Can the Internet help with language learning? Although language is primarily about humans communicating, the Internet can help a lot too. More and more great resources are coming online, to join old favourites like the BBC Languages pages with their courses, teachers’ homepages and foreign language TV links to channels. Nowadays you find dictionaries, online language cafes, chat forums and video clips to help you practice or talk to other speakers.
And it’s not just better known languages – there are websites devoted to pidgins such as Tok Pisin, the pidgin which is one of three official languages of Papua New Guinea. Endangered languages, which have few speakers and may die out, also feature online: National Geographic has a hotspots map called Disappearing Languages.
For those who want to brush up their German, French, Spanish, Mandarin or similar, there are some inspiring resources out there. It’s not just a question of language, either. Language learning introduces speakers to other cultures, as the Think German campaign says. Celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Nick Clegg and John Cleese extoll the virtues of many things German on the Think German Facebook page. A good way to find more language resources is from the Tour pages of the Virtual Training Suite’s tutorial Internet for Modern Languages. It guides users to sites like LiveMocha, a worldwide language learning community where you can practice with other speakers. Or to YouTube, where there are countless video clips on speaking languages – although the standard varies! Internet for Modern Languages also lists all types of academic and quality resources, with essentials such as Le Monde newspaper, Modern Language Association Bibliography and British Library Catalogues on the Web. Most importantly, the tutorial shows users how to judge the quality of what they find online.
Finally, the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies mustn’t be forgotten – this is the key support centre for teachers and lecturers., with activities, resources, and events all round the UK. A final resource for fans of Germanic studies – the Dach blog is written by experts at the British Library and is a wonderful mix of academic, entertaining and unusual materials.
Some German conversation from YouTube