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Picking up the nuances of a language

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Picking up the nuances of a language

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For the past year I’ve been learning Czech.  The core of this has been a weekly lesson at the local Czech centre, but I’ve also been tapping into some online tools to help with my learning.  By far my favourite is Memrise, which is a tool developed by a memory champion to help people learn languages.

The site applies gamification to the learning process, with you earning points for correctly ‘planting’ a word or phrase, and then additional points for ‘watering’ that word a few days later.  Those points then place you in a league table of fellow learners.  You can participate both online and via a mobile app and it makes extending your vocab really fun.

Things such as Memrise have really helped wih my reading and writing in Czech, but speaking, and more accurately listening, remains a real challenge.  A new service that may help is currently undergoing a successful fundraising on Kickstarter.

Fluent Forever is a pronounciation trainer application that aims to help language students with their listening and speaking skills.  The service was developed by trained opera singer Gabriel Wyner and is based upon recent research into language learning that suggests the key is to go through three distinct steps:

  • Hear one of two similar sounding words at random
  • Guess which one you heard
  • Get immediate feedback as to whether you were right

It certainly looks like an interesting idea, and the Kickstarter project is well over it’s funding goals already, with a couple more days to go.  Alas, at this stage it doesn’t look as though Czech will be covered, although I live in hope that a Czech version will emerge before too long.  In the meantime, if you’re looking to learn French or German then this could be one for you.

Check out the video below for more information about the service and some of the research behind it.  Oh, and Wyner has a book out on the topic as well, although that’s not due for publication until August 2014.

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