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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

11 Foreign Language Resources to Try in 2011

Yesterday's list of 11 good resources to try in 2011 featured health and physical education resources. Last week I featured 55 other good resources to try in 2011. Today, I have 11 good foreign language resources to try in 2011 (I've included a couple of ESL/EFL resources in this list).


Forvo can best be described as an audio wiki for word pronunciations. One of the problems with learning to speak a language that is not phonetic is trying to figure out how to pronounce the words. Forvo hosts hundreds of recordings of word pronunciations by native speakers. Along with word pronunciations, Forvo provides some basic demographic information about each language. Forvo's content is user-supported and user-generated. New pronunciations are added on a regular basis.

WordSteps is a resource for learning the vocabulary of your choice of nine languages. To start learning vocabulary with WordSteps select the language you are trying to learn then choose a set of vocabulary words in that language. WordSteps provides six types of practice activities for each set of vocabulary words. The sets of vocabulary words are called dictionaries by WordSteps. You can use the dictionaries made by other WordSteps users or create your own dictionary. WordSteps can be used without creating an account, but in order to create your own dictionary you must create an account. The languages supported by WordSteps are English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, German, Japanese, Italian, and Portuguese. The vocabulary practice activities are Flash Cards, Translation Variations, Words Variants, Alphabet Soup, Write Translation by Word, and Write Word by Translation.

LangMedia, produced by Five Colleges Incorporated, provides resources for learning languages less-commonly offered by high schools and colleges in the US. Some of the languages for which LangMedia offers educational resources are Arabic, Bulgarian, Persian, Thai, and Urdu. For these languages LangMedia provides course outlines, practice dialogues, and lists of resources necessary for completing the requirements of each course. In addition to resources for learning languages, LangMedia offers a section called Culture Talk. LangMedia Culture Talk is a collection of video clips of interviews and discussions with people from many different countries, of different ages and from different walks of life. The videos are intended to give viewers insight into the cultures of peoples around the globe. Some of the videos feature English speakers while other videos do not. Those videos that are not in English are accompanied by a written English transcript.

Voxy is an interesting approach to helping ESL students learn English. Voxy uses current articles from world news, pop culture, and sports to to help students acquire language. As students read an article they can click on highlighted words and hear them pronounced. Highlighted words when clicked reveal the Spanish translation. Clicking on highlighted words also adds them to a study list. The study lists can be used for quizzes and games. Voxy is available in English and Spanish.

Repeat After Us is an online library of copyright-free English texts and audio recordings. The purpose of Repeat After Us is to provide ESL students with a place to read and hear proper pronunciations of English words. The texts on Repeat After Us are arranged into eight genre categories including children's stories, prose fiction, and prose non-fiction. Recordings can be listened to online and or downloaded from Repeat After Us. All of the recordings match the texts. Texts range in length from one paragraph to multiple pages.
iMendi is a new site, parts of it are still in development, for learning the basic vocabulary of English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Czech. To use iMendi just select the language you speak and select the language you want to learn. iMendi then gives you the choice of choosing a lesson (level 1, level 2, etc) or trying a randomly chosen lesson. The "lessons" are really just simple vocabulary matching exercises with a score and the correct answers revealed at the end.


CAPL, Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon, is a project developed by Dr. Michael Shaughnessy at Washington & Jefferson College. The purpose of CAPL is to provide images that demonstrate the true meaning and intention of the words in a language. CAPL currently has collections of images for teaching and learning English (North American), German, French, Chinese, and Spanish. CAPL also has images for Japanese, Russian, and Ukranian. All of the images in the collection are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows for re-use and manipulation for non-commercial purposes.

Open Culture is devoted to the idea of sharing learning opportunities. Open Culture has an extensive list of free resources for learning thirty-seven different languages. All of the resources in the list can be downloaded to your computer or iPod. When available, Open Culture has linked to the iTunes feed for the learning resources.


Lingus TV is a website featuring videos to help viewers learn conversational Spanish. The collection of videos includes lessons for beginning, intermediate, and advanced learners. The short videos feature actors having brief, realistic looking and sounding conversations. Each video is accompanied by the Spanish transcript and the English translation of the transcripts. The concept is great, but unfortunately the content of a couple of videos makes me question whether or not I would use them with students younger than high school age.

Hello World provides games and activities for students to develop their knowledge of foreign languages. Hello World has games and activities in nine languages including Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Not all of the games and activities are free, but enough of them are free to warrant listing as a good place for free learning activities.

22 Frames is a service that provides a central location for locating captioned videos for learning English and for Internet users who have hearing impairments. 22 Frames provides more than just captioned videos. For each video 22 Frames provides a list of idioms, slang words, and commonly mispronounced words in each video. 22 Frames tells viewers where each use of idioms, slang, and commonly mispronounced words appears in each video. Viewers can click on any of the words in the lists provided by 22 Frames to find a definition for each word and to find pronunciation tips. See 22 Frames in action in this video about a passenger plane crash in Iran.

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