Impressive, free (and dated) JLU’s language learning resourcess

The Joint Language University (JLU) provides free downloadable language courses. I have stumbled upon them while searching for the Portuguese learning resources, and I was pleased to discover more languages.

The JLU Free Language Courses

An graphic elements in a dated JLU language course
A picture in a dated JLU language course

If you point your browser to the JLU’s address you will open a page with the following language courses: Albanian, Belarusan, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, Czech, Dari, Dutch, Egyptian Arabic, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hungarian, Indonesian, Iraqi Arabic, Korean, Maranao, MSA, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Syrian Arabic, Tausug, Thai, and Vietnamese.

The courses vary in quality and extent. For example, the Portuguese course contains several books and audio resources, while the Serbian is much smaller and lacks audio. The Russian resources are extensive. The Arabic courses are impressive, with EgyptianIraqiSyrian and MSA. But, there is a catch.

Free courses, but dated language courses

Portuguese course sample page
A Portuguese course from 1960s, created on a mechanical typewriter

The good thing about the JLU free resources is that they are, well, free. Not so good about them is that they are very dated and, form the point of view of a general learner or speaker, overly military (due to its origin and purpose).

Some of the materials are from 1960s. For example, the Portuguese course was created in 1968 (the PDF is scanned mechanically typewritten content, and the MP3 is converted from tapes). The Portuguese language underwent several orthographic reforms in the meantime, which the JLU course renders more of a research material than a learning material.

I assume that “dated” is a relative term for some languages, but it is up to a learner (or mentor) to give the final judgement. However, a half of a century is a lot in terms of a current and relevant learning material. The methods in language teaching have also been updated since 60s.

The JLU language courses listed in this text are not modern, but they can be useful to linguists and language enthusiasts (even though some courses are incomplete). You can have a look at their other public materials here, but be ready for not so friendly web interface.

Jotpub – Minimalistic Language Tests Platform

I am happy to announce a new website project, following several months of development: Jotpub.com, titled Minimalistic Language Tests Platform Jotpub is a website that enables anyone, from most modern devices, to solve, create, and share language tests, see the score and keep track of the solved tests — for free.

Purpose

Jotoub logo (green circle with white JP letters in it)
Jotpub

The purpose of Jotpub is to be a simple, creative, open, non-obstructive and trusted solution for language practice by online tests. It is simplistic in design and idea — there are too many complex learning platforms and Jotpub is not trying to be one. It is open, so all interested visitors can solve tests and check their answers, and thus non-obstructive. It encourages creativity  by giving an opportunity to all registered users (the registration is free and necessary so tests could have an author) to make and share tests. “Trusted” means that the author (and the editor) pays close attention to the sources of the selected tests and texts, and that only checked, reliable, content is visible to learners. All in all, Jotpub an attempt to reach, educate, and help language learners (an their teachers). And, yes, it’s free.

Features

Main features of Jotpub are focused on solving, creating, and sharing language tests. Solving is based on entering, checking, and revealing answers to “traditional” questions: fill in the blanks, true/false and multiple, with either one or several correct answers — try solving The Indefinite Article Basics or Articles from “Golden Bird” (a lengthy one). Creating is done on the website on a special page (Jotpub Test Maker) that uses a simple interface to create new language tests.  Sharing is made possible by publishing a page address (for now by using a third-party solution), and all authors can share the link to their tests.

How Language Tests on Jotpub Function

Fill-in-the-blanks - text and lozenges to enter answers
Fill-in-the-blanks, one of the questions on Jotpub

The language test are organized into  two main groups: by categories and tags. The categories follow a strict linguistic division, for example Grammar > Articles > All articles, while tags represent more loose, mixed, labeling (in the tag listings, the categories are tags as well). Users can browse the tests and then select one to solve. After entering the answers and clicking on Check my answers, the analysed test will appear, showing correct, incorrect and missing answers. Users can now redo the test, or reveal the answers (this option is available only when tests are first attempted).

If users are registered, their test is saved in Testbook,  so they can redo it later. Also, each listing has small symbols that show solved and attempted tests.

Jotpub has a nice printing style and only the relevant information for test solving is shown on the paper. You can copy it and share to your learners. You can also print solved tests.

Creating Language Tests

making multiple answers question on jotpub
Jotpub Test Maker – an example of creating a multiple select question.

The test creation is done in the Jotpub Test Maker — the page anyone can use, and the one I use to make all tests on Jotpub. After users register, they will be able to load the Test Maker  and enter their questions. Great attention was given to an attempt to make this as simple as possible. For example, to make a blank, just enter the sentence and enclose any word (or a letter) in square brackets ([like this]); for multiple select either one or several answers — this will render two types of questions.

The test are at first unlisted. This means they are not available to all users. After the test is checked it may be listed and visible to all visitors. However, all created tests can be shared if the test creator shares a link to it.

Further Plans For Jotpub

There are several plans regarding the future development of Jotpub. Some are focused on stability and optimization, and others on new features (particularly about statistics). For now, the  primary task is to see what users think abut the website, and what they would like to see changed, improved or added. You are invited to be one of the visitors to solve some tests!

 

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.