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Learn A Language Using Online And Multimedia Tools

Berlitz, Rosetta Stone, Auralog, Fluenz, and iTunes are offering a new wave of online courses and PC-based apps to help you parlez Francais, and more.

During your travels in the not-too-distant future, you may need a translator just to find the Web site for the local cab service, restaurant, or tourist attraction -- even if you're standing right in front of the billboard. If you're a job seeker trying to increase your marketability, you may consider differentiating yourself by learning a "less-commonly-taught language" used by a small-but-vibrant economy, or a difficult language to show off how smart you are.

Auralog's Tell Me More solution teaches how to work the equipment.
(click for image gallery)

Goodbye, small world. With the English language vulnerable to a long-term decline along with the U.S. dollar, the value of your home and your 401(k), there has never been a better time to think about learning a foreign language. And with broadband Internet, rich-media technology, and Web 2.0 design, the language-learning process itself has never been easier -- or more fun!

OK, I'll Do It. Where Do I Start?

If you were to join a gym for the first time in years after a long period of sedentary behavior, would you invent a random circuit from one machine to another, or would you hire a personal trainer? Unless you know what you're doing, get help.

The same holds true for learning a language. You can find all manner of free Web sites devoted to teaching you one aspect of language learning or another. But if you're new or just rusty, you'd be best-served with professional guidance to start you off with a solid routine, lest you end up with the linguistic equivalent of huge biceps and a flabby gut.


If you're a motivated learner with commitments that prevent you from attending live classes, try an online course. The venerable Berlitz offers its Virtual Classroom that mirrors its classroom approach with scheduled one-on-one lessons in French, German, Italian, Spanish, or other languages by arrangement ($2,800 tuition, $425 materials plus S&H); or in groups of 2-4 to choose from any of the preceding languages, Russian, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, or Japanese ($1,199 tuition, $250 materials plus S&H). Classes meet twice weekly for 10 weeks. Or, a five-session "Berlitz Ticket To…" starter course in French and Italian can give you the basics ($175, downloadable materials). All classes are held real-time.

Rosetta Stone teaches vocabulary using photos and voice-overs.
(click for image gallery)

Rosetta Stone

The other big name in language learning, particularly if you visit malls and airports, is Rosetta Stone. The winning appeal of Rosetta Stone's CD-ROM software stems from its smooth interface and integration of images with words. The approach, labeled "dynamic immersion," conveys the meaning of new vocabulary using photography with native language voice-over, without translations. Watch the demo to get a sense of how it works -- and to learn a few words in Turkish. The software also includes audio recording and speech recognition capabilities. You can buy the CD-ROMs (from $209 for Level 1 to $499 for the Levels 1-3 bundle) or purchase a subscription to Rosetta Stone Online ($109.95 for 3 months, $159.95 for 6 months, $259.95 for 1 year) for the same experience through your browser.

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