I apologize for taking so long to get back to this subject, but a few events have intervened. Plus, I realized that I have way too much info to devote only one post to online language learning resources. I’m going to have to use several such posts on that subject alone.
I want to highlight the Podcast101 family of sites today, which are partial-pay sites. That is, they rope you in with substantial free resources, then get you to pay for an expanded set of resources.
Let’s start with the site to which I subscribe, ArabicPod101.com. Don’t be put off by the fact I’ve highlighted the Arabic language site…there are eleven (11) different Pod101.com language sites operated by Innovative Solutions. An individual can learn Arabic, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, English, or a slew of Survival Phrases in any of these languages. I came across this organization via their Survival Phrases podcast, which is available in limited numbers for free on the iTunes website, as are the podcasts associated with all their language courses.
On the website, a student can download all of the podcasts (both audio and video) for free, as well as a PDF document associated with the lesson. The video podcasts are also available via YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. With payment, the student gets a line-by-line transcript page with audio, a vocabulary word bank, the ability to create flashcards based on the saved words in the word bank, a voice recorder, and the ability to obtain all of the podcasts (both audio and video) via a single, customized feed in iTunes. The latter is very handy.
I’ve never used the voice recorder, and it did not work when I tested it for this post. I plan to contact their customer service group, which was very helpful when I had a problem getting the video podcasts to download via my customized feed to iTunes.
The lessons generally cover one theme, and the vocabulary is small enough to retain easily. The lessons run from about 7 minutes (Survival Phrases) up to 15 or 16 minutes for detailed themes. The audio is professional – more so, perhaps, than the video – but, the video is pretty good, too, except for the volume level of the music. There are also cultural notes provided for download, which are very interesting.
Be careful of regional differences in the target language. In Arabic, there are many regional dialects, though the most common would be Egyptian due to their ubiquitous movie and TV industry. I have found it necessary to double-check some things I learned in the ArabicPod101 lessons with my native-Arabic speaking friends here in Riyadh, who speak yet another version of Arabic. The original lessons were in Modern Standard Arabic, which is formal; but, they’ve now settled in with Egyptian Arabic. We’ll see how that goes.
On the whole, I am pretty happy with this approach to Arabic, which functions as just one of the many prongs in my efforts to learn the language. Your mileage may vary.
Next time, we’ll discuss Livemocha.com.