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As you log on to Facebook or MySpace, how about taking a slight detour to a social networking site of a slightly different kind? Launched in September 2007, LiveMocha promises to make language tuition as warm as a cup of mocha. Mocha, by the way is a rich pungent Arabic coffee. So brew yourself one and read on.

English has been the ‘lingua franca’ for a very long time, but with the trend towards globalization, no individual or business can ignore the impact of the native tongue. The concept behind LiveMocha is simple. It is a Web 2.0 platform from its interface to the culture of social interactivity that makes learning a new language not only fun, but more importantly free.

LiveMocha adopts a community based approach to learning a new language. Users help each other learn a new language by offering tips, checking each other’s uploaded exercises or assignments and also engaging in one on one interactions. A speaker fluent in English might for example want to learn the subtleties of French. Through this site you can teach a native Frenchman (or better, a mademoiselle) some English and be tutored in French in return. As LiveMocha calls it – return the favor.

LiveMocha.com

The log-on process is simple and attractively free. Imagine learning a whole new way to communicate without spending a dime. LiveMocha to date offers lessons in 11 languages – English, Spanish, French, Hindi, German, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Icelandic, Italian and Chinese.

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Choose your language and if your tongue can handle the linguistic challenge you can choose more than one. With ‘4’ modules covering four different learning levels, spending 160 hours can take the user from the basics to a level of passable everyday conversation.

The Courseware

CourseWare

Each level drills down to ‘units’ and further to ‘lessons’. The learning content uses text, audio and video inputs to teach the nuances of a language, leveraging the advantages of a Web 2.0 platform. The student follows a defined path –

A Lesson Page

1. Learning through visual and auditory cues.

2. Reading and associating it with an image.

3. Listening to the way the word is pronounced.

4. Magnet, a small exercise. The student listens to the word / sentence and drags it to a box to check the match.

5. Writes some text and submits it to the community for feedback.

6. Records a passage and submits it to the community for feedback.

The learners and the teachers can communicate with each other through texting, talking or with a webcam.

It is not all footloose learning. Using some real world devices like a course progress bar, course points and a ‘leaderboard’ with the names of the five top ranking members taking the same course keeps the involved learner on his (or her) toes. Members also earn points based on their contributions to the community and their level of interactivity within the community. For example, tutoring someone earns points. So does sending out invites for signups.

Practice makes perfect

Learning a foreign tongue need not be a solitary exercise. With this thought, the practice section of LiveMocha helps the student brush up on his or her vocabulary and diction with the aid of a community member. Text, speech or dialogue, some community member is always ready to lend a hand or an ear.

There is a “flashcards’ utility on the site. Akin to the real world, flash cards can be created by the user to help him or her along with any lesson revisions. An user can also use the flashcard sets created by another user. A friendly way to share and share alike.

The community of learners

This is an atypical community of learners. A global one, every learner is also a tutor here. The text and chat tools are a great learning aid providing real time interactivity. LiveMocha is a friendly meeting place of learners with a common purpose. Just like any other social networking site worth its salt, you can invite friends, search for friends, and send messages and/or chat. Plus if you don’t like a pesky one just press delete. To help you keep track there is the ubiquitous ‘Recent Activity Feed’ which records your activities within the site.

The report card

The biggest advantage of a social learning site is that it encourages interactions and helps the user gain conversational skills by understanding the peculiar ways each language is spoken.

Though the website still carries the beta tag, it seems to be gung-ho with nearly 350,000 users globally. New improvements like a TOEFL preparatory course also are in the pipeline. So are more enhanced levels of instructional content like live tutoring and certification tests. These may come at a cost in the near future.

As its founding CEO Mr. Shirish Nadkarni elaborated, the name ‘LiveMocha’ was used to deliberately suggest a lively and light ambiance of a coffee shop on the net. That is the only drawback. The brewing has to be done at home.

Do you use LiveMocha? Or do you use another website to learn a foreign language? Tell us all about your online foreign language learning in the comments.

  1. David
    August 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Its a great website to get you familiar with the language, but there should definitely be more attention paid to essential/ non essential vocab. You learn a lot of good stuff don't get me wrong, but there are also things that are utterly useless for somebody who wants to simply enter conversation.

    Some of the grammar and pronunciation of what your learning is sometimes wrong. I've had a good few times when natives have been correcting things that the lessons told me.

    Its got a long way to go before it can be considered a solution for language, but it is certainly an excellent idea and I'd recommend it. Just make sure you don't rely on it 100%.

    • Saikat
      August 21, 2009 at 9:53 pm

      David,
      With languages that's to be expected. With every language there are subtleties I guess, between what's textbook and what's colloquial.That's where the community based learning approach helps.

  2. Ashok Rawat
    July 29, 2009 at 1:22 am

    please , i am bigginer courses apply ,i need of bigginer courses of english to french simply notes downloded . please help me .

  3. Ahmed
    March 30, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Please ,I finished begginer courses,I need intermediate courses of English.I need help

  4. Julia
    August 22, 2008 at 6:49 am

    what about palabea.net?
    I like livemocha and palabea.. Palabea has launched in october 2007 and Livemocha too...als user I feel goob in palabea and in livemocha...but the busuu and the babbel...I don´t really like them..ithey don´t have anything I can say: cool!! so i advice you: Livemocha and Palabea!!

  5. Alfredo
    August 8, 2008 at 5:36 am

    Nice review and interesting site - I joined recently another community for learning languages called busuu.com - in comparison to livemocha I find it much more intuitive to learn and the community seems to be a bit more "educated"...and it's completely free of charge as well!

  6. Toffler
    August 3, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Thanks for the comprehensive report on LiveMocha. Another site similar to LM, but with support for more languages is italki.com. In fact, I'm sure Mohammad will be happy, you can even learn Arabic there. Plus italki offers more advanced language study options, if for example you're intermediate level and find LiveMocha too easy. italki is free as well.

  7. Zoey
    July 10, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    I have had some experience with Livemocha - it is a great site. I do think it is very difficult to make the crossover from elementary level to intermediate and above with online language leraning but they can be great for a refresher or for an initial 'ice breaker' with the language. As a linguist, I also think the BBC website is great for reference, and I'd add that the best online bilingual dictionary I've come across is wordreference.com. :)

  8. Speedster
    July 9, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I have heard good things about mocha, but right now I find that eduFire.com is working best for me. They have live tutors avavilable around the globe to tutor me one hour at a time. i find that personal touch very helpful.

  9. Jimmy Gambier
    July 9, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Wow. Very impressed with your extensive review Saikat.
    As a member of the product management team, I'm happy to see you found Livemocha so useful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

    Stay tuned for exciting new features coming to the site shortly.

    • Saikat
      July 19, 2008 at 9:10 am

      Hi Jimmy,
      Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for the feedback. No, I don't have anyqyeries right now...but I hope you add more members and languages soon. (I am sure you will do), I am planning to learn French from LiveMocha soon.

  10. joe strummer
    July 9, 2008 at 6:25 am

    hi there,

    nice presentation video from mocha,a question do you have to pay to use live mocha?

    I also discovered another similar language learning communities, but with a different approach.
    For instance http://www.palabea.net offers you the chance to learn almost any language, with a more democratic approach to minoritarian languages
    I also wrote a comparison of other sites I found on the hub page I provide above this comment
    anyone found more resources, i am really interested in this new boom

    feedbacks welcome;)

    cheers

    joe

    • Saikat
      July 9, 2008 at 10:23 am

      No Joe, Live Mocha is free to use. It is a wonderful use of the social networking boom we are witnessing today.

    • AskTheAdmin | Karl Gechlik
      July 9, 2008 at 12:53 pm

      Just like Saikat said everything reviewed on MakeUseOf.com is either totally free or at least has a free option...

      If it is for free... It's for me :)

  11. Mohammad
    July 8, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I see some irony here.
    The Mocha is an Arabic coffee but they don't include Arabic as one of the languages in their website.

    • Saikat
      July 9, 2008 at 10:24 am

      Well, they are going to add many more languages soon.

    • Marian
      January 22, 2009 at 4:33 am

      Saikat, but there are many native Arabic speakers on Mocha & they're exchanging Arabic skills to learn other languages!

    • Chris
      July 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

      Mocha, Yemen was home to the Mocha bean long before Arabs walked the sands.

  12. Leisureguy
    July 8, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    P.J.T. Glendening wrote a very helpful little book Teach Yourself to Learn a Language, now out of print but occasionally available through secondhand books sites. He provides excellent advice, including a core vocabulary that can take you far in any language (the essential words: man, woman, day, night, week, tomorrow, yesterday, bring, take, and so on). He also emphasizes the importance of learning both the ordinal numbers (first, second, third, and so on) as well as the cardinal numbers (one, two, three, and so on)—when you’re on the phone and get a phone number or an address or want to tell someone the time and date to meet, you’ll need those numbers.

    One key skill, usually learned in the first foreign language one learns, is not to fixate on a particular set of words you want to say, but to think about the idea and communicate it in words that you know. If you want to say particular words, you can readily get “stuck” because you don’t know some word, but if you’re willing to paraphrase using the words you know, you can talk around the difficulty. This skill probably accounts for the success of a Finnish experiment: most students study three years of German, but an experimental group studied a year of Esperanto, followed by two years of German (with the Esperanto continued as the language in geography classes). The Esperanto group, at the end of the three years, knew German better than those who had three years of German: they were more fluent, for example, and they found it easier to communicate. The idea was that in learning Esperanto (which was specifically designed to be easy to learn), they also picked up all sorts of skills in language learning in general, which they then used in learning German.

    • Saikat
      July 9, 2008 at 10:26 am

      Great info...I am searching for a podcast or an audio on the book.

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