Ten Online Tools for Language Learning, Part 2

Author: Justin Parry

Do you feel like exploring some online language tools over the summer to practice your own language skills, or want some ideas for the future? Here are five more tools, as a continuation of the first part of ten online tools for language learning:

6. Listen and Write

This site features a tool for transcribing various audio sources, including speech and songs from mp3s and YouTube video. Listen and Write currently has audio in 22 different languages which is broken down into over 20 proficiency levels. There are a variety of search options—you can search by proficiency level, language, category, or user channel. For the transcription, there are three different modes: full mode (requiring the entire sentence), quick mode (you only need to enter the first letter of each word), and blank mode (you fill out some of the words in blanks). The site gathers statistics about your activity, and lets you review what you have studied and see problem areas. Here is a screenshot from the transcription page:

You can also add to the site by submitting audio through your own mp3s, by linking to online mp3s, or by using YouTube videos. You need to submit a transcript of the audio so that it can be transcribed. Listen and Write also has a few beta tools, including a level test for English and a program for learning numbers.

7. Text 2 Mind Map

This is a free site for creating mind maps. It is very simple to use: Just use tabs to create a hierarchy of terms in the text box on the left, and click “Draw Mind Map”. Your terms will appear mapped out in different colors, and you can use the mouse to adjust the positioning of any box within the mind map. This works for any language. There is also a tab under the text box for options, where you can change the font, colors, line scheme, etc. See below for an example:

On the site there is also an option to download your mind map as an image or PDF. In sum, Text 2 Mind Map is a quick way to organize L2 concepts and vocabulary into groupings such as semantic fields and differing verb conjugations. There are many possibilities.

8. Lang-8

On Lang-8 you can create a free account to engage in language exchanges that focus fully on writing. In other words, you can post a piece of your writing in an L2 on the site, and native speakers of that L2 can use site annotation tools to correct it. These annotations make the corrections easy to follow, and there is room for comments. You can do the same for learners of your L1, and make friends in this way as on social networks. There are also a few additional features that are available through a paid premium account, including downloadable entries, prioritization of posts, and customizable URLs. Here is a sample screenshot from the site:

Lang-8 offers a convenient way to receive feedback on your writing and to think critically about language as you correct others. Although native intuition may not always be what you are looking for or may be too subjective, this is a great place to feel more in touch with the actual usage of your L2 and learn how to say utterances that you may not encounter in formal settings.

9. RhinoSpike

This free site has a similar premise to Lang-8, only it works to improve L2 listening. The site is simple: First, you provide texts in an L2. These audio requests go into a queue, and wait for native speakers of your L2 to correct the text if needed and then read it for you. You can also read texts in your L1, and your own requests move up the queue as you read for other language learners. Alternately, you can do the opposite, and submit audio or video, such as from youTube, that you want native speakers to transcribe. A sample audio request is shown in the screenshot below:

Due to the nature of RhinoSpike, you can choose texts to be recorded that are at your proficiency level and that match your interests. As shown in the screenshot above, there is also space for giving instructions to the recorder. In addition, this site can be used to have problem words or sentences pronounced for you. Thus this site gives users freedom and flexibility for practicing language listening.

10. Diigo

Diigo is a cloud-based bookmarking tool which offers a wide range of capabilities. It is used to bookmark webpages or images and store them for offline viewing or share them. In addition, Diigo allows users to annotate web pages with highlighting and sticky notes, and organize these pages in an online library. There are a few different ways you can integrate this tool into your browser, including as a bookmarklet or actual toolbar. The basic version of Diigo is free, although there are some premium capabilities available as well. Below is a screenshot that illustrates Diigo:

 

The screenshot above shows one usage for Diigo in language learning—you can access web pages and save them into your library. Then you can access tools to highlight words you do not know, and add sticky notes with definitions or encyclopedia entries. In this way Diigo could be used like hypermedia glossing, as one possible way of using it. Although Diigo is no doubt very useful, there are many other options available. If you are just looking for a simple way to save pages and annotate them, you may want to try tools such as Scrapbook, which is a free plugin for Mozilla Firefox that allows you to easily create folders and organize files that you have annotated with less to worry about.

In conclusion, there are many useful tools for online language learning. Some are already adapted to language learning and require little to no adaptation, whereas others are useful in general and offer promising applications to the language teaching context. It can be useful to explore and see the strengths and weaknesses of certain tools, as there are often many for certain areas. This post has given a little information about five such tools, and you are welcome to see the current list of annotated links collected by CERCLL here.