KMALL 한국멀티미디어언어교육학회

Korea Association of  Multimedia-Assisted Language Learning

Livemocha: an online social network for language learning - Daniel A. Craig (Indiana University)

kamall | 2009.03.27 10:36 | 조회 4228



Livemocha: an online social network for language learning

Daniel Allen Craig (Indiana University)

One of the biggest challenges we face as foreign language teachers is to provide opportunities for our students to use the languages we are trying to teach. There is no lack of popular culture or even educational content available, but availability of language speakers, particularly native language speakers of the target language, is scarce.

This is where services like Livemocha (http://www.livemocha.com) come in. Livemocha is one of a growing number of language learning websites that are beginning to incorporate online social networking to connect language learners all over the world (like a Cyworld for language learners). This makes for a learning environment that provides both instructional activities and opportunities to interact with other language learners and native speakers (Eisenberg, 2008).

Livemocha is a recent startup that, according to their blog, went live on September 24, 2007 (Nadkarni, 2007). It is currently free for all users, but they do note plans to charge in the feature with, according to their “Help” page, “some content remaining free.“ Livemocha is still a beta product, which means that the offerings are constantly changing. This can be somewhat confusing at times, but the service seems to be reacting to customer feedback, which makes for a product that continues to improve. Changes implemented in the last few months, for example, include a peer review of submissions (both text and audio), a friend feed (recent activities of your friends), and a point system (not described well at this point). The basic structure of the site has not changed much, however. The structure includes tabs for Home, Learn, Practice, and Share.

“Home” is where you manage your profile, courses, online status, and friends. It is uncluttered and easy to navigate. The space includes basic profile information, the language(s) that you are learning, the courses you are taking, your “Member Points”, your learning tasks for the week, and your online status. This page also contains listings of users who are learning the same language you are and users who speak the language that you are learning. In addition, the activities of both you and your friends are listed on the page.

“Learn” is where you manage your existing courses and add new courses. The “Courses” offered through Livemocha cover six languages: German, English, Spanish, French, Hindi, and (Mandarin) Chinese, with four courses ranging from 101 (beginner) to 202 (intermediate). The Courses feature syllabi that are outwardly a mix of grammatical and functional, but primarily grammatical in practice. Each course is broken down into “Units” and “Lessons”. Each Lesson has the same organization: Learn (see and hear new vocabulary and structures), Reading (match the text with a corresponding image), Listening (match the audio with a corresponding image), Magnet (listen to a sentence and drag and drop words to write the sentence), Writing (produce a writing sample from a prompt), Speaking (record a spoken sample from a prompt), and in the more advance courses, Dialog (a dialog that can be practiced with a friend). The Courses, Lessons, and activities can all be navigated linearly as well as non-linearly.

“Practice” provides hundreds of dialogs, writing prompts, and speaking prompts. Dialogs encourage you to choose partners (from available users online) to practice with. Writing and Speaking prompts are similar to those in the lessons that allow users to write or speak a response to a prompt. These can then be reviewed and commented on by your friends or others on the site.

“Share” encourages native (or proficient) speakers of a language to give feedback to those learning their language. This page lists all submissions filtered by choosing one of the six supported languages. Users can scroll through all submissions and choose those that they wish to respond to. Feedback can then be provided in the form of either text or audio comments.

While the service is very good, Livemocha does have some drawbacks, particularly in the instructional materials and navigation. The activities can get a little monotonous as you progress through the Courses. The repetition and methodical progression is great when moving from one activity to the next, but the lack of variety in activities made me slightly bored when working through multiple lessons. Also, the end of each lesson, I need a list of the vocabulary and structures presented. Though a little old-fashioned, I still like to print out my notes when I study. At the very least, I want to have something that I can refer to quickly during later practice. The site also has a little work to do on improving the navigation. While the basic functions are easy to find, more advanced functions, like chatting, are not easy to find and required me to visit the FAQs before I could find them.

Overall, Livemocha is an impressive service. The learning materials are well thought out, engaging, and integrated well with the social networking functions. They incorporate quite a few motivational techniques, such as weekly learning tasks, progress indicators, and even emails that remind users when they are not keeping up. More importantly, beyond the programmed instructional and functional aspects, Livemocha encourages language learners to find others interested in learning and practicing language. Users can not only find others to practice each of the supported six languages, but also any of the 91 languages listed as a language learning interests in their profiles.

The implications for self-study should be obvious with Livemocha, but there is also great potential even for guided study. Teachers can have all of their students join the site and add them as friends. They can then leverage the functions built into the service to provide supplemental work, provide feedback, and interact with their students.

I encourage you to try Livemocha yourself. Join the service and add me as your friend (username: danielcraig). I would be happy to help you explore the possibilities.

 


 

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