A new way to learn languages

If you watch any amount of cable TV, you quickly get tired of those ads for Rosetta Stone, a language learning software tool that is hawked incessantly or so it seems. Priced at about $250 for a single language tutorial, it can be a pricey way to learn a new language in the privacy of your own PC.

Now there is a better way, care of LangLearner.com. (Disclosure: I am an unpaid advisor to the company.) The Web site is brand new and offers a series of lessons that go among ten different languages, including Japanese, Chinese, and Greek. For a fixed monthly fee that can be as low as $10 a month, you can learn as much or as little as you'd like and not restrict yourself to just English-to-French pairing.

LangLearner also is packed with a variety of different learning methods so that you can benefit from the ones that resonate with the way that you learn. There are thirty different canned lessons, such as shopping at a store, talking about work, checking into a hotel, or ordering at a restaurant. The site also pulls in news feeds in your selected language, so you can develop your reading skills by looking at current events in the context of the language itself. You can also look up unfamiliar words with a dictionary while you are reading the news feed, a real time saver. You can hear the words spoken to you or see a picture to give you the right clues about what the word means. There is an online chat tool, so you can practice that way, and various games too.

There are some downsides. You'll need to first download Microsoft's Silverlight environment before you can use the site. And just ten languages have been set up initially; so there is plenty more work to do to widen its scope. But I think the site has a lot to offer, and you can sign up for a free trial or for a weekly site pass if you want to take it for a spin.

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