Language learning: a great leveller

Learning a new language is one of those great activities that reduces the differences between people. It doesn’t matter what job you do, where you’re from or how much you earn; once you’re thrown together to grasp a new language, everyone’s in the same boat.

This occurred to me while reading one of a series of blog posts in The Guardian by writer Will Self. There’s something reassuring in reading about how a distinguished wordsmith experiences the same challenges in mastering another language (in his case, French) as everyone else.

I can definitely relate to this comment:

I’ve noticed how acutely geared to my general wellbeing my ability to speak French has become: on days when I’m rested and in good spirits, I feel like a saucy Maurice Chevalier in the making, but on down days I’m Antonin Artaud, brokenly raging in a straitjacket of received English locutions.

Some days, I feel as though I could talk forever and my Spanish friends seem to understand me. Other days, …

Read More

Learning languages online

As if I needed another distraction, this week I discovered Busuu.com. It calls itself a ‘language learning community’ and is basically another social network with a twist: you create a profile for yourself and add details of the languages you’re learning.

Busuu.com offers courses in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian at the moment. As well as providing units in vocabulary and grammar, it also prompts you to submit a short writing exercise that other members can then check and correct.

Improved site tools and features

This is a great little tool for language learners and much better than anything else I’ve found online so far. I’m not sure how old the website is, but I’m guessing it will of course be further developed.

A few things that I’d like to see are:

an improved search tool that lets users search using a keyword — I’d like to make ‘friends’ with people in my locality, not just my country downloads (PDFs and podcasts) with more detail and exercises than just those found in that unit — these …

Read More