Creative Use Of Your Computer Can Make Language Learning EasierCreative Use Of Your Computer Can Make Language Learning Easier

Your computer can be used as a creative tool in your quest to learn a foreign language. Some innovative ideas can turn your language education into an entertaining, truly memorable experience.

* Audio Modification

Many companies produce software packages that enable you to transform your voice (or someone else's). You can make your voice feminine, masculine, or robotic. It can be raised to a high pitch or lowered to bass tones.

So how does this help you learn a new language?

Many foreign languages (French and German, for example) assign gender to nouns. When learning new vocabulary, why not record feminine nouns in a female voice, masculine nouns in a male voice, and neuter nouns in a robotic voice? This approach can also be used with other types of vocabulary learning. Perhaps you could record a list of German dative verbs in a woman's voice and a list of German accusative verbs in a male voice. You can even take audio files that have been recorded by other people and make them more interesting by morphing voices or adding sound effects.

An internet search for 'voice cloaking' or 'voice modification software' will provide numerous resources to choose from.

* Don't Just Print

If you own a color printer you can spice up your vocabulary lists with bursts of color - perhaps feminine nouns in red, masculine nouns in blue, and neuter in dark grey. You might want to highlight irregular verbs in another color - or perhaps apply bold or italics to make them stand out on the page. Experiment with various fonts and weights.

* Websites and Online Sources

Every language student should have at least one online dictionary bookmarked (preferably several). Each dictionary will work a little differently. Some provide audio clips. Others will allow users to submit new words and expressions. (Be aware that not all user submissions will be 100% accurate.) The best dictionaries will clearly indicate 'verified' user submissions and will mark colloquial and dialect expressions appropriately.

Are you a poet? Help is as close as your computer. Online language resources include helpful rhyming dictionaries. An internet search for 'rhyming dictionary French', 'rhyming dictionary German', 'rhyming dictionary Spanish' etc. will give you good results.

Try to rely on accredited educational sites (domains ending in .edu) when doing grammar research. For instance, if you are looking for Hungarian verb conjugations, try a search like 'Hungarian verb conjugations'. Although at the time of writing the previous search doesn't work at MSN, it does work at Google, Yahoo!,, and many others. The 'site:edu' portion of the search restricts results to domains ending in '.edu' - which are usually universities and other similar educational institutions.

* Online Chatting and Video Conferencing

Video-cams, VOIP, microphones . . . put them all together and talk with foreign friends from all over the world. Using a language in conversation is probably the quickest way to learn.

Whatever you do, remember that the more senses you stimulate during the learning process, the more firmly imprinted the learning becomes. Turn your language education into a fun-filled sensory experience and you will probably stick with it. If it becomes monotonous, you may lose interest.

by Kathy Steinemann
References and Bibliography

Kathy recommends the links below for a couple of helpful pages that may be useful in your quest for language education:

* German-English short stories in parallel translation.

* A list of search engines to help with the searches mentioned in this article.

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