27 February 2010

Software that might be useful for foreign language learning

Software that might be useful for foreign language learning

Computers, personal computers with GUI, very specific executable applications, networks, the internet, the WWW, web browser 'applets', the new Web 2.0 and semantic web have ALL been held up as the future of foreign language learning. However,  the most obvious question is: Has IT in LT and LL over the past three decades of promises actually lived up to all the hype and sales pitches? 

Part of the problem is with the conception and development of software applications. People who know how to code might not know much about language teaching, language learning, applied linguistics or second language acquisition. Even when programmers do adapt ideas from language education, it is often from a limited understanding of native language arts as opposed to pure second language or foreign language teaching and learning. On the other hand, most people involved in LT and LL know next to nothing about coding and developing applications. Moreover, some of the best software for language learning and practice wasn't really developed with that in mind--for example, I learned far more written Japanese using the Ichitaro wordprocessor program than I ever did trying to study Japanese on a language-training program. 

A constant in the IT-LT interface has been the concern over memory. No, not the memory of our computers and networks, but, rather, human memory and its quirks. Everyone knows that when we study a second or foreign language, the experience can be 'fleeting'.

Some applications that focus on organizing information in order to enhance structured exposure to it, thus adding it to long-term memory, have been around since the MS-DOS era or even before.  

Here is a look at some of this memory-training software, which is available online for downloading. The descriptions and explanations (in italics) are taken from each title's respective webpages.



Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it is a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn.

Anyone who needs to remember things in their daily life can benefit from Anki. Since it is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific markup (via LaTeX), the possibilities are endless. For example:

    * learning a language
    * studying for medical and law exams
    * memorizing people's names and faces
    * brushing up on geography
    * mastering long poems
    * even practicing guitar chords!

Anki online


Welcome to the Mnemosyne Project


The Mnemosyne Project has two aspects:

    * It's a sophisticated free flash-card tool which optimizes your learning process.
    * It's a research project into the nature of long-term memory.



Here, we discuss some of the principles behind the Mnemosyne project:

    * Spaced repetition
    * The nature of our memory research
    * The Mnemosyne algorithm
    * How we collect anonymous data

Download Mnemosyne software.


What is SuperMemo?


The three most important facts about SuperMemo:

   1. SuperMemo is a learning method that makes it possible to learn fast and retain memories for years
   2. SuperMemo is available as an easy computer program for Windows, Windows CE, and Palm Pilot. It can also be used in a web browser, in DOS, in Linux, on Mac, on Amiga, and even without a computer
   3. SuperMemo is based on the science of long-term memory

Download Supermemo.



Learn more about using Supermemo for language study.


1 comment:

  1. I have used Supermemo for four years and I believe that it is mainly responsible for my fluency in Japanese. I am now working towards fluency in Chinese. You must be very motivated to keep using it, but once you start to feel the payoff in retention, using it becomes impossible to stop.