If you’re looking to learn a new language at home, then one of the best things that you can do is to use a software program that simulates a classroom environment.  It’s pretty hard to learn a new language – don’t get me wrong!  However if it’s something that you have in mind as a goal, there are easier ways to do it and there are harder ways.  One of the easiest ways is to ensure that you’re using a great program.

There are so many programs out there on the market to help students learn new languages.  So, it can be hard to pick one out.  This is where reviews come in, however a lot of these programs have free trials that you can sample.  I know Rocket Languages and Rosetta Stone allow you to try out their software for free before buying it.

Rosetta Stone is the most popular brand out there, largely due to their superior marketing and branding.  However it’s not really the best program for everyone, surprisingly.  It can be difficult for people to truly learn the best from their immersion techniques and strategies.  That’s why we like Rocket Languages – it’s more traditional in its approach.  We also found that Rocket Languages is the best “bang for your buck” program out there.

Most people are trying to learn Spanish these days, but an increasing amount of people are learning Chinese due to the fact that China has an increasingly large hold on the global economy.

The Rocket Languages Spanish Review that we found over at Little Language Site was a great overview of the program, and they also reviewed the Chinese program as well.  They are basically the same program and structure.

It’s interesting to look back on the history of language learning via computer:

“Software used at Smith College’s CFLAC is a mixture of commercially available and in-house products. Primary among the commercial packages are the word processors/data sets for French and Spanish, systeme D (Heinle and Heinle Publishers, Boston) and Salsa (InterLex Associates, Ithaca, N.Y.). Materials such as electronic workbooks and interactive video applications are being developed using several author-ing tools, including Asymetrix ToolBook and the CALLS and WinCALIS programs developed at Duke University.

In-house development of software follows a modular design principle: shells are created that can be mixed and linked to one another in support of new applications. These shells include a controller for both interactive videodisc and videotape, and a dictionary program. In addition, a series of digital audio applications features a mark program for pausing digital speech, a “listen and repeat” program, a digital tape recorder program and a self-correcting dictation program.

The ability to combine these programs has led to innovative and effective multimedia projects at Smith College. A Chinese application combining M-Audio and M-Motion Video technologies, for example, has become the prototype for similar applications in other languages. Typically, students call up an exercise through a menu system and are presented with a digital slide captured from any video source. Through digital audio, they then listen to instructions in the foreign language or receive cultural information pertaining to the slide. Next, they hear questions relating to what they have observed and heard, and are asked to record their responses in the target language. When the recording is complete, audio feedback is presented, and the student can compare her response to the feedback. Exercises can be designed simply for linguistic practice, as cultural tutorials, or as part of an oral or aural exercise that can be saved for the instructor to evaluate.

Materials Tailored to the Task

Creating lessons with these programs has proven quick and easy. First, the instructor creates stills from any video source using a simple M-Motion digital still capture program which we developed with available routines in the M-Control Program/2 software. Once in the program, the instructor simply enters a filename, locates an appropriate still and presses “c” for capture. She then accesses the digital tape recorder program; names the file; speaks instructions, text, questions, or exercises into the headset; and hits the space bar to end the recording. After replaying her selections for quality, she uses the mark program to separate questions from feedback, and her task is complete. The CFLAC staff then enters the appropriate files into the lesson program and adds the lesson as an option to the menu for that course.

With the acquisition last fall of WinCALlS, a multimedia authoring tool running under Microsoft Windows 3.0, we have begun to experiment with integrating interactive exercises into our video and audio programs. In an intermediate German videodisc program, for example, students view video clips and are presented with text questions and true multimedia feedback that includes motion video, video stills and audio as well as text clues.

While computer-assisted language learning (CALL) provides the advantages of immediate feedback, infinite patience and learner-controlled pacing, the addition of video and audio media allows the instructor to tailor this feedback to the student’s level of proficiency, to different learning styles, and to the pedagogical goal of the lesson. For exercises intended for a more open learning environment, the programs can be designed so that the students select feedback that best meets their needs. For example, they may replay only audio or video, repeat video segments, or call up stills, transcripts, vocabulary (in the target language or English), cultural information, or other text help. By planning these interactive assignments for students in the center as linguistic and cultural preparation for class, instructors can then concentrate more on in-depth discussions and analysis in the target language during class time.”

Davis, Robert C. “Multimedia support for studies in foreign language and culture.” T H E Journal [Technological Horizons In Education], Mar. 1992, p. S42+.


It’s fun to see just how far language learning via computer has come, and how far computers have come as well.