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The Web Way to Learn a Language

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Lesson page from RosettaStone.

The New York Times

The young woman seated next to us at the sushi bar exuded a vaguely exotic air; her looks and style, we thought, made it likely that she was not American born.

But then she spoke in perfect American English, even ending her declarative sentences in that rising questioning lilt characteristic of many young Californians.

As it turns out, however, she wasn’t from these parts after all; she was born in Iran and spoke only Farsi until her arrival here two years ago. What classes, we wondered, had she attended to learn the language so well?

“I didn’t,” she said. “I used RosettaStone.”

Those yellow boxes sold at shopping-mall and airport kiosks may be the most recognizable example of PC-based language learning, but it certainly isn’t the only one.

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 remember if bambino means baby.

Learning a language sometimes seems as difficult as dieting. The solution is to figure out how to stay interested after the novelty wears off.

From The New York Times
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