Busuu.com – Language Learning Community

Fresh ideas are welcome, especially in learning and acquiring new (foreign) language. We present here one of the reinvigorated approaches in online language learning – Busuu.com, free language community that speaks in English, Italian, French, German and Spanish language.

Internet is hefty media and we have witnessed its power unleashed in vast world of social sites, visited by millions of users daily. They are bases on new concept called Web 2.0 and introduce great amount of pictures, sounds, videos, comments and communication. Some of the concepts are used in Bosuu.com and we are here to give you an overview of how this service can help you learn new language.

Busuu.com is created as an online meeting place around interactive courses, lessons and exercises where you can talk and collaborate with natives speakers.

Let there be Tree

When you register you will have your own Learning Garden that list all languages you learn as trees which grow gradually as you progress through the courses. It is a great visual tool that motivates younger learners but those mature as well. You will be rewarded with small tokens that symbolize your progress. It is also possible to take a look of other peoples’ threes and see their progress.

Languages on Busuu Tree – French, Italian, German

Four languages are available at this moment: French, Italian, German and English and the staff announced plans for adding more, even the elusive Busuu language the site is named after.

For each language there are several ways to go through the lessons. You can do them one by one, by choosing the level of difficulty or by selecting the grammar sections or topics that interests you.

Busuu main page with Language Tree
Busuu main page with Language Tree

New words are presented with an image which helps in acquiring, especially for visual types of learners. Of course, you can hear the word spoken by native speaker, and if you are a premium user, you can hear it in the context (an utterance). This will greatly help you master your pronunciation and get sentence rhythm.

Premium users can download lessons in PDF, print it and work offline – this is not available for common users.

It would be more interesting and of more benefit to have different lessons for each language: here the content is the same, only in different language. This negatively affects motivation in some users, wile others will appreciate familiar context. However, acquiring foreign language is also learning about culture and differences, and users all over the world would appreciate diversity in this globalized society. It would be very refreshing to learn about Maria from Sicily or Amelie and Jacques from Paris…

Test and mistakes

After the vocabulary training and short texts you can work on tests and see how well you are doing. The things that you find more difficult will be saved, so you can review later.

The name of the site comes from the Busuu language of Cameroon, which according to an ethnological study from the 80ies is only spoken by 8 people.

Multiple-choice comprehension test, one of many test teypes on Busuu
Multiple-choice comprehension test, one of many test teypes on Busuu

Hidden value and native speakers

One of the best things about Busuu is the interaction between native speakers and learners of foreign language. This “linguistic productivity” and communication is essential for successful acquisition of a new language.

In some lessons learners have to write on a topic in the language they are learning. This is not daunting as it seems because useful phrases are available and “students” must be creative and work on their own. Learners’ written work is then available for native speakers to edit and show mistakes. This great interaction can further be enhanced by voice chat and webcams – chat windows even contain useful phrases for conversation.

We really hope that this interactive “native speakers – learners” system will further be improved because of all its potential.

Go for it!

Would we suggest Busuu.com? Definitely. Go and meet people, share views and talk – in foreign language. Gauge your progress in Busuu Garden, and let friendly commnity of native speakers help you in your learning.

Busuu.com is a free online community for learning languages. Users have access to audio-visual learning material covering several topics. Additionally, language skills can be directly improved together with native speakers from around the world. Users connect via an integrated video-chat with other users of the community while at home. Each user is not only “student” of a foreign language but also a “teacher” of his own mother tongue. The start-up was founded in Madrid at the beginning of 2008. The company has been nominated Official Project of the UNESCO during the International Year of Languages. – from Busuu.com.

Macmillan Readers help improve reading and listening skills

Textbooks of reading material, or readers, improve reading and listening skills, especially when accompanied by the recording of the written material. This text is short overview of the listening problems, with the explanation why texts with recorded narration are useful. In addition, we will describe Macmillan Readers Series.

Listening problems in EFL

What are the problems regarding listening in language acquisition? We will use the list from an article Barriers to Acquiring Listening Strategies which states that major listening problems are:

  1. Lack of control over the speed at which speakers speak ,
  2. not being able to get things repeated,
  3. the listener’s limited vocabulary,
  4. failure to recognize the “signals,”
  5. problems of interpretation,
  6. inability to concentrate, and
  7. established learning habits.

Benefits of using Reader and recorded narration

By using reading materials and recorded narration, learners can address some of the problems. For example, the learners can gradually train themselves to read faster, they can repeat the recording when they like and as often as they like. Further, learners are not under pressure to know unknown words, as they can at their own time work on the text and then again on the listening.

A CD accompanying Macmillan Reader

The listening material is very important in dealing with the proper pronunciation, stress, accent and sentence rhythm. This is great way to acquire pronunciation, especially if learners can record themselves and then compare their own reading with the narration on the CD.

Introducing Macmillan Readers Series

Without any wish to promote it as the best available, we will in short describe Macmillan Readers series. The series consists of booklets with CD that contains recorded material spoken by professional actors. It is published at six levels, and each level has structure and vocabulary that suits learners’ ability. More difficult words are explained within text, or shown in the pictures. According to the publisher, the texts are “retold versions of popular classic and contemporary titles as well as specially written stories.”

Back of the book indicating a level
Back cover of the book indicating a level

The number of words is different at each level:

Starter, about 300 basic words
Beginner, 600;
Elementary, 1100;
Pre-intermediate, 1400;
Intermediate, 1600 and
Upper, about 2200 basic words.

The readers contain a glossary and comprehension exercises as well. You can visit Macmillan Readers
on a bookstore site for further information. Feel free to suggest similar products in the comments bellow.

Babbel.com – language learning platform

Babbel.com is an online platform for learning foreign languages. You can choose to learn Italian, French, Spanish and German, while site is available in English and Italian and it offers interactive multimedia content.

After registration you will be welcomed by uncluttered home page from where you can choose tutorials and exercises. Because Babbel.com is a modern site, it is loaded with pictures and good voice samples (“listening material”) by native language speakers.

Vocabulary sets and learning unknown words

Here you can learn words related to a specific topic, such as meeting people, art, weather, food, music etc. After choosing the vocabulary you are guided through the tutorial in several stages. The site will present you in more than one way the words you are learning, and after that you can solve simple and amusing test. If you opt in for the e-mail notifications, you will get a remainder to review your more challenging words.

Learn words related to specific topica
Learn words related to specific topic

Learn – Real-life language, Grammar and Exercises

Steadily growing number of tutorials available in Learn section of the site is useful in getting an overview of basic grammar and in seeing how the language functions in real life. The section is presented through mini lessons which consist of language material (audio and pictures) and, again, different tests where you can see how successful you are acquiring your new language.

Interactive language lessons (Tutorials)
Interactive language lessons (Tutorials)

Community and Language Learning

The site is still being developed, but community plays one of the major parts. You can see what users are online, what languages they are learning and so on. There is an option to get in touch with “learning partner” and improve the learning by working together. However, it is obvious that this needs more work, from technical aspect and available content. It would be good to have voice and video chat, and more multimedia content to motivate learners.

To connect with other users you can also use Chat and Board, available in French, English, Italian, German and Italian (at the moment when this article is being written).

Language learning platform with potential

Babbel.com is a platform with great potential, and being free it is worth trying. We hope that the team behind the site will work more on interactivity within context. It is obvious that learners need more exposure to the language, more content with target language, especially topics related to the culture of the countries where the foreign language is spoken. Also, it would be great to see how potentials of community can be used not only in an interactive part, but in the creation of the content as well.

At the moment, Babbel.com is great for intermediate users that wish to refresh their basic knowledge of foreign language, but we hope to see more content with in-depth language exposure that will benefit all learners.