Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions (or general aims in life) to learn a language? If you haven’t learnt a language since the good old school days, now, thanks to the internet, it is a lot easier and way more fun.
I am always in the process of brushing up on my French and in the last few years I started learning Italian. Below are some sites which have really helped me, plus have allowed me to tap into a diverse and interesting group of people.
Meetup – Have you heard of meetup.com? If not, get thee to their website. Meetup is an online and free website which allows you to join a group of people with the same interests as you in your locality. Whatever your interest is – speaking Japanese, photography, bushwalking, philosophy, eating yum cha, there is a meetup. But back to language – in Sydney, where I live, there are around four meetups just for French. Some are French for beginners, others focus on discussing literature and the one I’m in is simply about speaking French in cafes, picnics and le pub!
Italki – I only came across this site around six months ago and it’s changed everything. Essentially italki is an online language site that allows you to select a teacher in the language you want to learn and then schedule lessons on Skype. The beauty of it is that each teacher lists their quals and experience, you can view student feedback and most teachers have a 1-2 minute introductory video. That way you can get an idea for the teacher’s personality, as when it comes down to it, a good rapport with your teacher is essential. Another big tick for italki is that it is not expensive – generally speaking it ranges from $5US an hour to $25US an hour, depending on whether you want conversation with a “community tutor” who is not a qualified teacher or else learn the nuts and bolts of language with a professional teacher. It also has loads of online written language tools with corrections provided by the italki online community.
Fluent in 3 Months – This website run by Benny the Irish Polyglot is worth a look. Benny advocates immersion in a language, rather than rote learning in a boring and tedious evening college or hitting the boring, tedious grammar books. Benny says he is just a normal Irish guy who was hopeless at languages at school but in the last ten years has become fluent in seven languages through immersion. I basically followed his approach to learn Italian and it worked for me (although now I am going back and learning some grammar). Benny is a big fan of meetup and italki as a means to get immersed in the language if you are unable to move to the country.