I have been using the free version of Livemocha for 10 months or so. I haven’t been using it much, but I’ll try to give somekind of short review. This is the first part, I’ll make another soon, because there are lot’s of functionalities, and one post doesn’t cover the whole thing. Also, Livemocha has renewed recently a lot, so I need to cover the new things separetely.
Livemocha is a community for language learning, with some free study material. It has the same look and feel as any other social network, like Facebook, Orkut or Google+. You can have your own profile with a photo and basic information and add friends. Still, there are no communities, and you cannot write statuses.
The main idea of Livemocha community is “to help and get helped”. By helping others you can earn “tokens” which can be used to buy lessons inside Livemocha.
Online study material in Livemocha
Livemocha promises courses in 38 languages. List of languages can be found here. There are basically 2 types of exercises: computer assisted vocabulary drills and user powered assignments. Livemocha started a co-operation with some big publishing companies, such as HarperCollins, who is famous for language learning series, and is also a publisher for Pimsleur (there will be a new article about Pimsleur later), and some other publishing companies as well. This means, that Livemocha has now lot’s of new material, such as videos. The most recent news are, that Livemocha has agreed to merge with Rosetta Stone (I just received the email while writing this review).
Those new materials have been added only to some languages, such as French, English and German. The minor languages, like Finnish, have still the old, partially user generated content. I have been studying Frech with the old material for some time, and since I bought the paid membership recently (“the gold key”), I’ll try out the new material and write a new report about that soon. For now I’ll review only the “old” material, especially Finnish material.
The material gives you the basic vocabulary. It has a phrase in the target language, a picture, a translation in your language and an audio in the target language. After you have gone trough the words and phrases, you’ll have an exercise; audio, pictures and phrases are mixed, and you must try to find out which is which. After that you’ll be asked to write a short text based on the phares you just learned. This will be sent to a native speaker to be corrected. Most of them work on a voluntary basis (and receive “tokens” for that), but there are also some hired professional teachers.The final task is to record a short audio of your speach (no need to be shy!), and this is sent to a native speaker as well.
The computer assisted exercises are quite simple, but useful. I’ll get the basic phrases quite easily and the audio gives you the pronunciation. The problem is, that there are lots of small mistakes: the examples have been translated directly from language to another, and quite often the translations are not interchangeable.
For example, in the Finnish lesson, there’s an example “Minä olen”, which should mean “I am from…” (or “I come from…). Of course, without the ending -sta (“minä olen Suomesta), it doesn’t really mean that. Without the ending you are saying “I am the Finland”. Another mistake is in the audio exercise introduction. It gives you this example “Olen (hyvä/huono/loistava)”. It took me a long time to figure out, what does this actually mean. Because in Finnish, if I say “Olen hyvä…” it means, that I’m good at something, or that I’m a good person. If you want to say “I’m good” in the sense, that you feel good, and you are in a good mood, you say “Minulle kuuluu hyvää” or “Minulla menee hyvin” (just like in Frech you say “Je vais bien”, not “Je suis bien).
The self study material doesn’t really give you any explanations. This is the never ending debate how much grammar you shoud actually study when you are learning a new language. Livemocha doesn’t really give you any, so I recommend to use it along a good grammar book.
On the other had, it gives you good amount of basic vocabulary in 10 units. Each of them contain 5 lessons.
The essential part of Livemocha is not the material, but the community. I didn’t find how many many members Livemocha has, but it’s Facebook page has over 500 000 followers. The users are very active, and it’s easy to find somebody to chat with. The only problem is, that the search function is quite limited, and it’s not possible to go browse the members like on other sites. The system suggests you some language partners, and you can add them as friends, so you can find them later.
The chat board is somewhat limited, and could be better, but you can always ask other to add you in Skype. Apparently, there are quite few Finnish speakers, or at least fewer than demanded.
You can find me on Livemocha here. You can add me as a friend, if you like, but unfortunately I’m quite busy, so I cannot promise that I will review your submissions very actively.