Online language-learning programs thriving

With the growth of broadband connectivity and social networks, companies have introduced a wide range of internet-based language learning products, both free and fee-based, that allow students to interact in real time with instructors in other countries, gain access to their lesson plans wherever they are in the world, and communicate with like-minded virtual pen pals who are also trying to learn the same language, reports the New York Times. To make lessons more interesting, online language programs have introduced features such as crossword puzzles, interactive videos, and other games to reward users for making progress. Still, “the quality of feedback is important,” said Mike Levy, head of the school of languages and linguistics at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. “Sites with human contact work best.” RosettaStone, the best-known language program, now offers Totale, a $1,000 product that includes a traditional lesson-based module as well as an online community where you can play language-related games. “We offer modern-day pen pals facilitated with voice over IP,” said Tom Adams, the company’s chief executive. One of RosettaStone’s main competitors, TellMeMore, believes it has an advantage because its software not only teaches words and phrases, but includes a speech recognition component that analyses pronunciation, presents a graph of speech, and suggests how to perfect it. Livemocha, a two-year-old web start-up, offers free basic lessons in 30 languages. Users can upgrade to advanced courses with additional features on a monthly or six-month basis…

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