Useful Language Learning Apps

Trying to learn a less-common language (Turkish) in a country where there are few resources for that language (and no resources in my native language) I’ve turned increasingly to online content. Some more popular languages, like Chinese, have their own armory of online content and language apps. Turkish really doesn’t, so I’ve tried mainly the larger apps: Busuu, Lang-8, DuoLingo (no Turkish yet) Babbel, Anki and memrise.
The only app that I kept using after the first few times is memrise ( http://www.memrise.com/). Memrise is like a smarter game-oriented vocabulary.com. Users choose or create vocabulary lists, organized into sets or levels, and then get points to “grow their memory garden” by correctly choosing definitions when given the target word, writing the word when definition is given in English, or listening to audio and choosing the correct definition. The app keeps track of which vocabulary you have trouble with, and prompts you to review them (“water your memories”) at appropriate intervals. It’s not the fastest way to memorize vocabulary, but I’ve found it does help me remember words better, due to the synchronized prompting to review. Unlike my fellow Russian students at U C who used quizlet to memorize vocabulary right before tests, I don’t forget the words I’ve learned in a day.
Some things to note on the app:
– (Almost) all content is user-generated. This means that:
– Yay! You can create your own content! I’ve created lists from words that I haven’t quite memorized from my book. I can also choose from all other content uploaded by users. And, if I’ve already learned a word in a set, I can choose to “ignore” it, rather than endlessly repeat vocabulary I’ve already memorized. Being able to choose from others’ sets also greatly reduces the time that you have to put into creating flash card sets on other apps like Anki.
– There’s very little content regulation. So if a list-creator decides that “haki rengi” is “khaki, olive drab”, then I have to memorize it as such, and each time I’m
prompted with the Turkish, I have to input the strange English definition in the exact order given.
– There’s an over-reliance on English text. For learning concrete vocabulary, like names of household items, food, clothing and colors, pictures would suffice. And some sets are picture only, but most prompt with English. As with “khaki, olive drab” this means I sometimes find myself spending more time memorizing the exact English definitions. This also means that you get a question wrong for spelling it wrong *in English*. I know what “galibarda” means; I just struggle with correctly spelling “fuchsia”.
– I’ve found that memrise is most useful for words I’ve already seen in context (and generally know the use of, even if I haven’t committed them to memory yet) or for concrete vocabulary, thing like “hanger” and “chair” that can’t have subtle, double meanings. It is a vocabulary trainer – best supplemented by a decent textbook, and not a “course” meant to stand on its own.
– You can download sets! This means that you can play with memrise even when you don’t have access to Wifi or 3G, and memrise is a great activity for on the bus, in then car, or while you’re waiting for someone.

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