Neat Tools for Learning Languages in 2018

Technically, I cheated. I used the holiday “break” to get a jump start on fresh learning in 2018, but it’s a streak I’ve kept up for about two weeks now, so I’ll give the new year credit for inspiration. Anyways, languages.

One thing that I feel has held me up from making progress with languages is an accessible platform for frequent study. In an ideal world, I’d take an actual class with peers where I could collaborate, ask questions, and hopefully accelerate through mutual give & take. But work life doesn’t quite gel with a uni semester.

Then there’s the laptop/PC, which is pretty reachable, but after staring at it all day, I sometimes just don’t want to hop back on. That leaves the iPhone (or Android, if that’s how you roll), which is the ideal for frequent touch points and even gamification.

And that’s how I’m pursuing both Python and Spanish currently. Mind you, I’m not learning Python in Spanish–that’s nuts.

SoloLearn

I hit the App Store in December looking for a way to get started with Python. I’d used Treehouse before, and love the videos, but the cost was high and the videos were also a burden/obstacle to learning in short segments. That’s where SoloLearn shines.

It has concise nuggets that teach individual concepts using code examples, foundational explanations, multiple choice questions and fill-in-the-blank stepping stones. It also has forums and Q&A wrapped around each module for deeper discussions.

For further collaboration, you can challenge other learners in head-to-head competitions and share coding projects for review and feedback.

All in all, and for the low price of free, SoloLearn is a nice tool so far. Hopefully I’ll be posting again soon with substantial skills to show for the time invested.

Duolingo

This next one is more learning for the sake of learning, or as my old boss used to say, “for sport’s interest”. I’ve always wanted to break the monolingual mold, but have never surpassed an elementary level in the two languages I’ve touched, Spanish and Hebrew. One of those obviously has a slightly higher utility living in the US (no offense to the latter).

I think I gave Duolingo a shot a couple years ago, but probably wasn’t consistent enough for anything to have a chance of sticking. This timing, I’m going to do my best to keep that streak alive.

As I’m quite certain it’s been around longer, Duolingo is clearly more mature as a learning platform than SoloLearn is. The polish of the UI (mobile and web), the progress tracking, and several other features make it a strong tool. I especially enjoy the refresher practice that it triggers from time to time, so I don’t get rusty on earlier lessons.

The last thing is that Duolingo is also free, as long as you don’t mind some ads. If you’re trying this as a New Year’s resolution, that’s a pleasant aspect, especially if your checklist has a high degree of attrition.

Wrap-Up

It’s 2018, a new year and a fresh start. Whatever you left behind in 2017 and whatever’s ahead now, never stop learning. Find a medium that works for you and resolve to do/use it for 30 days, even if you’re having doubts on day 2.

Also, share! Post what works for you! It might just be the gateway for someone else to gain a new skill, too.

Happy New Year!

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