Archive for the 'Language Stuff' Category

Oct 15 2010

Anki Flash!

Slang flash cards (i want!)

I’ve always noticed students taking science or language classes running around campus with a stack of cards in front of their faces. Flash cards are awesome for studying terms, but when you are broke buying cards is just not an option. Sure, you could spend that few dollars, just use some notebook paper, or even still your roommate’s printer paper, yet wouldn’t it be better just to skip the whole process and move away from paper and ink? Let’s not forget that after a while the cards that you write get to such a high volume that you can easily get overwhelmed and no rubber band is strong enough to contain your flash card might. So let me tell you what I use to get around all that.

I’ve been using a sweet free tool called Anki. Anki is an easy to use flash card program that tracks your progress and times when you need to look at cards given how well you remember them. The snazzy buzz word for this process is called “space repetition flash card program.” I used it while studying Chinese in Harbin. The program comes with some great features including easy to make cards, reminders to study, progression tracker, and oh wait…it is open source and shareable. From plug-ins to other people’s uploaded decks.

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Aug 09 2010

You Talk, italki

Published by under Language Stuff

Since I’ve gotten back from China, I have been drowning in tons of English and starting to worry about losing precious language skills earned through lots of time and huge amounts of effort. So what do I do to keep that language training up? You might recall that here at SfSS we had a previous post about livemocha a website which can connect you with other foreign language learners from all over the place. Last week a friend of mine I roomed with in China suggested another such website that encourages a social network to form around language learning called italki. What’s sweet about this space is its extremely active, not to mention enthusiastic, language community. Of course that sounds nice, but what does an active community entail? By my first few minutes of logging on and setting what languages I would like to learn (Mandarin) and what language I am able to speak, I had four individuals add me, ready to chat on the site itself or even use skype to talk (as opposed to typing). Now everyday I have at least one or two people that I can communicate with in the language I am studying.

Let’s get down to brass tacks what are some features? First and foremost you have access to a great social network geared specifically to language learners, included with this are more professional language instructors who can tutor you in the language of your choice (regardless of level) for a certain fee. The website offers language resources as well as more formalized online courses. There is public forums where you can ask/answer language questions and accrue some “respect” on the site. I haven’t dug into the language courses, being short on cash does that too you! But the ability to find people willing to do language exchanges is crucial to good solid training. I could see using the opportunity to chat with native speakers as a great supplement to language courses you might be taking!

Finally, I love to point out features that I really dig. In the case of italki that happens to be the notebook. While not everyone on the site makes good use of it, the notebook feature allows you to write entries in your target language, furthermore other users can correct and comment. It’s rare, and often inconvenient, to find people who are willing to correct your writing. Although the spoken component of a second language is more important by a long shot, the opportunity to practice and have your written work critiqued by native speakers is not only rare but an awesome learning experience.

Alright so sign yourself up and play around with it. Get practicing!

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Jan 31 2009

User Submission: Cool Tools for School

Sharing is Fun!

This isn't a picture of Kristen M., but she understands sharing too!

Here at SfSS we’re celebrating today! We’ve had our first user submission of a resource, and we couldn’t be happier. Kristin M. sent us to to this list of handy tools for students, and there’s a lot of great stuff here. Some of our favorites:

  • This dynamic, interactive periodic table lets you quickly and easily visually filter the elements based on any number of criteria.
  • LiveMocha is a social network for language learners. It can help you connect with other students around the globe who either speak the language you’re learning or are learning it at the same time.
  • FoldIt is a game that lets you attempt to solve scientific puzzles — specifically, by competing with others to fold proteins in the most efficient way possible. The solutions you provide could be used by scientists to predict actual protein folding patterns!

One of the most intriguing tools (and one that’s received a lot of attention in the press) is wePapers, which is basically a site for sharing, browsing, and reading academic papers and participating in virtual study groups. There’s a wealth of academic information here, and many institutions are participating. In many ways, it embodies the greatest features of the Web by creating a platform for anyone to teach and learn. However, some folks worry that it’s just a huge repository of papers to be plagiarized. (NOTE: Here at SfSS we NEVER condone plagiarism. Not only is it a serious violation of UMW’s honor code, it’s just a sign of intellectual laziness and an unwillingness to really commit to your own education. Don’t plagiarize. It isn’t cool.) We’d be interested in hearing our readers’ take on sites like wePapers. Do you see yourself using it as a valuable study resource? Or do you think many students will just abuse the access to all of that academic content?

BTW, we’d never seen the site where this list came from: It’s a pretty cool tool in it’s own right. There are regular posts similar to what we’re providing at SfSS, pointing you to interesting online tools and tips. Check it out.

Thanks again to Kristen M. for the contribution. Keep sharing!

Creative Commons License photo credit: clapstar

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