Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

LING-APP – A Review: Finnish, French, German, and much more

Ling Language app BannerA while ago we were approached by Ling-App about reviewing their language learning app. As we like to do, we spent some time using the program to understand how it works and to see how effective it is.

The Ling app has 60+ languages on its platform, many of them less commonly taught. So for me, it was a treat to choose a language I didn't know much about. I decided to focus on Finnish. The Finnish language has always intrigued me, and now, with an eye on visiting Finland in the fall of 2021, this was a perfect opportunity to learn some basics.

Besides learning Finnish, using English as the teaching language, I also looked at a couple of other languages on the app: Swedish and German, using Italian; English, using German. Peter did a number of lessons in Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish, using English and German as the teaching languages.

We'll do a general overview of the app, and wherever it fits, add a comment about the languages we tried out.

THE LING PLATFORM

The Ling app was built by Simya Solutions, Ltd. using state of the art technology (such as React and React Native).

You can download Ling on the App Store for your iPhone, iPad, and on the Play Store for your Android phone, tablet. There's also a web version: https://ling-app.com/

Ling works on the freemium model: eight lessons of each language are free. For further lessons you'll need to get a subscription (either per month, per year, or for lifetime). For specific prices, check the individual apps.

THE LING APP SETUP

The setup is logical, easy to use and intuitive. It's identical for all of the languages.
There are five (5) Levels of difficulty:
1. Beginner
2. Intermediate
3. Upper Intermediate
4. Advanced
5. Expert

Each Level has ten (10) themed Units.Ling Language app Finnish Unit 1
For example, the Beginner Level in each of the languages consists of:
1. Introduction
2. Basic Sentences
3. Numbers and Family
4. Numbers and Counting
5. Activities
6. Food & Tastes
7. Vegetables & Fruits
8. In the Café
9. Eating Out
10 Where is it?

Each themed Unit has four (4) Lessons. The new vocabulary items (see examples below) are all used in a sentence, which you'll also learn and be tested on.
In the Introduction Unit, you'll find the following 16 vocabulary items:
• a woman, a man, a girl, a boy
• twenty-five, twelve, fourteen, forty
• USA, Germany, China, Japan
• English, German, Chinese, Japanese

Gamified Tasks

Ling Language app: Finnish Match the cardYou practice the new vocabulary and sentences with gamified exercises. They all have audio and give you hints if you need them. The tasks are short and fun to do and function as quick self-tests. You'll check each answer to see if it's correct.
The exercises and their content are identical for each language:
• Match the card. In the screenshot I first chose the wrong word for "roommate" (red)
• What did you hear?
• Sort this Sentence.
• Translate this sentence.
• Conversation (with known vocabulary in the context of some unknown words).
• Fill the gaps (in a simplified version of the conversation).

Other Activities

You Have Learned:
At the end of the lesson, you'll see "You Have Learned": a list of the words/phrases (with a simple image) and the sentences, as they were introduced at the start of the lesson.

Review It All:
You'll see this on top of every unit and it means a review of the full unit, i.e. all 4 lessons. With the review, you'll go through flashcards with audio to review the 16+ vocabulary items and sentences. You'll also go through the 4 dialogues in the sequence that you learned them.

Courses that have grammar explanations also have a review of the 4 grammar cards from the unit.

Speaking:
Ling Language App Speaking Recording screenshotFor the speaking exercise that comes with each unit on the phone and tablet app, you can first listen to the native speaker or read off a word/phrase or sentence.

The speech recognition function works pretty well, as I could test with German. Swallowing my Viennese accent, I got a "perfect" score at 100% each time. Same with English.

With Finnish, I was less successful. The first sentence I got for the first Unit was long and looked complicated. I got a totally deserved "poor" rating, with 26% accuracy.

Exam:
The exam at the end of each unit consists of about 10 tasks that include:
• Pick the translation of a word or sentence into your target language, multiple choice.
• Pick the translation of a target language word or sentence into your native language, multiple choice.
• Sort the sentence.

Chatbot:
In some of the Units, you can go to the Chatbox and participate in a conversation. You either tap on a response, or just read it off. The language should be familiar to you if you've done the unit. It's a fun way to try out the language you've been learning.

VOCABULARY

What you learn on Ling is basic, practical, everyday vocabulary. Each unit introduces between 16-24 new words (that is, for the languages we tried).

You won't be dealing with sentences that are weird or cute. (Though, some sentences are less practical than others. In the 'Swedish for Italian' Unit Dove/Where?, I came across the sentence: Boken är under jordgubbelådan. Il libro è sotto la scatola delle fragole. = The book is under the box of strawberries. This is probably a sentence I'll never use.)

I like the way vocabulary is introduced: a word/phrase together with a sentence using it. So, you always have some context.

The conversation at the end of each lesson includes known words, but also words and sentences that were not taught. But they help widen your experience of the target language and you do get translations and audio.

The practice games all follow the same pattern and sequence. They are easy to do and for each of your answers you get feedback. You can request a "hint", which will make it even easier to get the answer.

You can enter the course at any lesson that you choose, and skip around as much as you want (except within a lesson itself). Also, you're not required to stick to the sequence of Units as they are presented. That's an upside.

AUDIO

For each item you learn, you have audio (recordings of native speakers). These you can play back as often as you want, either at normal speed or slowed down. The voices we heard were very pleasant.

We often play the audio of a sentence several times, both after the speaker and also with the speaker, shadowing so to speak.

GRAMMAR

It's our impression from the several languages we tried that some languages on Ling have no or very limited grammar explanations. That's probably true for the less common languages. Finnish certainly doesn't have any grammar explanations at this time.

Since all the courses teach the same vocabulary and topics and don't focus on building language-specific grammar patterns, you'll find yourself just memorizing stuff at first. That even goes for a language that does have grammar explanations, such as German.

PRICING

Subscriptions to the app may seem a little high, especially for languages that have lots of other resources, some of them totally free.

Still, when you compare the cost of the Ling app to paying for individual tutoring, the yearly Pro subscription at 4 USD/month looks like a good deal. This is especially true for languages for which resources are scarce.

WHAT WE LIKE

• You can learn many less commonly taught languages.
• It's fun to learn with Ling.
• Navigating the app is easy and intuitive.
• It's easy to replay individual audios.
• It's easy to repeat a lesson.
• You can skip around if you want
• The vocabulary is practical and useful.
• You can get reminder emails and keep your streak.
• Words/phrases are always taught together with a sentence using them.
• The native-speaker audios we tested are usually of excellent quality.
• The Chatbox is a fun way to try out conversations.

OTHER POINTS TO CONSIDER

• In the languages we know well, we noticed some errors, but you can flag them (top right flag image).

• In the Chatbox, you can choose between responses, but some of them don't make sense in the context.

• The identical setup and topics ignores some of the cultural specifics, e.g. in food, activities, customs, etc.
Ling App German Unit 1For example, in German you would not ask a person their age right after you've met them. It may be somewhat awkward in other languages, too.
This is the dialogue in the second lesson:
A: Excuse me. What's your name?
B: My name is Tom. What's your name?
A: My name is Mary. How old are you?
B: I am 25 years old. How old are you?
A: I am 40 years old. Nice to meet you.
B: Nice to meet you too.

• For languages with different sounds systems, pronunciation tips would be helpful. We didn't find any yet for the languages we tried.

• You get little or no help with understanding grammar patterns, e.g. sentence structures, cases, conjugations, grammatical endings, typical idiomatic phrases. A good example is Finnish. It has 15 noun cases (indicated by its suffix), 6 of which are locative cases (for which English uses prepositions). Gradual introduction of these with an explanation would have have made learning easier.

• From Beginner to Expert - and probably because of the strict focus on vocabulary and topics - the progression in language complexity is somewhat uneven. Sometimes sentences are long and complicated, sometimes they are surprisingly simple and easy.

• Complex grammar items are sometimes bundled. In the Expert category for example, the units Wishes 1 and Wishes II, are used to introduce the future, conditional, and subjunctive verb forms.
Ling App French Unit 50: revenirFor example the English: “I wish she would come back to me.” (Unit 50) has the following forms in:
French: J'aimerais qu'elle revienne vers moi. (conditional and subjunctive)
Italian: Spero che torni indietro da me. (indicative and subjunctive)
Spanish: Desearía que ella volviese a mí. (conditional and subjunctive)
German: Ich wünschte, sie würde zu mir zurückkommen. (subj II preterite and subj II future)

You'll also notice that  “I wish” is actually only used as indicative in Italian (spero), but actually translated as the conditional “I'd wish” in French, Spanish and German.

• A few different conditional and subjunctive forms of the new verbs are introduced in Unit 50. However, they are certainly not enough to learn their conjugations nor are there any explanations why and when they are used. A grammar book would therefore be quite advisable for any serious learner.

• For the web version use the Google browser is recommended, as the audio features may not work on all browsers.

Conclusion

Ling will not be the app or language program which will get you to fluency in a hurry – no app or online program really does.

The program does work well for beginners and intermediate learners or those who use it as an addition to another learning effort or method.

Its 50 lessons are well structured and fun to do, with useful and practical vocabulary, although additional grammar and pronunciation help may be needed.

Especially for languages that are less commonly spoken and taught, the Ling App platform offers some great resources.

The seamless interchangeability of target and teaching languages lets language lovers also experiment with different combinations and understand language differences, and use one target language to learn another.

Disclosure: We added Ling App to our Partner's list. For the above review we received a free 2-month subscription. Should you decide to subscribe to the Ling, Gamesforlanguage may receive a small commission which will help us keep our own site ad-free.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"Think in Italian" - Updating our “Ripeti con me!” Review

Fluent. Simple. website logoUpdating our earlier “Ripeti con me!” review requires a clarification: If you are looking for “Fluent.Simple” - you'll be taken right away to "Think in Italian" - the new name of the site. (That's why we've modified the title and some descriptions.)         

Our Update: Becoming fluent in another language you love is very good feeling!

Some time ago, we wrote a review of “Ripeti con me!”, an audio course for boosting your Italian speaking and listening skills. It is now available in two versions: online, and as a downloadable MP3.

When its founder, Stefano Lodola, contacted us about updating our review, I was actually still practicing with his downloadable course “Ripeti con me!”, while preparing lunch or taking walks.

However, I quickly realized that Stefano has made major changes. He has expanded the original audio course; he is continually adding reading and listening materials grouped together as "Leggi con me!"; and you'll also find a large number of free resources to accelerate your learning.

A personalized dashboard will help you plan and monitor your learning path. Everything is now accessible online on his new site Think in Italian.

Thus, the audio course “Ripeti con me!” is part of a much larger offering of "comprehensible input" for learning Italian. That means, you'll find plenty of language material that's on your level and which you can understand from context, even though you might not know all the words and grammar patterns.

The new material on the site - described further below - supports and enhances what I really like about the original audio course.

Stefano Lodola is an Italian polyglot, language teacher and translator, who now speaks 12 languages. As I mentioned in my earlier review, he's also an opera singer with a wonderful voice. You'll hear that in the lessons of the "Ripeti con me!" Italian audio course.

Learning Italian online with Think in Italian will have you choose different plans:

Ripeti con me!

The course Ripeti con me! is still the core of "Think in Italian". Ripeti con me! page logoThere are now 215 lessons, instead of the original 45.

The simple and effective lesson format has not changed, but with the increased number of lessons, you'll acquire much more vocabulary and become familiar with a much wider range of grammatical patterns.

Click HERE for our detailed description of the lesson format. To try the lessons out for yourself, make use of Stefano's free 7-day Trial.

The goal of the audio course is to get you to think in Italian right away, and to make speaking increasingly automatic. That's what fluency is about, right?

Leggi con me!

Italian Short Stories

These stories are for beginners and intermediate learners and are read by a native speaker at a slow but natural pace. You'll have a transcript as well as an English translation.

One advantage of learning with stories is that it trains you to guess meaning from context, which is pretty much how we learn a language in an immersion situation.

News in slow Italian web pageNews in Slow Italian

We all live in a world that bombards us with news. We read news and talk about it on a daily basis.

But news stories use vocabulary and grammar patterns that are often different from fictional or personal stories that we read and tell. 

So, part of being fluent also means understanding and speaking about local and global news events.

Italian Conversations

Mastering daily conversations is a fluency skill of its own. In conversations, native Italian speakers often use extra little filler words (beh, boh, allora, dai, tipo, cioè, insomma, etc) that act as conversational bridges or show that you're listening.

And they use specific sounds (mmh, ehm, uhm) that break a silence or signal a hesitation or reaction to what's being said.
To sound natural, you need to learn to understand these filler words and sounds and use them yourself.

With the conversations, you'll learn plenty of conversational vocabulary, but you'll also learn how to use those little important filler words and sounds while talking.

The Italian conversations are for beginners and intermediate speakers, and come with slow audio, transcripts and English translation.

Free "Think in Italian" Resources

Italian Grammar Lessons

Whether you hate it or love it, grammar is "the system or structure of a language", as defined in the Oxford Dictionary. You'll find that becoming aware of basic grammar patterns will boost your fluency.

The good news is that when we learn a language, we start to absorb its grammar patterns automatically. Kids do that already very early with their native language.

Doing grammar exercises is simply a way of learning to figure out how a language hangs together. The audio course "Ripeti con me!" introduces a basic grammar pattern in each lesson. It's a great way to internalize grammar and make it automatic.

The section with Italian grammar lessons just gives you some rules and explanations if you want them.

Online Italian TestFluent. Simple. Online test page

To check your Italian Level with immediate feedback, you can take a quick test. That too is a resource for learning and improving your Italian.

Learn Italian (a Polyglot's Tips for Mastering Italian)

The Think in Italian Blog provides a wealth of hacks, resources and inspiration to language learners. Topics include: How to talk about your family in Italian, Italian curse words, Learn foreign words with these 4 simple mnemonics, Speaking practice: talk to yourself, and many more.

On this page you should also check out the bottom section entitled: "How to Master Italian? With these tips!"
You'll see a list of over 50 language learning tips and further resources from fellow polyglots.

Fluent. Simple. Dashboard screenshotThe Dashboard

Once you've created an account and signed in, you can go to your personal dashboard. There you'll see all the content you signed up for and any free resources.

The dashboard shows you what lesson you were on last, so you can continue where you left off.

You'll see any lessons and readings that you've marked as completed, and you can bookmark any content you want to track. You can quickly check your account, and access the FAQ's and further support.

3 Monthly Subscription Plans for Learning:

(Prices for products on the "Think in Italian' site are in US currency. Click HERE for the current prices and use Promo Code G4LFS for a 10% discount, forever.)

Ripeti con me! Audio course only (215 online audio lessons, 6,500 useful sentences, 70 hrs of audio)
Note: Ripeti con me! is also available as one-time purchase in the form of an MP3 file to download.
Leggi con me! 300+ Bilingual readings with slow audio (short stories, news, conversations)
Impara con me! Full access to both Ripeti con me! and Leggi con me!

In my experience, you become fluent in a language only if you engage with it consistently and make an effort to speak frequently. It's great, of course, to have a Italian speaker as a frequent conversation partner.

But what also works really well for improving your fluency is "shadowing" a native speaker. You can do that, for example, by listening to the Italian - spoken sentences, conversations, short stories, news pieces - and repeating what's being said right along with the speaker or a split-second after the speaker says it.

I'm currently fluent in four languages, and find that I'm well on my way to becoming fluent in Italian, too. My practice with Ripeti con me! is clearly helping me, as are the various techniques that polyglots commonly use, and which Stefano describes so well on his site.

It took me a while to navigate through Stefano's site to discover the many resources and understand which parts are fee-based and which parts are free for all.

A 7-day trial with daily engagement is probably the best way to become familiar with all that's available.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments right here below!

Disclosure: "Think in Italian" is one of our partner sites. If you use the discount code G4LFS you will receive a 10% discount forever on all products (online or downloadable) on "Think in Italian". Gamesforlanguage will receive a small commission, which will let us keep our site free of Google ads and other advertisements. As an affiliate, we were given one-month full access to what is now "Think in Italian".

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Ripeti con me - Learning Italian - A Review

FluentSimple: Ripeti con me logo

[updated 8/2021]
Learning Italian? Check out "Ripeti con me!" (which is the Italian audio course offered on the site Think in Italian)

Note: We originally reviewed the "Ripeti con me" audio course 11/2018. more recently, we wrote an update of this course - which had been greatly expanded and moved online - as part of Stefano Lodola's new site "Think in Italian".

When Stefano wrote to ask us about reviewing his Italian audio course "Ripeti con me!", we were happy to try it out.

Stefano is an Italian Polyglot, language teacher and translator who speaks twelve languages. He's also an opera singer, and as you'll hear on the audio, he has a clear and pleasant voice.

The description of the "Ripeti con me!" audio course and the method behind it intrigued me.

I've always enjoyed learning a language with good audio lessons. Before our stay in Italy several years ago - my husband and I completed the 3 Pimsleur Italian audio-only courses (no text), a total of 90 lessons.

We were by no means fluent when we arrived in Rome, but we felt confident enough to use our Italian on a daily basis as we explored the city during our 5-month stay. Learning with the Pimsleur audio courses sharpened our pronunciation and gave us a good core vocabulary that we easily built on. (For full disclosure: before 2011, I was an author and development editor at Pimsleur for several of their courses.)

Personally, I've been looking for an Italian course to refresh and boost my Italian speaking skills. So, I am not only quite familiar with audio courses but also definitely motivated to try out a new approach and new materials.

Stefano gave us access to 15 downloadable Lessons of "Ripeti con me!", so I could review his method and the course format.

THE COURSE BASICS

In 11/2018, "Ripeti con me" had 60 Lessons in audio format that you could download.
Now in 8/2021, "Ripeti con me!" has 250 lessons, which are available online as part of a monthly or yearly membership plan, in addition to a one-time MP3 download. The format has stayed the same.

• Each Lesson is made up of 30 basic sentences, spoken at a natural pace.
• For each audio Lesson there are three files, Part A, Part B and Part C, to be done in sequence.
• The three files have you practice the same 30 sentences in three different ways.
• The sentences contain useful, conversational vocabulary and common, idiomatic grammar patterns.
• Spaced Repetition of vocabulary and grammar patterns is built into the course.
• Sentences come up again and again, but each time with small changes that show how the language works.
• The sentences and their translations can also be downloaded as a PDF file, but that is optional.
• The course is for Total Beginners to Intermediate Learners who want to improve their speaking skills.
• In his Introduction, Stefano has detailed instructions on how to learn with his course.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME 

AUDIO FORMAT

I love learning with audio. I agree with Stefano that spoken and written language are processed differently by the brain.

Woman exercising listeningWhen you just listen, your brain connects directly to the sound without needing to decode the letters.

When I do a lesson for the first time, it's really effective to just sit with eyes closed while repeating and "shadowing" (i.e. speaking along with the speaker, or a split second behind him). 
That way I can also pay attention to the small but meaningful sounds that connect the sentence: prepositions, negatives, endings, agreements, etc.

With Audio, you can easily take the course with you and listen and repeat on the go, while walking, jogging, cooking, waiting for a bus, etc. 

PDF DOWNLOAD 

Ripeti con me: Screenshot Lesson 3 PDF
The sentences and their translations can all be downloaded in PDF. Reviewing the text is optional.

Still, I've found it very useful to look at the written sentences after doing the Audio.
The sentences and their translations can all be downloaded in PDF. Reviewing the text is optional.

That's because living in a world of the printed word, I automatically make up my own mental spelling of any unfamiliar word I hear or see, no matter what the language. I might as well learn the correct form.

Besides, I love to read. For any language that I learn, it's my goal to learn to read fluently (online news, blog posts, articles, stories, novels).

Reading is one of the most powerful ways to learn additional vocabulary and grammar patterns, and stay interested in the language. 

SENTENCES AND SPACED REPETITION

In "Ripeti con me!", sentences (not individual words) are the basic building blocks. You learn and practice all vocabulary in the context of everyday, useful sentences.

By listening and repeating many sentences that use and reshuffle basic vocabulary, you become more and more familiar with typical phrases and idioms.

The application of Spaced Repetition in "Ripeti con me!" is very good. As you constantly learn to construct new, slightly changed sentences, you automatically internalize Italian vocabulary and grammar patterns.

The English translations, because they are often not literal, help you to think in Italian. For example:

Come sto con gli occhiali? - How do I look in my glasses? (literally: How am I with the glasses?)

Come fai senza macchina? - How can you live without a car? (literally: How do you make it without car?)

THREE TYPES OF PRACTICE

Practicing the same 30 sentences of the lesson in three ways is quite effective, especially if you repeat/say the Italian out loud.
Part A: After the English cue, listen and repeat/shadow the Italian sentence. (For meaning, pronunciation of words, correct intonation.)
Part B: After the English cue, say the sentence in Italian in the pause that follows. (To produce the Italian and check if you're correct.)
Part C: Shadow each of the Italian sentences. (No English. To mimic the speaker and learn to think in Italian.)

I like the technique of shadowing when I'm learning a language. I use it often when listening to audio books or going over sentences in a course.

As mentioned, shadowing means speaking along with the speaker, or a split second behind. It takes a little practice. But once you've got the knack, you'll improve the rhythm, intonation, and pronunciation of your Italian.

Don't be afraid to talk over the native speaker's voice, you'll find that you can listen and talk at the same time. 

GRAMMAR PATTERNS

grammar books stackedI don't really know if my brain is wired for grammar, but it's definitely wired for language patterns.

Listening and repeating many sentences that have small shifts in pattern works really well for me.

I noticed that as I practiced, more and more phrases and idioms became familiar again and I would start using them automatically. (As Italian is not a new language for me, it's also likely that I notice these patterns more than a beginner.)

Each lesson focuses on a specific grammar point, built into the sentences. (The specific grammar items are in bold on the PDF.) Here are some examples of grammar points:

In Lesson 1 there are many sentences with present forms of the verb "essere" (to be).

In Lesson 2 the sentences focus of the present forms of "avere" (to have), including common idioms with  "avere".

In Lesson 3, you practice number agreement (un gelato-due gelati), and adjective-noun agreement. (see photo in PDF section)
 
In Lesson 6, the sentences highlight the indefinite article forms: "un', un, una".

In Lesson 13, you practice sentences with "piacere": "mi piace/mi piacciono" (I like), "ti piace" (you like), "a Giulia non piace" (Giulia doesn't like), "a voi piace" (you-all like), etc.

A WELL-PACED COURSE 

It's recommended that you do a full Lesson a day. Because you're often reusing familiar vocabulary for new sentences, even a beginner can follow the pace. Still, if you don't feel ready to move on, you can easily repeat that Lesson the next day.

My spoken Italian is probably at a Low Intermediate level (while my listening comprehension and reading skills are better).
With "Ripeti con me!", I found I can really focus on practicing to speak in Italian. I'm happy with the improvement I've noticed.

COST

FluentSimple: Ripeti con me logoAs of 8/2021, "Ripeti con me!" audio course has 250 Lessons. You can access the audio course on a monthly or yearly plan as part of "Impara con me" (Learn with me). [Use  Promo Code G4LFS  to save 10%]

Click on the left logo for a YouTube playlist with the preview of a lesson.

You can also download the MP3 version of the full course (Lessons 1-250), or of any individual Level. Download includes a PDF script of the sentences. The Levels are: Total Beginner, A0-A1 (Lessons 1-50); Elementary, A2 (Lessons 51-100); Intermediate, B1 (Lessons 101-150); Upper Intermediate, B2 (Lessons 151-200); Advanced, C1 (Lessons 2001-250). [Use  Promo Code G4LFS  to save 10%]

FURTHER THOUGHTS

No program will teach you everything you want to achieve in a language. And a program can certainly not replace speaking regularly with native speakers, a trained tutor, or good conversation partners.

A real conversation is so much more than listening and repeating. You have to understand what the other person is saying, which includes all the non-verbal signals that are part of effective communication. Plus, as you're listening and decoding what's being said, your brain is also working on an answer.

Still, good programs offer you the chance to practice specific foreign language skills. The 15 Lessons of Fluent Simple, which I did according to instructions, have clearly boosted my basic speaking fluency.

Beyond that, one can always find more ways to learn with a good program. "Ripeti con me" is no exception. Once you've gone through the course, you can go back and do other things with it. It keeps the material fresh.

MEMORIZE

For some people memorizing works. Once you've gone through the course as suggested, you can take ten sentences, for example, and just keep them in your head for the day.

Say them to yourself from time to time, as you walk to work, take a break, or take the bus home. It's a good way to become totally familiar with certain sentence patterns.

DICTATION

I've always enjoyed dictation and have used it a lot in my language teaching and learning. In "Ripeti con me!", Part C of each Lesson is perfect for this. Write down the sentence as you hear it, and stop the audio if you need to.

At the end, you can check what you've written against the correct sentences on the PDF file. For one, dictation strengthens the sound-letter correlation. Plus for me, writing something down by hand helps me remember.

WRITING

Journal writing for learning a language has become very popular. Even as a beginner, keep a daily journal by using the sentences that you've learned. Or you can even try out new variations of some of sentences.

Do this just from your head, without looking up anything. Because of the many-sentence structure of the course, you'll have lots of possible sentences ready. It's a great start for beginning to write.

Italian is a wonderful language to learn, and you can do it at any age. Think about Italian culture and history, Italy's historic cities, villages, and beautiful countryside. And there's Italian music, and the world of Italian food, fashion and movies.

Besides, learning a language is good for your brain and learning Italian may inspire you to visit. Go for it!

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments right here below!

Disclosure: We added "Ripeti con me!" to our Partner's list. Should you decide to purchase "Ripeti con me!" with the forever Promo Code G4LFS  to save 10%, Gamesforlanguage will receive a small commission - at no cost to you - which will help us keep our own site ad-free.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"Lea Knows" - Easy Flashcards - A Review

Lea-knows - flashcard icon of app(Updated March 2021) We are sorry to tell you that Léa-Knows flashcards are no longer active.

Do you sometimes wish that Google would automatically create easy Flashcards for foreign words you look up on the internet?

Well, here's an app that does exactly that. It's called Léa-Knows and is now available in the iOS and Android app stores.

I was happy to hear that the Léa Knows app was upgraded in February 2018 to include support for translations by Linguee - an online editorial dictionary, and search engine that indexes international websites. 

I've been using the app for several months now, at home when reading (in one of my 6 European languages) and when traveling abroad (lately to French Switzerland). When I write in a new word, the app automatically creates a Flashcard. I can then review words and phrases whenever I want to.

First, a quick look at the story behind the application in the words of its creator, Sébastien Marion, a French tech entrepreneur.

The Story Behind the App

"This app was really created as a result of frustration. When I arrived in Spain, I would constantly type things into Google Translate and then forget them a minute later. In this way, it becomes hard to improve. The alternative of copying words inside a flashcard is too impractical and time-consuming when in the middle of a real conversation.

So, Léa Knows is really ideal for these situations: it works just like Google Translate (even uses the GT API), but the kicker is that it creates flashcards out of every search and you can practice these flashcards with ease when you have some free time.

The app is named after my daughter Léa, now 20 months old who is growing up with a French father, a Taiwanese mum (speaks Chinese), parents that communicate between them in English, living in Barcelona where the official languages are Catalan and Spanish. I thought that it would be fitting to name it after her."

Translations

Léa Knows uses GoogleTranslate for numerous languages. Linguee seems to be more limited. But for the translations it has, Linguee gives you more information. 

For Google, I counted over a hundred languages and it looks like Google cross-translates between all of them. And, the Google translation function seems to be improving. As the New York Times reported on December 14, 2016, Google Translate's machine-translation service had "suddenly and immeasurably improved" with Google's introduction of Neural Machine Translation (NMT). 

Linguee supports translation between seven European languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Polish, and the list is growing. The advantage of Linguee is that you'll get more than just one translation, plus grammatical information (noun gender, adjective forms, etc.). For example, the English word "street" will give you for French: rue (f), route (f), ruelle (f).

You can easily switch back between Google and Linguee. To reset for both options, tap the yellow Tab after you've cleared the "Enter text" space.  For a translation on Léa Knows, you pull down one Tab for the language to translate from, and another Tab for the target language. 

On the Tabs of the app, you'll find English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese on top. The rest of the languages from Afrikaans to Zulu follow in alphabetic order. To see what one can do with Léa Knows, I tried out some translations for languages I know well and also for languages that I don't know well yet.

Words, phrases, as well as shorter sentences seem to work well with Google.

Examples

• Italian: pomeriggio - French: après-midi
• German: nicken - English: nod
• Dutch: levenslang - Spanish: durante todo la vida
• French: trouver - Catalan: trobar
• English: lunch - Danish: frokost
• English: Hello, how are you? - French: Salut comment allez-vous?
• Spanish: creo que no - French: je ne crois pas
• French: le petit garçon - Italian: il ragazzino
• Italian: la Pianura Padana - English: the Po Valley
• German: ich möchte eine Tasse Tee - Swedish: Jag skulle vilja ha en kopp te

In some cases, you just have to say "Okay I get the meaning", even if the translation is a little off.

• Italian: sfortunato - English: bad lucky
• German: Nachbesserungsbedarf - English: imperfections (but literally: the need to improve)

Linguee can sometimes be a "hit-or-miss affair". Of the above Google translations, only the first German-English one produced a translation on Linguee. However, it may be just a matter of time until Linguee's webcrawler finds the appropriate bilingual texts to add all of those to its database, and many more.

Easy Flashcards

Lea-knows Menu screenshot The Flashcard function is cool! At this time, you get just the translation, no audio yet. (We understand from Sébastien that audio should be added soon.) So for now, you'll need to find other ways to hear how the languages sound.

Every word you look up automatically creates a Flashcard that is saved in the app. A quick tap on a Flashcard shows the translation. Slide the Flashcards to go through them.

You can easily customize how you want to see these Flashcards again.
• Add a star to put the card into a group you can practice separately.
 • Add a color (there are 6) to sort by language, or to create your own recall system.
 • Archive the card to practice at a later date.
 • Trash the card.

You can review, relearn, and test yourself whenever you have a few minutes.

Using the App

Google Translate has become an automatic habit for many polyglots. Steve Kaufmann, who runs the LingQ language learning site and is learning his 17th language, agrees: "I think GoogleTranslate is a tremendous resource and not only for language learners."

With the added function of creating automatic Flashcards, the application Léa Knows makes Google Translate and Linguee convenient language learning tools. The app is great for learning words and phrases you encounter throughout the day.

Ways to Use the App

• While traveling, learn the meaning of new words you see or hear.
• Check on the meaning of words in a foreign article or book.
• Look up words as you're writing an email or text in a foreign language.
• Create a list of words for items you want to learn.
• As you're talking with someone, do a quick check for a word you forgot.
• Type in unknown words you hear as you're watching a foreign film.

I bet you can think of more ways yourself. And, you can always choose what to keep and review, and what to discard. This app is definitely a step into the future. Have fun, and keep learning!

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 or below.

Posted on by Sophia Sanchez

9 Free and Fun Language Learning Apps for Quick Progress

young people looking at phone There are several benefits to being a polyglot and language learning can be fun and engaging.

Knowing multiple languages not only boosts your chances for employment, but it also makes you more open minded and appreciative of other cultures.

Also, being able to communicate with a broader network of people betters your chance of discovering new things and making new friends. Multilingualism broadens your horizons and opens the door to rich experiences no matter who you are and where you come from.

Whether you’re a student who is learning a new language at school or a professional whose career demands learning different languages, or simply a traveler who wants to talk to the locals in their language, learning a new language can be both exciting and exacting.

Although learning a foreign language isn’t always a cakewalk, it doesn’t have to be an uphill climb either. Thanks to the evolution of technology, we have access to multiple platforms and tools that make learning an appealing and a fun experience.

What’s more, a lot of these tools are free to use. You don’t have to shell out a single penny! And remember what Benjamin Franklin had to say about pennies: A penny saved is twopence clear.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some free language learning tools that are totally fun to use. For more more comprehensive content and in-depth learning they all offer in-app purchase options.

Language Learning Apps for Android and iOS

Lingbe

Lingbee app screenshotImagine being able to practice the language of your choice with its native speakers...Well, don’t just stop at imaging.

Go right ahead and practice Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, etc., with native speakers through voice chat on Lingbe app.
 
It’s easy to use and comes with a call button that instantly connects you with a native speaker who can help you practice the language of your choice. The best part: you get real-time feedback about your progress from collaborators who guide you and help you become more fluent.
 
And if you’d like to help other learners learn your mother tongue, you can collaborate with them for which you’ll receive not just brownie points, but some actual credit points in the form of lingos (practice exercises). More lingos you earn, better will be your chance at practicing.

HiNative

English (US), Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Spanish (Mexico), Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal) - the list goes on and on to include over a 100 languages!

No matter which language you choose, HiNative helps you learn it in style. You can either upload audio files to get feedback on pronunciation or you can share pictures of those complex Chinese characters to know their meaning, or you can simply stick to the plain old Q&A format.

No matter which format your queries come in, HiNative’s learning community readily helps address them by providing pronunciation support, example sentences, grammar tips, and what not!

Not just that, you can also ask the community about different countries and their cultures. Whether you’re traveling to someplace or moving permanently, you can learn about the dos, the don’ts, and everything else by simply asking the people who are already there. If that isn’t convenient, then what is?

Available also for Windows

Mango Languages

Mango Languages gives you access to 70 different foreign language courses and 17 different types of English language courses that are designed keeping in mind native speakers and their requirements.

All courses focus on four key components of communication: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and culture. From Yiddish, Tagalog, Pashto, to Haitian Creole, Cherokee, Mango Languages has courses that make language learning an enjoyable process.

Besides the regular courses, there are some specialty courses that focus on specific learner requirements. If you don’t have time for an entire course and are simply looking for a short-term course to help you with a short trip abroad, then you can choose from a list of specialty courses available to suit varying needs.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer

Whether you’re a native speaker or a newbie learner who wants to improve vocabulary by learning new words, Lingo Vocabulary Trainer is what you need.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer includes more than 100 different topics (business, education, nature, science, sports, tourism, etc.), different levels of learning, and statistics that help you gauge progress.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer consists of more than 5000 words and helps you learn and pronounce words through images that help you memorize better.

What makes Lingo Vocabulary Trainer fun is that it allows you to collaborate with other app users through online games where you can earn some cool points!

Another noteworthy thing is the listen-and-type feature where you get to listen to an audio piece following which you’ll have to type what you heard to help better your listening skills

SpanishDict

SpanishDict boasts of 10 million plus user base each month, making it one of the most popular Spanish language apps available today. It offers Spanish-English dictionary which provides examples, insights into regional usage, and contextual information.

SpanishDict helps you by providing audio pronunciation support and also comes with an autosuggestion feature that helps save time and effort.

If you don’t have access to the internet, you don’t have to worry because with SpanishDict, you can look up words offline as well. Also, you get to use three separate in-app translators to translate words and phrases.

What makes SpanishDict appealing is that it provides conjugation tables for all tenses for thousands of verbs and highlights irregular verb conjugations in red for ease of understanding. Besides, if you want to learn on-the-go, you can enable the push notifications to conveniently receive new words on your phone everyday.

Available also for Windows

Andy - English Speaking Bot

If you’re the shy type and are apprehensive about approaching people to help you with learning English or bettering your English conversational skills, you would consider Andy a blessing.

Andy is an English speaking bot that converses with you and helps you learn new words, study grammar, and play language-learning games - all without being judgemental. From casual day-to-day interactions: greeting, chatting about your day, weather, etc., to daily lessons and tests, Andy comes in handy by catering to your English learning needs.

You can discuss about topics like travel, movies, hobbies, art, jokes, and curious facts with Andy and can also expect a detailed explanation on what is right and what is not when it comes to language usage.

And if at any point in time you’re tired of rigorous learning or are simply bored, you can take a break and play fun games available on Andy.

Cram

Cram app screenshot If you have trouble memorizing words and are working on building your vocabulary, Cram flashcards can help address your issues.

Known to be one of the most tried and tested learning tools, flashcards aid active recall - a mental technique that helps remember and recall answer to any given question through spaced repetition learning technique.

Cram puts to use the same technique to help you memorize better through effective learning and recalling of new words and their meaning. There are two modes - Card mode and Memorize mode.

The Card mode enables you to view and use the entire set of flashcards in a sequential manner. In case you want to focus on a few cards and hide the ones you don’t need, you can switch to the Memorize mode.
Cram gives you access to a whooping 176 million (and counting) flashcards across various subjects, in different languages, which are free and easy to use.

Idyoma

Based on which language you want to learn and which language you already know, Idyoma connects you to other language learners nearby.

By using Idyoma, you not only meet new language partners but also get to build a network online by following your favorite partners. Idyoma focuses on language exchange between people. Besides practicing the language of your choice, you get a chance to teach your native language to other learners.

Idyoma enables you to check the location of your language partner and see if you have common people in your network, depending on which you can schedule real-life meetups. Idyoma is all about social learning and helps not just better your language skills, but also meet new people and make new friends.

Language Learning App for Android

Beelinguapp

With Beelinguapp, you can read texts in two languages side by side.

Beelinguapp screenshotBy doing so, you can compare the text of the language you’re learning with the text of your native language or the language you already know. This helps you understand the new language better by means of referencing.

What sets Beelinguapp apart is that it you can listen to text in any language using its high-quality audio, even when your phone is in the sleep mode.

The app lets you pay attention to what the audio voice is saying by highlighting the text in karaoke-styled animation. What’s more, you can use the audiobook feature to listen to stories in any language of your choice.

Soon to be available on iOS

So no matter who you are and what your language learning requirement is, there is an app out there to help you achieve your learning goals.

Thanks to technology, learning a new language is not as complicated as it used to be. Just a click here and a click there and you’re all set!

Bio: Sophia Sanchez is a passionate educator, a lifelong learner, a freelance writer, an avid reader, and an adrenalin junkie all rolled into one. When not working, she spends time networking and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with Sophia Sanchez or any of the learning app companies reviewed above, except for publishing Sophia's post on it's site.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Language Learning - LingoHut Portuguese – A Review

Lingohut Homepage with Youtube Clip (updated 5/2021) Learning a new language is always an exciting project for me. I love trying out different language learning sites.

Lately, I've enjoyed learning Brazilian Portuguese with LingoHut, one of our Partner sites – and like Gamesforlanguage – a completely free language learning site. (Click on the Homepage image, left, and hear Kendal explain LingoHut's mission.)

LingoHut currently (May 2021) offers you forty-five (45) different languages. And, if your native language is other than English, you can set the language with which you learn. You have many choices.

The vocabulary of each language is presented by Category and Topic, in the form of Vocabulary Cards, Flashcards, and Games. The words are said and written. There are no pictures.

LINGOHUT'S LANGUAGE LEARNING SET-UP

For Brazilian Portuguese, there are currently (5/2021) 125 Lessons that contain between 8 and 22 words or phrases each.

Lingohut learning optionsThe Categories of the Lessons include: Start, Numbers, Directions, Colors, People, Time, Weather and Seasons, Antonyms, Body, Travel, Hotel, Around Town, Sightseeing, Shopping, Restaurant, Food, Beach, Vacation, Health, Office, Employment, Computer.

In each Lesson, you have Vocabulary Cards with Portuguese audio, the written Portuguese word or phrase, and a translation set to your native language.

The Lesson's vocabulary also shows up as a list just under the cards. This list can be downloaded and printed out. For a quick review, you can click on a word on the list to hear the audio again.

The Vocabulary Cards are followed by a Flashcard Game, with which you can practice what you learned and test yourself.

Other games in each Lesson for practice are the Matching Game (where you determine whether words or phrases and a translation match); the Tic Tac Toe Game (where you have to get 3 correct answers in a row); the Concentration Game (a traditional "memory game"); the Listening Game (where you hear, but not see, a Portuguese word or phrase, and then choose the English equivalent).

LISTEN AND SAY OUT LOUD

Lingohut Portuguese Vocab Card

The Vocabulary Cards are great. You hear each word or phrase three times and are encouraged repeat it out loud. The cards continue to the next automatically. But you can also go back or forward one by one.

A key to learning a new language is listening and saying the words out loud. Because the cards advance automatically, you can close your eyes and just listen and speak, which is a powerful way of focusing on sound.

Another way of practicing could be to let the Vocabulary Cards play, treating this as a dictation, i.e. you write out the words you hear on a sheet of paper. (You can then check back for any corrections.)

THE DRIP FEED

Kendal calls the LingoHut mode of learning "the drip feed." What makes it work is exactly that: You acquire the sound, meaning, and spelling of your target language, gradually, in small steps.

The speaker pronounces each of the words and phrases slowly and clearly. This is perfect for someone who is in the early stages of learning a new language. You can try each word as many times as you want.

Remembering new vocabulary is an issue for everyone. The remedy is frequent exposure to the words you're learning and regular repetition.

A good way to get words and phrases into your long term memory is to go back and redo earlier Lessons. If you find some words particularly difficult to remember, write them out in a small notebook or on paper flashcards, and review these separately.

LEARN GRAMMAR INTUITIVELY

With LingoHut you learn useful words and phrases that allow you to communicate with native speakers. You do not get grammar explanations.

However, the human brain is wired to recognize and internalize language patterns. With frequent exposure to typical patterns of sound and/or spelling, you pick these up without much thinking about the grammar rules behind them.

By frequently hearing and saying different phrases and sentences in a new language, you become familiar with the wording of commands, statements, and questions, the gender of nouns, adjective-noun agreement, the personal forms of verbs, etc.

Once some of the patterns of your target language are lodged in your mind, you can easily check up on a grammar rule that would explain a structure that baffles you. The internet is a fantastic resource for that or, you can always get an introductory grammar book.

For checking words and idioms, I often use the free Word Reference site, a popular online dictionary.

PORTUGUESE and other ROMANCE LANGUAGES

If you know one of the other Romance languages, you'll notice that many Portuguese words are quite similar. That, of course, helps you to learn.

However, pronunciation is a different matter. For example, I've reached an upper intermediate level in Spanish. When I see Portuguese words, I can often figure out their meaning from Spanish. But when I hear Portuguese spoken, I have no clue (as yet) when the words are unfamiliar. The sound of Portuguese is very different from Spanish.

That's why the listening and speaking practice that LingoHut offers is so important.

LINGOHUT'S GLOBAL INITIATIVE

LingoHut's co-founder Kendal Knetemann left Nicaragua at age 13 as a refugee, fleeing the civil war in her country and coming to the United States without her parents. Her experience as a young refugee and the need to quickly learn a new language inspired Kendal together with her husband Philipp, a software developer, to create a free language learning site with free access to all learners.

As a native Dutch speaker now living in America, Philipp Knetemann has firsthand experience with learning a foreign language. That experience has guided him to build a platform that is user-friendly for language learners.

LingoHut was created in 2012 and since then Kendal and Philipp have been adding numerous lessons in (now: 2021) 45 languages. What makes the site particularly useful on a global scale, is that a learner has a wide choice for setting his or her language of instruction. (See a list below///)

Screenshot of Lingohut's Teaching Languages

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact or below.

Disclosure: GamesforLanguage and LingoHut have a non-financial Partner relationship, exchanging language learning ideas and tips. Learning with LingoHut and GamesforLanguage is free.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Pimsleur – Learning Russian – a Review

Learning Russian with Pimsleur Unlimited If you're learning Russian, Pimsleur's Unlimited app is a versatile option to consider.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the then newly-released app for Pimsleur German. Since I'm bilingual in German and English, I couldn't talk about learning German. In that earlier post I described the app and its features. I also talked about the Pimsleur method in general.

This review of Pimsleur Unlimited Russian is a little different. Russian is a new language for me and my first Slavic language. The languages I speak all belong to the Germanic or Romance language families.

AUDIO LESSONS

The core structure of the course consists of 30, thirty-minute audio lessons, presented as Day 1, Day 2, etc., through Day 30. Each day shows a beautiful picture and gives you some brief cultural information (when you tap on the light bulb image). It's classic Pimsleur Audio. Pimsleur Russian Day 1-3

You hear an initial conversation that adds one new word or phrase, which is explained. New words are introduced later in the lesson. Each unit's initial conversation has only one new word or phrase.

You listen to new words and repeat them with backward buildup. A spaced recall schedule helps you remember words and phrases over the long term.  This direct audio training helps you to develop a good pronunciation.

To learn Russian, I need some extra help, though. To learn difficult words and phrases, I've written up flashcards using 3"x5" index cards. Writing these out by hand helps me to memorize them. They also give me the chance to practice the words in a different way. I've started adding the Cyrillic spelling for the words, which is a good method for practicing the Cyrillic alphabet.

In the next couple of weeks of learning Russian, I'll start looking at some basic Russian grammar. I'll then better understand the word order of some sentences, and why some of the endings change.

READING LESSONS

Pimsleur Russian Reading Lesson Day 6 There's a tab for Reading Lessons on the audios. There are nine Reading Lessons which can be accessed from Day 2 to Day 10. (No Reading Lessons after Day 10.)

Together, the Reading Lessons take you through 320 Russian words or phrases. The first 200 help you to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, letter by letter, in the context of words and short phrases. The last 120 items are for practice.

The words in the Reading Lesson are not translated and many of them are never taught in the Audio Lessons. However, you hear the correct pronunciation of every word, phrase, and sentence you see and tap on, and thereby learn the correlation between Cyrillic letters and their sound.

DO THE READING LESSONS WORK?

I did all the Reading Lessons in two days (about an hour each day). By the time I reached the practice lessons, I was pretty good at sounding out most of the words. My pronunciation wasn't perfect, but it was close.

I was amazed how quickly I could figure out the sound of individual words I had never seen before. It's also been fun to see a familiar word here and there and go "Aha - that's how it's written!" That doesn't mean that I can now read texts in Cyrillic. Reading for meaning is a whole different world. It's the next step and something I'll need to practice a lot.

FLASH CARDS, QUICK MATCH & SPEAK EASY

Pimsleur Russian Flashcard screenshotEach lesson has three specific review exercises, Flash Cards, Quick Match, and Speak Easy. You can do any of the review exercises whenever you want.

For the Flash Cards, you hear the audio and see a written version of the new words and phrases of the lesson. At the bottom of the card, you have the option to check "Show Transliteration" (which shows you the words in transliterated spelling). Otherwise, you'll see the words written in Cyrillic. (You can even go back and forth between Transliteration and Cyrillic script on each card.)

In the Quick Match exercises you get an English sentence, audio and written. You then choose the correct match for the Russian, either in Transliteration or in Cyrillic. (If you wish, you can toggle between the two.) Once you tap on an answer (even if it tells you it's incorrect), you'll hear the audio.

In the Speak Easy exercises you practice and engage in the conversations of each lesson, by listening, reading, and finally taking the role of one of the speakers. The conversation lines are in Cyrillic, and you can add the Transliteration.

Together, these exercises help you memorize the words and practice your pronunciation. Once you've done the Reading Lessons and know the Cyrillic alphabet, the Flash Cards, Quick Match, and Speak Easy exercises are a great way to start practice reading for meaning.

I like all of these exercises. They give a quick review, they're fun to do, and are a way to stay engaged.

LEARNING ON THE GO

Playing your language program while you're doing something else: driving, running, cooking, washing dishes, etc. is definitely convenient. I sometimes listen to Italian or Spanish while cooking, now that I'm on an upper intermediate (B2) level in those languages.

But when I start out with a new language, I have found that I do my best learning when I'm alone, when I've put time aside, and can really focus on the learning itself. I can listen without distraction, repeat words aloud as many times as I want, stop and write myself notes, create my paper flashcards, etc. This is where I'm now with learning Russian.

Then, once the words and sounds are in my brain, playing them again while my mind is half on something else will be okay too. I also know that I'm still a long way from being able to understand Russian conversations. So for now, I have to listen and learn with focus wherever I can find some quiet time with my app.

CAN YOU DO 30 LESSONS IN 30 DAYS?

Maybe I could, if I were relearning a language I had taken in school or college. But for Russian, I've not been able to do a new lesson every day. I've had some interruptions (holidays, travel, flu). More importantly though, I've found the need to go back to earlier lessons and review sentences that I find hard.

The key to learning Russian, or any other language for that matter, is doing something every day. It could be redoing a lesson, or part of one. Or it could be going back and playing some of the Flash Card, Quick Match, or Speak Easy exercises.

I have now finished just over half of the course. I feel I'm well-launched into learning Russian. My pronunciation is pretty good, I know the Cyrillic letters, I'm starting to recognize some words, and I can automatically recall some of the basic words and phrases.

Most of all, I continue to feel motivated. The more I'm learning, the more I'm getting excited about learning more.

COST

For more information about Pimsleur Premium and Special Offers, go to Pimsleur.com

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 or below.

Disclosure: Ulrike Rettig was the Development Editor/Author of Pimsleur's German Levels 1, 2 and 3, written during the time she worked for Pimsleur Language Programs (owned since 1997 by Simon & Schuster Audio). She left Pimsleur in 2010. GamesforLanguage has no business relationship with Simon & Schuster Audio, other than receiving the German and Russian Unlimited apps for free.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Language Learning: From Pimsleur Audio to Unlimited

Pimsleur German Unlimited screenshot Language Learning with Pimsleur Unlimited

Paul Pimsleur developed his language learning method over 50 years ago. And, if you read on, you'll understand why taking a look at Pimsleur Unlimited is feeling a little bit like "back to the future" for me.

If you've ever used Pimsleur audio lessons for learning a language, you'll know how deeply the sound of words and phrases embed themselves in your brain with this program. 

Young children also learn their first language through sound. They hear (and repeat) their caregivers' words, phrases, and sentences numerous times, begin to absorb the patterns of the language, and put all of this together to say what they want, and to understand others.

The Adult's Conundrum with Language Learning

When you learn a new language as an adult, you're in fact learning a new sound system, which runs parallel to the one of your native language (or to a second, or third, etc., if you speak more languages).

A problem for adults is that they may find it difficult to hear some of the sounds in a new target language. Why is that so?

Very early on, children's brains make it possible for them to hear ANY children playing - Yay imagessounds of ANY language. As they focus on learning their first language, this ability narrows down to the sounds they listen to and use in their daily life.

This narrowing down of sounds heard continues through adolescence and adulthood and can be traced to the growth of our “categorical perception.” (We described this phenomenon in an earlier post: “Beyond Learning a Language Like a Child”.)

So, adults have to re-learn how to hear and produce sounds that are not part of the language(s), they use in their daily life. It can be done, but they have to focus and practice.

Before you read on, you may want to read my disclosure at the bottom. For these reasons I can't really provide an objective review of the German course(s). But by starting to use the Pimsleur Unlimited Russian app, I'm able to judge how the app works for a language that I don't know. (And I will report about my language learning experience with Russian in a subsequent post.)

What I know well: Pimsleur German Audio CDs

Obviously, I'm well familiar with the features that make a Pimsleur German audio effective:

  • Each unit's initial conversation has only one new word or phrase.
  • Later in each unit, new words are introduced in the context of what you know.
  • You hear and repeat new words, with backward buildup. (Singers call it "back-chaining.")
  • Comments on pronunciation issues are given as they come up.
  • A “spaced” recall schedule helps you move words from short to long-term memory.
  • You learn to make new combinations following a familiar pattern.
  • The speakers pronounce clearly, with a standard German accent.
  • You learn the sound system of German.
  • You learn basic German sound-spelling correlation in the Reading sections.
  • The units are downloadable. You can play them on your computer or mobile device.

But, no course can be everything to everyone. People have asked about these points:

  • There's no systematic introduction to grammar. There are only brief explanations.
  • Not enough vocabulary. Each unit introduces about 10 new words.
  • Most cues are in English, so you hear a lot of English.
  • You don't learn the spelling of the German words and phrases you hear.

Pimsleur audio does a very good job teaching the sounds and pronunciation to adult beginners. And most importantly, it asks the learner to SPEAK, REPEAT, and IMITATE. Good pronunciation can become a habit. Pimsleur gets you into the good pronunciation habit.

User comments, competition, online/app progress, etc. were certainly reasons for expanding the Pimsleur method, first to downloadable software, and now also to mobile apps.

What I'm discovering: Pimsleur Unlimited

Pimsleur App pageTo try out Pimsleur's "Unlimited" mobile app, I used the iOS app for German. To its traditional audio course, Pimsleur has added Flashcards, Quick Match, and Speak Easy exercises. (To date, Pimsleur has 8 languages in its Unlimited mobile edition: German, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, and Russian.)

The core of the program is still the audio lesson, as described above. The added feature for "Unlimited" is that you can easily pause, skip back and skip forward when doing the audio. You can keep redoing a short (or longer) segment until you've got it.

With the Flashcards, Quick Match, and Speak Easy exercises you have new and different tools for quick language learning practice and recall of what you've learned.

Listening + Reading

Besides, you're learning to hear and understand, to say, and to READ words, phrases, and sentences in context. By learning to read beyond basic sound-spelling correlation, you're acquiring a powerful language learning tool.

Yes, children learn languages without first learning to read. By age three to three and a half, many children are highly conversant in their native language. However, they then spend years in school to learn to read and write fluently.

For adults, reading and writing in one's native language is part of daily life. When you learn new words in a foreign language, you automatically imagine how they are spelled. Without other information, you'll apply your own native-language, or other familiar spelling system.

By learning how German words sound and are written, you're training yourself to become a reader of German texts.

German is plentiful on the Internet in the form of news stories, social media streams on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (to name the most popular), ebook readers you can download, etc. Once you make a habit of reading German on a daily basis, your vocabulary will grow exponentially.

My Tricks With Russian

I'm a native speaker of German and taught college German for a number of years in the U.S. Right now I'm learning Russian from scratch with Pimsleur Unlimited. In general, my tricks for using the program with Russian are also applicable for German, or any other language. (I'm planning a more detailed review of Pimleur's Unlimited Russian for later.)

Whenever I start with a new online program or app, it takes me a couple of weeks to get into it and figure out ways I can optimize the resource.

The Pimsleur Unlimited mobile app is very easy to navigate, so you can hop around. Besides learning daily with new material, I go back and review. I love it that you can pick and choose what chunks to redo.

I go back a lot and replay parts of the course. For example, I replay the five last conversations, one after the other, just the conversations. Or I listen to one conversation again and again, until I've memorized it.

I replay an earlier Quick Match or Speak Easy, or several of them in a row.

A small notebook for each language is a constant companion for me. Pimsleur User Guide - Gamesforlanguage.comIn it, I write down words and phrases, as well as brief grammar explanations that come up.

Even if I never check back to those particular notes, just the act of writing something out by hand, helps me to remember better. Writing out also makes me literate right from the beginning and teaches me the new spelling system as I go along.

From time to time during the day, I recall in my mind - without the app - the words or phrases I learned the day before. There always are a few moments of down time to do this. My little notebook helps me if I need a prompt.

I certainly follow Paul Pimsleur's Golden Rule for Success #4: "Daily exposure to the language is critical to your success, but don’t attempt to do more than one 30-minute Audio Lesson per day. You may repeat a lesson more than once if you find it helpful." (You'll find these rules in the downloadable PDF of Pimsleur Unlimited User Guide, see screenshot above.)

How Fast Can You Learn German (or Russian)?

Learning a language takes time and effort. (Whew, how many times have I said this in my life?) Becoming fluent in a new language as an adult cannot happen just like that in 10 days. Three months of total immersion, with an excellent tutor on the side, may do it. At least that was my experience when I learned Dutch, and later English.

Learning a language as an adult with a job, a family, and a social life means you have to squeeze language learning in whenever you can. And you have to keep your motivation up.

With Pimsleur you can get a good start and keep going. Most of all, you'll build some confidence in speaking. For many, having the courage to speak in a new language is the hardest part.

As you need them, add other resources, such as a basic grammar book (to figure out what some of the underlying patterns are), podcasts or audio books (to learn listening to rapid German), a browser extension, such as Lingua.ly (to help you read many different types of texts), or a flashcard program, such as Memrise (to practice various types of vocabulary).

Finding a language exchange partner, or a tutor via Skype can also be a powerful motivator. If you can, travel to a country or region where the language is spoken.

Putting in the effort is really worth it. Most of all, have fun! Viel Spaß!

Let us know your comments below.

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 or below.

Disclosure: Ulrike Rettig was the Development Editor/Author of Pimsleur's German Levels 1, 2 and 3, written during the time she worked for Pimsleur Language Programs (owned since 1997 by Simon & Schuster Audio). She left Pimsleur in 2010. GamesforLanguage has no business relationship with Simon & Schuster, other than receiving the German and Russian Unlimited apps for free.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"SuperCoco" - Learning Spanish - A Review

Supercoco - Gamesforlanguage.comBecause I'm interested in everything language learning, I signed up to beta test "a new approach to language learning" in one of my online language groups. This was some time ago.

In the summer, I got an email that I could "test flight" the iPhone app for Spanish and started testing it through its updates. Mid-October 2016, "SuperCoco - Learn Spanish by talking" went live. It's pretty neat.

For many people, myself included, learning to converse with some fluency in a new language is highly challenging. SuperCoco seeks to addresses that issue in interesting ways.

Except for audio programs such as the Pimsleur Language Programs, and more than any other language apps or programs that I've tried, SuperCoco encourages you to SPEAK. The instructions are simple: "When you hear Spanish, you repeat it. When you hear English, you say the Spanish."

Phil Mitchell, who is the founder of Larkwire, the maker of the SuperCoco app, told us:

"SuperCoco was built by people who love language learning. It's the app we wanted for ourselves. Version 1.0 is incomplete, of course, there's lots more coming ... but we'd really love to hear from users about what they like and don't like in the app so far. It's an opportunity for people to get the app that they want."

WHAT YOU LEARN

To date, SuperCoco has four (4) Levels: Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Early Intermediate, Intermediate.

Five (5) more Levels are to come: Advanced Intermediate, Proficient, Advanced Proficient, Near Fluent, Fluent.

Each of the current Levels has 60 or moreSupercoco:Section Screen - Gamesforlanguage.com conversations organized into 4 Chapters. In a Level you'll learn over 1000 sentences, and around 1000 new vocabulary items. (see screen shot: Intermediate Chapter 3)

The conversations are in the form of brief stories, sometimes ending with a humorous or surprising twist. These anecdotes contain cultural information and give context to the language.

You don't learn lists, you always learn words in the context of conversational sentences. That also means you learn grammatical forms as they are used.

Only new words are practiced separately in the Spanish First + words option, which is the initial and default "learning stage." Any words you've had before, are not isolated for practice.

There's a wide variety of topics. They include: Essentials, Food, Shopping, Communications, Transportation, Housing, Health, Social, Entertainment, Sights, Language, Dating, Wayfinding, Family, Work, Culture, School, and others.

LEARNING STAGES

SuperCoco automatically moves you through Learning Stages that are increasingly challenging.

(You could, but don't need to ever touch the Practice Mode button.)

  1. Spanish first + words (Sp. audio - pause - words Sp./Engl. - Sp. audio - pause - Eng. - Sp. written)
  2. Spanish first (Sp. audio - pause - Eng. audio - Sp. audio - pause - Sp. written)
  3. English first (Engl. audio - pause - Sp. audio - Sp. written)
  4. Partner: You take the role of one of the conversation partners (tap to hear Spanish)

Phil Mitchell also explained the following:

"Tracking every word allows the program to do something really neat: if SuperCoco predicts that you can already produce a given sentence, it jumps right into English First mode the first time you see that line. This is very powerful. First, it gives you the chance to produce Spanish that you've never heard before; and second, when you're in the flow of the conversation, you often speak the Spanish without even realizing that it's brand new. You're just speaking Spanish."

HOW YOU LEARN: FIRST LISTENING and SPEAKING

With SuperCoco you learn first and foremost through sound. When you start a lesson, you can go hands free, and just listen and repeat. The lesson continues automatically.

Or if you wish, you can control SuperCoco by voice commands, such as Coco WHAT? (alias: Coco REPEAT?) - to hear a line again; Coco SLOW - to hear the line at slower speed; Coco STOP (alias: Coco PAUSE) - to pause the conversation, etc. Go to the Library (Menu icon) for other voice commands. Note that you can only give commands when SuperCoco is not speaking.

You learn and practice each of the conversations sentence by sentence. You never hear the full conversation just in Spanish. (It is always broken up by English translation.)

After the Spanish audio or the English cue, there's a pause to let you say the Spanish word or sentence.

In the early lessons, coach SuperCoco pops up to give you tips, reminders, and encouragement.

At the end of a conversation, you can rate it: Too hard, Just right, Too easy. This information will go into the algorithm of the program, and determine how soon and how often you'll review that particular conversation.

DO YOU NEED TO SEE THE WORDS?

Supercoco: conversation - Gamesforlanguage.comAs an adult who's been schooled in reading and writing, you may automatically imagine how words in a foreign language are spelled - when you hear them.

Most likely, you'll apply the sound-spelling correlation that you're familiar with, i.e. the spelling of English if that's your native language.

Learning a new language means that you have to learn a new sound-spelling system. You can only do that by seeing how a word is spelled when you hear it, or right after.

SuperCoco gives you that option. You can see the Spanish text after you hear the audio, following a short delay. The brief pause not only lets you repeat what you hear, you can also anticipate the spelling in your mind.

(By the way, that's quite similar to Gamesforlanguage's “Say It” module, which we use in all of our language story-based courses.)

GRAMMAR at YOUR FINGERTIPS (if you want)

Supercoco: Grammar Explanation screen - Gamesforlanguage.comBy tapping on a specific word in the conversation, you'll first see a brief grammar point.

Then, if you tap the capsule, it loads a full explanation. For a verb, it explains the tense or mood and shows shows the conjugation. You'll also see links to related topics.

For example (see screenshot above), you'll see the sentence "¿Por qué ne estás tirando fresas?" (Why are you throwing strawberries at me?)

When you tap on "tirando" and then "fresas" you'll see: tirando (tirar): to throw (verb: gerund); and, fresas (fresa): strawberry (noun: pl f ).

By tapping further, you'll load an explanations of the gerund form, and other related links.

Or, tapping on the imperative form "espere,"  (see screen shot) you'll load an explanation of the form, as well as the (positive and negative) conjugation of the imperative.

NO IMAGES

Very different from picture-heavy Rosetta Stone (and many other popular programs), SuperCoco uses no pictures at all. Interesting!

While pictures can certainly link to the foreign words (or labels) of objects, they can also be a distraction from learning their sounds.

With a picture-driven program you have to constantly figure out what the picture is supposed to represent. Besides, how can one show anything complicated or abstract with a still picture?

THE SKILLS TAB and PRONUNCIATION LESSONS

There are eight (8) Core Skills Lessons which give you one Key Tip in each lesson. Each is about 2-3 minutes long and includes the topics 'How to absorb Spanish faster,' 'What to do when you can't remember,' 'How to find time to practice,' and 'How and when to learn grammar.'

In the Skills Tab, you'll also find 23 excellent short Pronunciation Lessons that cover all the sounds of Spanish, with step-by-step instructions on how to produce the sounds. In each lesson, you can then Listen, Record, and Check your pronunciation. It's a fast track to getting a great accent.

COST

Without a subscription, you are limited to one chapter of conversations -- it can be any chapter.

A subscription to the SuperCoco app Spanish is $4.99 a month in the app store. With a subscription, you have access to all the chapters.

Having a monthly subscription may quite motivating: The serious learner will want to pack in as much as possible into a limited time.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • The focus on listening and speaking is very effective.
  • Seeing the spelling right after the audio is a great option.
  • The stories, which are in conversational format, are humorous and use real language.
  • Understanding the meaning is always part of how you learn.
  • The many different topics cover a wide range of vocabulary.
  • You can find a level that challenges you and you can pick and choose topics.
  • The voice recordings are high quality and easy to understand.
  • You're pushed to translate automatically when you hear an English sentence.
  • You get lots of encouragement.
  • We really like the hands-free part. You can listen while cooking, walking, commuting, etc.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • SuperCoco is currently available only for Apple devices with iOS 8.2 or later.
  • There's no setting for listening to a Spanish conversation in its entirety.
  • You cannot record and play back your own voice to check your pronunciation.
  • At this time, there's no reading and writing practice.
  • You don't get alternative translations.

CAN YOU LEARN WITH the APP FROM ZERO SPANISH?

I believe so, but since my Spanish was at an intermediate level before I started testing the app, I don't have an objective answer for that.

In my experience, the combination of hearing, repeating, and understanding the meaning of the foreign words and sentences is essential for learning a new language.

In any case, I can recommend SuperCoco as an excellent resource for learning and practicing Spanish.

In combination with other language courses and sites, including Gamesforlanguage, our affiliates, (Lingualia, LanguageZen, Lingohut, Benny Lewis, Mosalingua), Duolingo or other free or fee-based online courses and apps, you'll progress for sure.

Using more than one resource will help you stay interested and motivated. Once you have progressed beyond the basics, choose articles or books with topics that interest you for reading, podcasts for listening comprehension, language-exchange partners for conversations, etc.

In all, SuperCoco is a powerful learning tool that's fun, versatile, and easy to use. Whether using it alone, or adding it to whatever else you're learning with, you're bound to level up your Spanish.

That's true especially for your pronunciation, your listening comprehension, and fluency in speaking. To be contacted about new levels that are added, write to Larkwire: advanced@supercocoapp.com

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: GamesforLanguage has no business relationship with SuperCoco, except for having participated in some beta testing and receiving the app for free. Certain links above are to affiliates' programs with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase or subscribe.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Learning and Practicing Spanish – Language Zen Update

Language Zen home pageRecently, Ulrike reviewed Language Zen - one of our partner sites for learning Spanish. While I had also used it intermittently, I really got into practicing with it during the last several weeks.

I also discovered a few features that are really helpful, but that I had not paid much attention to before.

“Literally” vs. "Meaning”

For translating a sentence, you often have the option to select “literally” vs. “meaning.”not a single man knows it - alternative Spanish translations - Language Zen & Gamesforlanguage.com

For example, to translate “Not a single man knows it.” I was very tempted to start with something like: No un solo hombre ...

However, when I clicked on the “literally” option, it suggested I say: “Not it (male) he knows not one man,” for my translation into Spanish.

And, as ningun had been introduced previously, I remembered that it was the translation for not one. Thus I was able to translate the sentence correctly. Then, when I confirmed my response, I was given the other possible correct answers, i.e. I could also have used “señor” and a different word order.

Using the“Try Again” Option

Earlier, I'd been frustrated when I made a mistake or could not remember a word or form. I finally discovered the benefits of the “Try again” link. Not only can I correct a mistake, but by retyping it correctly (or saying it again, see below) it helps me to remember it better. It also improves my accuracy score.

That woman has something in her hands - Spanish translation - Gamesforlanguage.comA case in point would be translating the following sentence: That woman has something in her hands.”

Using the “literally” option, I see that in Spanish you would not say “her hands” but “the hands.” However, I had forgotten that the Spanish word for “hand” has a feminine gender – although it ends with an “o.”

As I check my answer I both HEAR the correct translation and am informed of my mistake: los is crossed out, and I read las is missing from your answer.

I can now rewrite (or say) the sentence with the correct female pronoun “las.” Not only has it now cemented the correct gender for “la mano” in my mind, but I am also are credited for the correct answer in the progress chart. (Love that!)

Translation Alternatives

As I pointed out above, one other translation alternatives - Language Zen and Gamesforlanguage.comfeature I find particularly helpful is getting translation alternatives for many English sentences. In many other online programs there is often only ONE possible correct answer.

Language Zen gives lots of translations alternatives both for the vocabulary as well as for the word order of a translated sentence.

The screen shot (on the right) for the translation of “Can you (formal) tell me what happened?” shows a whole series of options, including different verb options for  tell, and happened, different word order, etc. 

(You'll also note that I did not conjugate the verb pasar correctly - or, the voice recognition did not like my pronunciation and I failed to correct the shown spelling.)

Lesson Accuracy and Progress

Language Zen accuracy chart - Gamesforlanguage.comOne of the motivating factors for me is the “lesson accuracy” at the end of each lesson. See the screenshot of my last lesson: 98%. I just hate it when I can't get close to a 100%, i.e. a perfect score.

My score tends to slip when I lose concentration and get tired. That is also a good reminder that it's time to stop and do something else.

Under “View Progress,” you'll see the words that I've practiced multiple times (green) Language Zen Progress Chart - Gamesforlanguageand the new words (blue) that were recently introduced.

Clicking on the “View Progress” tab lets me see several other learning metrics and also check how I'm doing in several categories: words, phrases, facts and meanings.

The screenshot on the right shows how my recent re-engagement with Language Zen is reflected in those categories.

Courses – Watching Sports

With the Olympics recently happening, I thought I would check out the “Courses” and the “Watching Sports” topic.

screenshot: which channelIndeed I was learning much relevant vocabulary, e.g. “partido,” “canal,” “defender,” “boletos,” etc.

For the translation of “On which channel is the game?” I had neglected to use the “literally” option (On what channel they GIVE the game?) and promptly made a mistake. Let's hope that I now remember to use “dar” and translate: “¿En qué canal dan el partido?

I also learned that “One has to defend well” translates to “Hay que defender bien.” Again the “literally” translation option (“There is that to defend well”) had given me the clue to avoid a mistake and pick up this idiomatic expression.

Using the Microphone

I'm also using the microphone more often now to enter myLanguage Zen screenshot translations. This is only practical when you are by yourself without much background noise.

The voice recognition is not always perfect as this screenshot (right) shows – it understood my “tienes” as “quieres,” but that is also easy to correct.

I noticed that the system appears to be getting used to my still imperfect pronunciation. Either the system's improving with time, or I'm getting better (or maybe both ...)

In any case, having the translation transcribed speeds up the practice, even considering the necessary corrections. It also lets me do more translations within my daily time quota, currently set to 3 hours per week. (I plan to double this time once I have again completed my 2 daily Scenes of our GamesforLanguage Spanish 1 course.)

At the moment, the transcription of dictated translations does not work on my iPad. It does work in my Android phone and tablet with the Chrome browser. We understand that Language Zen is working on an app, which should fix that issue. 

Learning with Songs

Language Zen song - Julieta VenegasThe idea of learning with songs attracted us first to Language Zen. I have just started taking full advantage of this feature by playing Julieta Venegas' wonderful song Eres para mí (You are for me).

It's not only a great way to learn a Spanish song, but the repetition of phrases and sentences certainly makes you remember certain expressions. 

For example, it will be hard to forget the refrain Eres para mí and its expansion to  eres para  yo soy para ti.

The song feature lets you listen to the song, see the lyrics either in Spanish or in English. (You can switch between either as the song plays.) Then you can click on Start lesson on the lyrics.tus ojos mirandome - Language Zen

After that, you're asked to translate the English words, phrases and sentences of the song into Spanish. Again you can use the microphone and when you check your answer you'll often hear the fragments of the song again.

For example, in Your eyes watching me you'll pay attention the the gerund of mirar and in this, as in many other instances, how Spanish words are linked: mirándome.

I especially like songs with a memorable refrain and melody. Language Zen's selection is still limited, but you may well find a song that you like and that you'll want to learn. And when you do it with the Language Zen song feature, you'll not only learn the song, but also improve your Spanish skills at the same time.

In taking advantage of the various options Language Zen provides, I'm not only enjoying the lessons more, but with my increased accuracy percentage I can also see that I am getting better!

Realizing that I am making progress is definitely an important motivator to continue learning and practicing.

Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Disclosure: Language Zen is a partner site with revenue sharing should you decide to subscribe.

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