“I believe learn.livemocha.com has more to offer than the current site”
When Annalisa Corioso – a PhD student and instructor at the University of California, Davis, studying applied linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Livemocha member since 2011 – approached us about doing a series of independent reviews of the soon-to-be released new Livemocha platform, guess what we said.
We are pleased to share with you her opinions and experiences on the new site and want to point out that this post, and those that will be a part of this series, was unsolicited.
Guest post by Annalisa Corioso
In case you haven’t been over to learn.livemocha.com—Livemocha’s new in-development platform—go! As a user of the current platform as well as an adventurer on the new site, I have to say there are a number of improvements to be found. For now, I’d like to comment on the new “My lessons” feature, specifically for advanced Spanish.
As you may know, the current Livemocha site utilizes “my courses”. In each course I have the option to learn and review vocabulary and practice speaking, reading, and listening. While the material is varied and offers rich visuals/audio, most of the active participation in the lesson is highly structured. The courses center around grammar or vocabulary topics—for instance Unit 9 looks at verb tenses 9 (ex. present continuous) and Unit 10, vocabulary (ex. clothing). Level 4 Active Spanish is more dynamic, with role-play activates where you record your half of a conversation, but could also be considered structured and utilizes a good deal of translation.
What is different about the new platform?
So far I have used Level 9 lessons for Spanish and found them to be more dynamic, challenging, and centered on sophisticated speech acts rather than a general topic or verb tense. For advanced students, I believe learn.livemocha.com has more to offer than the current site.
I have just completed a lesson titled “¿El dinero? Me tiene sin cuidado! Expresar indiferencia”. This slideshow type lesson combines vocabulary surrounding money and economics in a seamless way while introducing the speech act of expressing indifference. The theme and the speech act pair well. The speech I hear in the introduction is spoken at a natural, quick pace.
The “Vocabulary” section is “flashcard style” where you hear the pronunciation of the word/phrase and can flip the card. On the back, there are notes contextualizing and defining the term in Spanish, utilizing synonyms rather than simply translating the term. There is a translation button (in orange, bottom right corner) is you want the text in English, but this format encourages the advanced learner to stay in Spanish, which is ideal. For all of the flashcards, you have the option to click “Got it” or “Still learning” to aid you in your review. This is later followed by “Usage”, where the phrases are used (audio/visual) in context or in dialogues. Afterwards, “Usage Practice” provides you with cloze activities to manipulate the vocabulary. Yes, it’s structured, but useful for preparing you for the more open-ended activities ahead.
The remaining four activates combine reading, writing, speaking and listening. The first activity, “Read/Write” challenges me to read an e-mail and respond to it, utilizing the vocabulary. As a learner, this is much more engaging than responding to a prompt given in English about a common topic. Writing an e-mail back challenges me to use interpersonal/pragmatic language as well as the new vocabulary. Thus, the types of feedback you can get from other Livemocha users is increased.
The “Read/Speak” activity I found to be dynamic as well. They are news clippings, and I must record myself reacting to them, expressing my indifference. This activity is minimally structured and allows for creative word use, although it surrounds the vocabulary phrases and the money/economics themes of course.
Next, in “Listen/Write” I hear an audio clip that could sound similar to something I might hear on an economics podcast. I must type my reaction to the news, expressing my indifference. I really enjoy how the language skills are staggered in this way where my input and output keep changing modes—it helps keep me engaged.
Finally, “Listen/Speak” challenges me to hear audio and respond to it by recording myself. I like the format, but I wish I had the chance to respond to each comment before hearing the next. In this case, I would have liked to see something similar to the “Role Play” activity with Active Spanish on the current site.
“Language exchange” is a new tandem conversation feature that is still under development, although as you see below, you have a screen shot that gives you an idea of what to expect. Structure, in this case, is a good thing! Have you ever tried an unstructured tandem? For me, I don’t usually go much beyond small talk… But with this format, there are prompts to move the tandem forward, where I am to pushed to form questions to elicit information from my real-time, real life language partner and challenged to explain why money is important to me, but not the most important, etc. I’m interested to see how the “Find a Language Partner” feature will work.
What I like best about the new lessons on the learn.livemocha.com platform is the combination of structured and unstructured activities and the staggering of reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities. I believe this approach allows for more language gains than on the current site.
Look out for my next post: feedback options on learn.livemocha.com
Happy language learning!
Annalisa Corioso is a PhD student and instructor at the University of California, Davis studying applied linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Her research interests include second language acquisition, computer-assisted language learning (CALL), and the internationalization of higher education. Follow her on Twitter @acorioso or check out her blog at linguisTECH.