Learning (or Re-Learing) a Foreign Language

Every once in a while, I feel the need to pick up the French I’ve learned in college and try to at least get it back up to a kindergartner’s level. I’ve found a few good free resources that are helpful in tyring to get your language skills on the path to improvement.

The first is http://www.oculture.com/2006/10/foreign_languag.html, which has a variety of audio language podcasts in a variety of different languages. There’s actually 37 languages that you can choose from and a lot of them have a variety of levels that you can start studying.

In French, there is a variety of content that you can use, and one of the most interesting to me is a daily news podcast from RFI (Radio France International) It gives you a 10-minute news summary that is read relatively slowly, so that beginners can more easily follow. It was still a challenge for me to keep up, but I’ve been picking up some of the phrases as I listen. I should also mention that since the RFI site is entirely in French, the key word you will want to download the podcast is “télécharger” which is not a word that I learned in French class in college.

Speaking of discovering words that you might not recognize, you’ll probably want to be aware of some of the free web-based translation services that are out there. The most well known is likely Yahoo’s Babel Fish translator. It does offer website translation along with blocks of text, although it does limit you to 150 words. Google also has their own translator, which can sometimes be a little better interpreting certain phrases. Both of these, and any automated service that I have seen is very limited in its ability to translate coherently. They do not understand idiomatic expressions and come sometimes struggle with nested phrases. Of course, this will very from language to language, so I don’t envy anyone who is trying to program this kind of service. Just understand going in, that you are not going to get flawless translations.

So if your language skills are in need of a tune up, then these tools may be just the thing to get you back into shape.

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