Going beyond the textbook and the Language Lab
June 4, 2008 4:40 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite online resources for learning, practicing or getting exposure to the languages you speak? I'm looking for things that go beyond a textbook and a couple of CDs: things like interactive tools and study materials, well-written blogs written in / about the language, and especially audio, video or reading materials that people learning the language might not be able to find easily.

I'm interested in both resources designed for native speakers of that language that are accessible to people learning it and well-designed resources for people learning the language. For example, Librivox might be good for high-level English learners trying to improve their listening skills and vocabulary, while Pinyin Practice is for people just starting to learn Chinese pronunciation.

I'll start off with a few for Japanese that have helped me:
Real World Japanese: Listening practice using real-life situations, with three levels of difficulty for each situation.
Episodes of Atashin'chi: my host family loved this slice-of-life family show, and the language is pretty accessible for intermediate speakers. (No subtitles, too, so you can't "cheat")
Reading Tutor: a collection of paragraphs with links to definitions on the side, so you can click on an unknown word and see the definition (in English or Japanese) without a new window or an annoying popup. You can also use your own texts this way by using the "Dictionary Tool," or see a chart of all the kanji used in a text and which level of the JLPT they correspond to.

It's not Japanese, but I also really love the BBC languages site, with its engaging content for so many languages -- I've been using the French lessons to brush up, and it's a lot more fun than high-school French ever was...

I'd love to learn about great resources for as many languages as possible!
posted by shirobara to Education (8 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: FSI Language Courses may not be what you had in mind exactly, but it's really interesting. The guy who runs it is collecting all of the FSI language courses, digitizing them, and putting them up for download. He has courses in the usual European languages, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hungarian, Swahili and bits of other language courses. Since they are all FSI courses they were created by the US government and are free of copyright. So they are freely available. Many people think they are the gold standard of language courses. They tend to be for people with a lot of motivation, as they are very dry. I don't know about Japanese.

You might also look at How to learn any language. There is a guy who learned Japanese by himself in Utah starting in his early 20. He went on to work in Japan, so he must have known something. He documented his method in All Japanese All The Time. I learned Esperanto in a similar way, though EO is tons easier than any other language you might think of. (Well, it's not easier than Toki Pona. But it's the second easiest language you might think of.)
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 5:07 PM on June 4, 2008

Response by poster: Just to clarify -- I'm not looking for Japanese in particular, I personally already have a lot of great Japanese resources. I meant more to contribute some good Japanese sites that I've used and would recommend to other people. I'm hoping for materials from many languages, so if someday it seems like a really good idea to learn Korean or Portuguese or whatever, this thread would have something interesting for me that I wouldn't be likely to find on my own right off the bat.

That FSI Language Courses site looks fantastic!
posted by shirobara at 5:19 PM on June 4, 2008

When I was taking Spanish, I found diccionarios.com to be extraordinarily helpful. It is a great dictionary and gives you idiomatic phrases as well.
posted by radioamy at 5:45 PM on June 4, 2008

If we're going down to the level of Pinyin practice or real-life situation phrases, no thread would be complete without ChinesePod/SpanishPod/FrenchPod. Check it out.

I briefly tried to connect with native speakers via chat/skype, but found it too awkward to enforce equal time. Try xlingo or italki, two services that attempt to connect the graph.
posted by gensubuser at 5:49 PM on June 4, 2008

Internet radio, streamed from your country of choice.
posted by megatherium at 6:44 PM on June 4, 2008

My favorite resources:


for flashcarding, I prefer Anki (http://ichi2.net/anki/download/index.html)

and of course, Rikai/JDIC and related sites.

EDIT: haha, someone already beat me to Khatzmoto's site. Yay
posted by mezamashii at 9:53 PM on June 4, 2008

Best answer: I love languages, and collect links to many languages I don't even speak...yet!

-- How to Learn Any Language (also check out the forums)

--Live television in other languages

-- Live radio (select Europe for LOTS of languages)

--Foreign language lesson podcasts

--LanguageGuide (vocab, reading)

--Top 10 Newspapers for many different countries, online

--Mexican youtube! (I haven't checked for youtube in other languages, but it's probably out there...)

--Japanese kanji dictionary (I don't know how good this is since I don't speak Japanese, but it's next on my list...)

-- Portuguese pronunciation for spanish speakers

Other ways I find interesting material:
--Amazon listmania is a good way to find music recommendations, like this one "Best Italian Pop Music". Helps if you already know some music you like to find lists of similar music.

--I search (in the language I'm looking for, this is key!) for blogs on topics I'm interested in, like gardening or illustration, and follow links to other blogs until I find one that looks pretty good, and then add it to my feed reader.

--Search ask.metafilter! There are lots of threads on specific languages...want to learn Russian? I see at least 5 or 6 threads tagged with Russian about what to read, tutorials, etc etc etc.
posted by lemonade at 9:21 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by mynameismandab at 7:06 PM on June 5, 2008

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