“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart “ - Nelson Mandela
There are countless economic and business based reasons why taking the time to learn a second language can and will set you apart from peers, colleagues and competitors. Even if you are working for an English speaking organisation I guarantee at some point you'll come into contact with speakers of other languages, and though they may have mastered your language already, the rapport built with these people will be on another level if you can communicate even just a little, in their mother tongue.
Multitudes of previously inaccessible doors will be opened to you, which in the global employment crisis, being able to search and apply for roles outside of your home country or English speaking countries, isn't something that should be written off so lightly. With rising fees, students are considering options that fall outside the UK, so those free weekly French lessons that seemed such a chore for me whilst in High School, now seem like a missed opportunity. University in Paris anyone? (Especially as someone who now pays to learn additional languages, I definitely missed a trick there)
There are umpteen personal and human reasons why the adoption of another tongue is in the best interests of you or your students. It may be the challenge and sense of achievement that results from learning a language, a linguistic interest, perhaps you hear a language that sounds beautiful to you? Truly connecting with a person from another culture, understanding how they think, how they work or as Mandela so carefully instructs "If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart"
Skype in the classroom is one of the best examples of this and in my opinion one of the most accessible ways for schools and students to connect globally, practice languages without incurring the cost of leaving the school grounds.
Whatever the logic for taking the plunge into learning another language, there are hoards of resources both free and paid for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Microsoft are continually working with publishers and developers to grow this area of the store and there are already some fantastic offerings available. As I mentioned before, I have a personal linguistics interest and having probed the web and tried a range of apps to aid my learning, here are some of my top Windows Apps.
Babbel, KS2 & upwards, Windows 8 and Windows Phone
Babbel is a Berlin based start-up that was the first language provider to offer their applications on the Windows 8 operating system. Depending on the language(s) you'd like to learn, you can download an individual application for each of them and all of the usual suspects are covered: German, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Indonesian, Polish, Swedish and Turkish. As one of the most popular application with 15 million users worldwide two things are clear, 1. their teaching methods are well received and 2. people want to learn languages!
I particularly like this app as no internet connection is required, and there are times when I'm on the go when I may lose connection, or if I don't have Wi-Fi and I'm using my laptop on the train. The app has a sleek Windows 8 interface and clearly breaks up the various topics and subject areas. Syncing with your free online account, the app will remember what you've learned and what you’re yet to cover. For students learning languages in schools, colleges or universities I believe each of them should be using some sort of app in conjunction with their class lessons as it'll maximise their proficiency in half the time. The activities within the app make it fun to learn wherever you are… and once the student's get a firm hold on the language there will be no stopping them! Anyone can use babble and it's completely free - so give it a try! Download Babbel here.
Play and Learn Series - KS1 + KS2, Windows 8
A slightly more juvenile approach to language learning, but this paid for app by selectsoft_publishing is really attractive and immersive. Designed to keep younger students engaged and excited about learning languages. As students listen and speak words in their desired language, they can travel through familiar environments such as supermarkets, shops and restaurants practicing basic words and phrases. Another cool feature include a family album, which shows various photographs and the user can highlight different members and learn how to describe them.
I wouldn't suggest this app as something to learn a language to fluency, however to revise, or to further develop basic or intermediate skills, this app is perfect. It is paid for but at £2.59 and on Windows 8.1, you have the ability to add the one app to 81 different devices, each student in the class will be able to enjoy this application.
The array of Languages are impressive too, and go beyond some of the most common. German, Dutch, Italian, Portugese, French, Korean, Tagalog, Irish, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Scottish Gaelic, Japanese, Spanish, Swedish and Danish.
Follow this link to search the windows store for the Play & Learn series.
Little Spanish Speller & Learn Spanish Memory Game KS1, Windows 8
These KS1 applications are free to download and are for young children who are getting to grips with another language at a very early age. There has always been an emphasis on the younger the better with language learning and these applications are colourfully designed, interactive and user friendly. Little Spanish Speller covers topics such as the alphabet, numbers and days of the week to name but a few. Download Little Spanish Speller here.
Learn Spanish Memory Game is probably my favourite of the two. The graphics are a little better and I enjoy playing games to learn languages, especially memory based games as some of the biggest difficulties associated with learning a new language is remembering. Again it's really colorful and immersive so something that learners of all ages would enjoy getting stuck into. Download Spanish Memory Game here.
Bing Translate – All ages, Windows 8 & Windows Phone,
As well as these great apps Bing Translate should definitely be added to your download list to aid in language studies, be careful not to fall into the trap of translating everything rather than learning it but for travellers I think this app is wonderful! Text and camera translation allow you to work offline allow you to point and shoot what you're looking to translate and the downloadable language packs mean that you can use Bing translator on the go, even when you don't have an internet connection. 40 languages are covered with more being added regularly. Download Bing translate free.
Sometimes we all need a little encouragement or motivation to keep going, learning a language is a continual process and even with fluency your vocabulary can continue to grow and deepen to select the most appropriate words to communicate your message in the most natural & effective way. Just think about the vocabulary in your own language. If you are a language teacher, have a keen interest or have students you want to help, use as many of these resources as you can and we would love to hear how you get on… and who knows.. You may even develop your own language apps built upon your success!