be very useful!

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About the Author

Christopher Gavula
Chris has been a COBOL programmer, a desktop support technician, network engineer, telecommunications manager, and even a professional musician. Currently, he is focused on deploying Voice over IP technologies in a large, corporate setting. He started working full-time at the tender age of 14, even before there were PCs, and will probably be working and trying to finish “just one more project” as he’s lowered into the grave.