Friday, January 2, 2009

Online Language Tools

"You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once." ~ Czech proverb

I only know one language - English - and after taking three years of French in high school and two years of German in College, that really bothers me. Have no idea how I nominally passed those courses, but ultimately they were pretty much a waste of time for me. Is it too late to get serious at age 61 on actually become fluent in a second language?

This time I have motivation. My grandson, Ilan, at one year old, is learning both English and Spanish at the same time. He is attending an all Spanish-speaking daycare, being immersed in it during the day, and then speaking English and Spanish with his parents when with them. If my grandson can learn 2 languages simultaneously, shouldn't I at least be able to learn one additional language . . . even if past my prime? ;)

And, by the way, whatever happened to Esperanto? When I was a young man, along with promoting birth control to keep the world population down, it was all the rage. Guess it went the same place that metric measurement in the U.S. went during the early eighties.

Anyhow . . . below find some online language tools I discovered on a recent search. In the end, I suspect I would be better off to use the RosettaStone methodology.

What do you think?

Diane Whitmore's Language Website (Freeport H.S.)


Nice Translator


Google Language Tools

Meta Language Translation

Online Language Dictionaries

Free Online Language Courses

Commercial Language Learning Courses

Second Language Software Reviews


Diane Whitmore said...

Spanish teacher here (and a few other languages too). I realize that this is probably heresy in a tech blog ... but I have always felt that the way to learn a language is human contact. Software and websites can teach you how to ask the question, but not how to understand the answer. The nuances of social interaction can't be duplicated by technology. Rosetta Stone can teach you some vocabulary and phrases. I've recommended the Living Language CD sets to provide a good pronunciation model. But you will learn more from your grandson than from any website. I assume that you have a Spanish-speaking son-in-law or daughter-in-law too? I imagine he or she would be more than happy to teach you social communication - and his/her culture of origin too!

Watch out for the translation websites. They are notoriously inaccurate. We foreign language teachers can easily spot homework that was done on a website.

And by the way, it's not too late and you're not too old! I've taught adult education classes in Italian and my students have done a great job. The adult learners who have been the most successful are those who just jumped in and practiced speaking without being inhibited by the fear of making a mistake. See what's available up your way for adult education courses in basic Spanish! ¡Buena suerte! (= Good luck!)

Miĉjo said...

And, by the way, whatever happened to Esperanto?

I only started learning Esperanto in the 90's, so I'm not sure what happened to Esperanto before then. Today, however, it's very much alive and kicking, with around 2,000,000 speakers scattered around the globe. The Internet has been a real boon to Esperanto by making learning materials, publications and Esperantists from all over the world readily available.

If my grandson can learn 2 languages simultaneously, shouldn't I at least be able to learn one additional language . . . even if past my prime? ;-)

Absolutely - especially if that language is Esperanto :-) . That's because its logic, regularity and flexibility make it several times easier to learn than any other language, without sacrificing any expressiveness. An excellent resource is Lernu!, a website devoted to learning Esperanto for free; just click on the "Courses" tab for a list of self-study courses of different levels. Another great resource is Kurso de Esperanto, a freely downloadable introductory multimedia self-study course.

Not only is Esperanto much easier to learn, but it can help you learn other languages. It works like this: if you spend, say, a year learning Esperanto as your second language, then spend the next three years on, say, Spanish, you will be farther ahead in Spanish than if you had devoted all four years to Spanish - plus you will also have Esperanto. Check out this Wikipedia article for more information.

You really should give it a try. If you decide to go for it, and you need a corrector or tutor for one of the above-mentioned free courses, I'd be glad to act as one for you. I'm guessing you have access to my email address; if you don't, we can work out a spam-safe way of getting it to you.

Jim Burke said...

Diane . . . long-time-no-see :)

Thanks so much for your valuable advice. Unfortunately my grandson and parents live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina . . . so don't see them face to face too often. Hmmmmm. . .suppose Skype might work?

And Micjo . . . thanks for enlightening me on the status of Esperanto . . . I'll check out the links you have shared. And thanks for the offer to help make connections. Greatly appreciated.


Jim Burke said...


I've added your excellent website on languages to the post. I had been to your site before, but had forgotten about it. Thanks for jogging my memory.


Anonymous said...



Diane Whitmore said...

Jim, good to be back! I have been following your RSS feed faithfully and appreciate your keeping this site up as a great resource. I admit with embarrassment that I forgot my login info some time back and something finally jogged my memory - just in time for me to post about a topic I'm passionate about!

Thanks for posting the link to my site.

Here are two more recommendations for online Spanish pronunciation models (something jogged my memory about these as well): - good native speaker pronunciation models for beginners, looks like there are lots of other resources here that I haven't had a chance to investigate - subtitled short videos in Spanish; a few are basic but there is a lot here for an intermediate or advanced level learner

Also, try DVD's of movies you know well! Disney or Pixar animated films are great for this. Start with the English soundtrack and the Spanish subtitles, then try the Spanish sound and English subtitles, then omit the subtitles and just try the Spanish. (For some reason, the Spanish subtitles rarely correspond 100% to the soundtrack, which might confuse a beginner.) Repeat as needed. For a beginner, that will yield some short frequently used conversational expressions, then as proficiency grows, so does the ability to pick up more new vocabulary. ¡Disfrútate! (Enjoy!)

Jim Burke said...

Victor . . . you can find directions on how to eliminate the navigation bar at top here:

and here:

The script, I believe:

#b-navbar {

Hey, Victor, I see you have the Learning in Me blog! Neat!


Jim Burke said...

Thanks again, Diane, for your wisdom. Your enthusiasm for languages shines through. :) You are my go-to person for languages from now on. Do feel free to add a post on Learning in Maine on the subject if you ever find the time.

I love the idea of using subtitles, etc. I wonder if anyone uses movie/TV subtitles to help in teaching of reading. I would love to see a bouncing ball or perhaps phrases highlighting as an aid to kids learning to read. You know, I bet it already exist somewhere! :)
Anyone have any suggestions?


Jim Burke said...

Victor . . . I can't seem to find your email. I check your blog at and added a comment with the above information in English.