Recently we came across an online language learning site that has intrigued us. LinguaVille describes its approach as "National Curriculum Language Learning," aligning itself with the national curricula of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and India, as well as the K-12 syllabi across the United States.
We had recently compared Duolingo and Babbel and were interested in finding out how you can learn with LinguaVille.
At this time you can learn six languages: English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, and Spanish. You can set any of these languages as your native language and one of the others as your target language.
When we contacted LinguaVille and indicated an interest in reviewing the program, we were kindly given a free registration and access to Spanish and French, as the target language for English speakers.
I opted for Spanish, since it's the language I'm learning at the moment and the one I'm least proficient in.
The Village Map
You'll find the map by clicking on your name, once you've registered.
This colorful map (see above) lies at the center of the LinguaVille program and shows the language village. Click on the various buildings to get into them.
First, explore what's there: the Library for dictionaries; the Hospital is a helpline for dealing with concerns; the Travel Center for phrases to practice; the Trophy Shop for earned points and awards; the Playground for games. Then, you'll want to head to the School. That's where your structured learning will take place.
Two Introductory Sections:
Class 1: Here, you can learn or review the basics, such as letters of the alphabet, accented letters, numbers, days, parts of the day, meals, clothing, and parts of the body.
Beginners: In this section, you'll find 1000 basic words which you can learn flashcard-style through pictures that are first associated with their sound. You'll then see the written words in your native and target languages. Clearly, you can do this section in stages, and come back any time.
Three Levels of Difficulty/Proficiency
The best way for a self-learner to proceed is to follow the program in the order that it's presented. You can, of course, start from whatever level of proficiency that you have.
In each of the levels - Standard, Intermediate, and Advanced - you'll learn and self-test yourself on material used within the national curriculum. As expected, the content becomes increasingly sophisticated.
What makes this program efficient (I tried out my intermediate Spanish) is that you learn interactively and get immediate feed-back.
Every level has a series of fun and challenging target-language exercises. You can do each of these exercises also as a test.
- In "Multiple Choice," you're asked a question or given a brief task in your target language. As your response, you click on one of the choices, which are also in your target language. I loved using just Spanish and after a while found that I wasn't translating at all.
- In "Word Order," you're asked to rearrange a series of words into a specific order. The order may be written-out numbers from high to low, the days of the week in sequence, events in chronological order, a sequence of phrases to make a correct sentence. Again, the question is given to you in your target language.
- The exercise "Fill in the Words" shows you a short text with six gaps. From a group of words below the text, you choose the words that fit into the context. For this, you really have to understand what the short passage is about.
- For "Cloze" (or "reading closure"), you again fill in six gaps of a short text, but this time you have to come up with the correct words yourself. You're not given any choices. Needless to say, this is a challenging exercise.
- The "Verb" exercise gives you a verb and a paradigm skeleton, which you fill in with the correct tense that's required. The practice is straightforward and very useful. Who doesn't need to review verb forms?
- "Text Adventure" shows you a paragraph of text with a brief storyline or scenario. You then select the correct statement that's related to it. To pick the right one, you'll need to read the passage very closely.
- Finally, in "Dictation," you'll hear short passages of text, which you then have to write out with correct spelling and punctuation. I found this the hardest exercise of all because the texts are read at normal speed. I had to redo a lot of them.
Travel Center Phrases and Playground
On the central map of the "Village," you can click on the Travel Center to learn and review the phrases of the different School levels in another format. Here, the phrases (over 52, 000 of them) are arranged according to various categories (such as Business Travel, Directions, the Office, etc.), and sub-categories (such as Food, Meal Times, School Subjects, etc.)
Three different exercises (and tests) help you master the phrases. You first learn the meaning, then write the phrase after just hearing it (with correct punctuation and grammar), and finally translate it.
When you click on the "Playground" (see picture), you'll find various games, such as "Beat the Clock," "Anagram," "Matching," "Word Search," etc., to review vocabulary.
Four Things I Enjoy About LinguaVille
- Online, interactive learning. I've become an online-learning junkie. I love learning a language by seeing and hearing words and phrases, and practicing speaking and writing. I also enjoy learning and testing myself with a variety of exercises that put language into context and give me immediate feedback.
- Extensive, challenging content. With its 1000 basic words, 52 000 practical phrases, text passages that become increasingly more challenging, LinguaVille provides a large amount of structured content. A motivated and disciplined learner can significantly raise his or her level of target-language proficiency.
- Doing exercises within the target language. I particularly like the many exercises in the Standard, Intermediate, and Advanced Levels that stay within the target language. They have an immersive quality that is quite effective.
- The gamified features of LinguaVille, which include certificates, medals of achievement, and cups that you're awarded as you progress through the program.
Comparison to other online language learning sites
The other sites I know well are GamesforLanguage, Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone.
Compared to these sites, navigating LinguaVille is not simple. In addition, some of the instructions and descriptions seem overly complicated.
Although you're encouraged to follow the progress of exercises and levels at LinguaVille, you can easily skip around - which for some learner might be confusing, but for others a more fun, freer way to learn. Also, it's not entirely clear how the thousands of phrases in the Travel Center are integrated into the learning sequence. They seem to be phrases, passages, scenarios, etc. collected from the entire program. You can study them separately, use them as dictation, or play them as tests.
With GamesforLanguage and Duolingo you have to follow the lesson sequence. You cannot skip ahead. In both programs you can redo past lessons, and in Duolingo you can “practice your weak skills.” Perhaps it's the simple and intuitive design here which gets self-learners addicted.
Linguaville is not a free program. A free trial is available with school membership (or with a voucher or promotion code).
The cost of a single-user subscription for 3 months is US$99, a 3-month family subscription US$198. 1-month, 6-month, and yearly subscriptions are also available. (School subscriptions, which add a Teacher Dashboard and an authoring option, are being priced on request. )
These rates put Linguaville at the higher end of online language-learning subscriptions.
If you're a home user and are motivated and disciplined enough to learn and practice regularly, LinguaVille could well be worth it. With its large number of texts, exercises, and tests, it is a content-rich program that can keep you learning for a good while.
LinguaVille could also be a good program for homeschoolers who have to meet the language learning goals of national curricula. These include proficiency in all four skills, especially communication skills. The national curriculum aims for England can be seen here.
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.