Thursday, February 23, 2012                                      ***** is a website for learners of any language with its basic version being free-of-charge. Its very vivid graphics make it look quite interesting and appealing. The basic version offers picture-based vocabulary, grammar, writing exercises, reading comprehension exercises, video-chat application for live-talk and interactive exams. The premium one, which costs $5.99/month (pretty cheap I think), gives additional audio for more than 400 words, listening comprehension exercises, printable PDFs for 150 units, access to extra grammar units, audio podcasts, video units and voice recordings. A part from the features each unit provides, a business and travel course is offered, and you can play games with other online users or visit a chat room to interact with native speakers. Two other cool features that none of the other websites have is a box which shows all the mistakes you’ve made in the past and one that shows your progress and lets you set a goal. Overall I found it a great example of a language learning website and would highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012                                  ***** is one of the best websites I got to look into. Once you sign up, you have access to video-audio lessons, vocabulary starter and instant chat with native speakers. When signing up, you have the chance to set up your own profile (just like a Facebook one) and select the languages you speak and the ones you want to learn and tell why. Each level of Spanish includes lessons with video dialogues, vocabulary, reading, role play and writing. At each step it tests what you’ve learned through quizzes which can be reviewed from certified language tutors in exchange for tokens. Tokens are the virtual currency which allows you to buy features on the website. You can also earn tokens by writing submissions and reviews for other users. The cost for those is 800/$9.95, 1600/$19.95 and 2400/$29.95 which I find pretty reasonable especially compared to other websites with similar features. Each course has 6 units at the end of which you can take the “course test”. It offers SPAN 101 to 202 and lets you practice vocabulary courses, flashcards, writing and speaking while you “make friends,” if you wish, with native speakers of the languages you’re interested in. There’s also a culture section where users can post pictures with descriptions and comments. Overall, I really enjoyed exploring and found it well-organized, reliable and interesting and highly recommend it.                                 *****, as the title indicates, is only for the Spanish language. It basically advertises “Camino de éxito” which is a 15 audio CD set. Signing up is required if you want access to features like quizzes but if you’d rather not register you have access to their basic pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary lessons. Student membership options includes free, premium and complete conversation courses. The grammar tab consists of 9 units with more or less 10 topics for each: overall 104 topics, each of which offers a tutorial, all kinds of quizzes, tests, and a final exam for each topic. The vocabulary tab consists of 6 units or 55 topics in different fields as well as 2 sub-categories for each (the second one though is only for premium members). On a side note, it offers an oral exam, flashcards, matching games, quizzes and tests. There’s also a report card which keeps track of the quizzes and tests you’ve taken which I found pretty cool. And that’s only half of everything this website has to offer you. There are verb drills, and tabs for pronunciation and resources with lots of interesting features for you to explore. It is very well organized and everything is clearly explained, making it easy to understand. No wonder it’s one of my top choices.                                        **** is a website focused on 5 languages (English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch). When signing up it gives you a 7-day-trial which starts with a 30-40 minute placement test (too long I think) consisting of fill-in-the-blanks and multiple choice exercises. The vocabulary section is separated into units and each unit into topics, animation videos (of which you can adjust the speed and language) and exercises including dictation/spelling, translation and comprehension activities. The grammar section consists of topics like verbs, adjectives, proverbs etc., for each of which there’s a well-structured and explanatory tutorial along with practice exercises. You also get access to following your progress in real time. Even though I didn’t get to fully explore the business section, I found the website quite professional-looking and effective overall, without an overwhelming amount of extra features to crowd it. Its high prices and the lack of games and more fun activities were the main reason got four instead of five stars; $49/1month, $99/3months, $159/6months and $249/12months.                                            *** is basically a language exchange network. Registration is required and its main features include text/chat and voice/video call with native speakers. It’s for any languages and it’s a facebook type website where you edit your profile, invite friends and make comments. With “my palabea” you basically have your profile with options like docs, virtual classrooms (pretty confusing concept) etc. Once you “make friends” you can start the online language exchange, and also connect with teachers, get access to podcasts, videolectures and other features. There aren’t any tutorials, exercises or games but only interactions with native speakers. There are no costs and even though it’s impossible to start learning a language on this website I found the concept very fun and appealing for people who want to maintain their language skills while socializing with native speakers from all around the world.                                  *** offers a 7-day-trial and even though it’s pretty confusing at first, its gives directions and tips to lead you through the process. The levels of language you get to choose among are newbie, elementary, intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced and there are different topics with sub-categories for each one. Each lesson consists of listening, discussion, dialogue, vocabulary, expansion and exercises (matching, multiple choice, listen and choose). It was fun and I enjoyed going through the website but I didn’t find it engaging enough.                   ** is a free-of-charge website which doesn’t require registration and offers Spanish for beginners and intermediates. It lets you “test your Spanish” with a placement test, which I found quite unreliable because it would stop the test on the first mistake I made and automatically assume I’m a beginner. It then recommends activities according to the placement test. What was suggested to me was an intermediate audio magazine, Spanish TV (to which you don’t have access unless you’re in the UK), BBC Mundo (which is an online Spanish newspaper) and Spanish crosswords with a few topics like health, proverbs and cuisine. To intermediates it also offered “sueños”, which are fairly small clips from TV series from 11 different learning units. The grammar section also has a few different units presented through dialogues and readings and then proceeds to some activities (matching words, putting the dialogue in order). I didn’t think the website was well-structured or organized and even though most of the features it offered looked interesting they really weren’t once I tried them. If you’re looking for a tutorial, then this definitely isn’t for you since it basically helps you maintain the level you’re at.