Online Spanish Learning

Introduction

College students across the United States are enrolled in foreign language classes. Spanish is by far the most popular foreign language taken by higher education participants. Traditional Spanish classes involve confusing lectures, textbooks in another language, and memorization of countless words. Online spanish aids such as Livemocha, iTalki, and StudySpanish offer students an alternative way to supplement their primary source of learning a foreign language and learn a different way. To limit our criteria, all of the tools we are reviewing must be Spanish oriented, web based and free of cost.

Criteria

The four areas these online spanish tools will be reviewed are: Ease of Use, Effectiveness, Starting Level, and a Translation Feature. The processes to test these criteria will be by completing a lesson offered. Also by using the website and checking to see if it has all the elements.

Ease of Use

Ease of use is broken down into two components: how easy the websites are to navigate, and how user friendly they are. Individuals who are not exactly computer savvy should pay particular attention to this criteria. Learning another language will be even more difficult if you have a hard time using the website. User's learning will not be effected as much if they have the ability to navigate through new processes well.

Effectiveness

We reviewed Effectiveness based on how well the tools teach you Spanish. The Spanish they teach you can range from nouns and adjectives, to items in restaurants and careers. Each of the three aids are different, and present their information in unique ways. Some of these ways are more effective than others depending on your learning style. People who learn best kinesthetically, visually, and auditorialy should consult the effectiveness review to see which suits them best.

Starting Level

Starting level plays a crucial role when it comes to learning spanish. Traditional classes start out basic, and build up to more complex ideas of the language. You cannot walk into a high-level course expecting to comprehend and retain the information. Online spanish learning is no different, except that they can have different starting levels. Some websites are made for beginners, and others for users who have pre-requisite knowledge of the language. Pronunciation, vocabulary, and basic grammar are a couple of these categories.

Translation Feature

Translation Features could be considered one of the most important utensils for students to have while learning another language. It's extremely frustrating trying to communicate an idea without knowing which word to use, or understanding an idea without knowing the meaning behind the words. English to Spanish dictionaries and visa versa are time consuming, especially if you need to translate multiple words.

LIVEMOCHA

Livemocha, located at http://livemocha.com is an online spanish website blended with social networking features to help you learn spanish. Most features and lessons are free to use but you can "upgrade" to a better version for a fee. This is not necessary. For most people with little free time, learning a language can take a back seat to their busy lives. Through competitions, a language buddy system and community encouragement, Livemocha provides the tools to keep learners motivated and making steady progress.

Ease of Use of Livemocha

The site is incredibly easy to navigate which makes it user friendly. All the different features and information are organized in a categorical way which is no problem to follow. It's no hassle to sign up for, and once you're logged in, it's a step-by-step process to begin learning. You can search the entire site by using the "search" feature if you get lost or are trying to find something specific. A help section is available as well to answer any questions or trouble shooting tips. Including getting started, profile, language and learning, community, tech support, and about Livemocha.

Learn Tab
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Help Page
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Effectiveness of Livemocha

After using livemocha for an hour we learned many nouns, adjectives, and numbers. We would consider it fairly effective at teaching you the material. The lessons include a visual image so you can see the word, an audio of the word so you know how to pronounce it, and the written word so you can spell it correctly. The step-by-step process of learn, review, write then speak works great. By being exposed to vocabulary three different ways we picked up onto it very quickly. You can even take quizzes to track your progress. Livemocha also includes a way to interact with other users. These other users can be from all over the world, and gives you a chance to speak another language with them. Specialized lessons can teach you how to ask important questions and give important information. Such as directions and what time of the day it is. Pre-made flashcards are available to study with, which help you memorize words quickly.
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Starting Level of Livemocha

The starting level is pretty basic but may require a small amount of previous knowledge of the spanish alphabet and letter pronunciation. It's possible to get around this if you pay extra attention to how the words sound through the audio. In the end, anybody can use Livemocha. Complete beginners just need to pay extra attention and be patient.

Translation Feature of Livemocha

There is no direct translation service or tool available through livemocha, but an indirect solution exists. You can interact with spanish speakers, or bilingual english-spanish individuals, and ask them to translate something for you. This process is a little time consuming, but may offer more insight than a standard translator. Traditional spanish lessons teach you very proper ways to speak, but in the real world a spanish speaker uses different words that do not translate directly.
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ITALKI

iTalki, located at http://italki.com, is an interactive spanish learning websites where the user is encouraged to collaborate with native speakers from all around the world for the purpose of teaching one another a new language. This is a free website that offers paid courses in supplement to the feature of peer mentoring. The sites main feature is one which allows you to converse with native spanish speakers from around the world. The response-from-a-peer technique is a creative wiki style feature that allows you to post your own knowledge for others to see, and for you to read others' posts.
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The credibility of the information on the website was my biggest concern because of it's wikki style and makes me question it's effectivenesss. With a fee you my enroll with an online teacher; other than that, any person could be putting any type of shenanigans on the site. The user should use precautions when trusting the information posted by their chat partners.
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The website proves to be difficult to use. Many of the features require you to go through a series of links, which makes you feel like you are jumping through unnecessary hoops. The learning process that iTalki offers provides little support and does not a have any sort of curriculum. Previous experience with the Spanish language is recommended for that the tool does not provide any exercises to build any sort of foundation. Without a spanish translator it is annoying to seek out the translated version of the word that is on your mind.

After using iTalki i was able to speak numerous sentences which i had previously been incapable of completing, but in the end i did not feel as if i had a stronger understanding of the language in any grammatical sense. This is a good tool to use to bounce questions off of. iTalki does not offer any fundamental learning tools, but does serve as a more interactive alternative for learning a new language.

STUDYSPANISH

StudySpanish located at http://studyspanish.com, offers an abundance of resources that will be very useful to spanish students of all levels. The site proves to be a vast resource of information in all categories of the spanish language. The setup for the homepage offers a sidebar that features all the subjects such as grammar, vocabulary, conjunctions, pronunciations, that will be useful to a spanish learner. All the resources right in front of you from the get go making it very easy to navigate throughout the site.
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Navigating from category to category is as easy as clicking on a category and when you are through simply going back to the homepage and clicking on a new category such as vocabulary.
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The website tries to sucker you into buying the courses for a price but these solicitations are easily evaded. We were impressed with how easy it was to find each subject which i was trying to study. The exercises that are offered for free are ones which you may find out of a spanish workbook and are very simple to use.
We recommend that the user have a minimal background in the spanish language, but there is reason to say that this site could serve as a way to build a foundation for learning the language. There are a limited number of vocabulary words that are offered for free, but they are the basic ones that a beginner would like to, and need, to know. After usiing the website for less than an hour i felt knowledgeable in the language even though i have not taken a spanish course in more than four years, and i was able to pass the quizzes provided. This is a good website for all levels spanish students.

Conclusion

After reviewing all three different online spanish tools, Livemocha seems to be the overall best choice for learning spanish. It is easy to use, effective, and available to beginners. iTalki would be a good choice if you already speak a fair amount of spanish, and you are looking to enhance your communication skills further through other people. StudySpanish would be a close runner-up to Livemocha, on learning spanish. It is also easy to navigate, but it's effectiveness, and starting level may be holding it back. If we were college students looking for online spanish tools, Livemocha would be the superior choice due to its ease of use, effectiveness, starting level, and translation features.

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