Want to learn a new foreign language? A new programming language? Our continuing education has gone online.
From online videos and real-time translations to mobile apps, technology is helping us learn new things in many new ways.
Learning French: Old school and new school
Recently, I signed up to study French through the local chapter of the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA, an organization that brings the French language and francophile culture to an American public. The organization (site) provides French-language classes all over the world.
Learning another tongue is best done in an organized, structured fashioned. Adult schools, regional alliances, and other learning resources such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (site) let you interact with instructors, ensuring that you understand the subtleties of another language. But being a confirmed geek, I could not help but look for online education resources to supplement the formal learning process.
What I found ranged from Web-based help with pronunciation to translation services such as those offered by Google. TV and radio broadcasts can also help with language learning, and there are even mobile apps that help fill any down time when you’re on the road.
Surprisingly, Google Translate (site) proved an effective tool for preparing class work — it let me hear translated words in French. Microsoft’s Bing also has a simple translation page. Note: You might need to enable language-specific keyboard layouts in order enter some required characters such as the French accent grave (info).
When compared with my instructor’s speech, Google’s translations were amazingly close to the properly pronounced words. There’s even a Google Translation app for smartphones; as long as you have a connection to the Internet, the app will translate those words you just can’t remember from your course work. (At this point in my French lessons, that’s about any word beyond “bonjour” and “oui.”)