Livemocha and other language exchange sites



There are many sites on the net which offer to help students learn a foreign language. Some are completely free of charge, some have both free services and pay services, and often they allow native speakers of a language to help learners of their language by reviewing their written or spoken works. It’s a great idea although this is undoubtedly a double-edged sword. This leads us to next paragraph.

I am a member of three of those sites: Babbel, Langled and Livemocha
Best of all I know Livemocha, which recently turned into a pay site, if I am not mistaken. I have tried a few lessons in different languages, and reviewed hundreds of exercises of Italian learners. I find it very positive that Livemocha gives a chance to their members to have not only the written, but also their audio activities reviewed. I have to admit that the so called “active” courses (pay content, unfortunately), appear easy to understand, are drawn up in an appealing way, and involve the students in interactive activities without falling in “pattern drills” scheme, which I heartily abhor. Plus, the role play with video dialogs is a good idea. Sometimes you only have to read a given input at the right moment; sometimes learners have to make up their own parts. What I like is that the activities are ordered into “semantic criteria” (at the restaurant, grocery shopping, at the train station), so that there is a “leading thread” throughout a unit. I don’t know what you think about it, but I like it very much when I can “group” the new lexicon into a certain category.

Indeed, the biggest fault I had detected in the previous Livemocha free content was just this, the lack of any coherence in the inputs. Look at this:
Qualcuno accende le luci di pomeriggio. Lui apre le finestre di sera. Il ragazzo si sta appoggiando sulla macchina e sta aprendo lo zaino. Sto portando la valigia all'aeroporto. Sta andando in bicicletta e portando dei libri.
This is a text which the students read in order to train their pronunciation. But I think, to create a thread connecting the given sentences wouldn’t hurt, would it? However, all this looks like a jumble of things, cast without any criteria.

Another example:
Lei compra le candele bianche alle quattro meno un quarto. Lui mangia il cibo alle dodici e trenta ma berrà il caffè tra cinque minuti. Mi siederò a tavola tra trenta minuti. Sei già arrivato? No, non ancora. Arriverai in un'ora.
This is even worse, since even the single sentences don’t make any sense. “She buys the white candles at a quarter to four.” “She eats (is eating) the food at twelve thirty, but will drink (yeah, the future tense is used, weird) a coffee in five minutes.”
Last but not least: "Have you already arrived? No, not yet. You’ll arrive in one hour".
I promise, many students misread it, because after “Have you already arrived? No, not yet,” they would expect, if ever: Arriverò in un’ora (I’ll arrive in one hour), rather then the very weird “you’ll arrive in one hour.”

I must say that the cost to enroll in an “active language course” is about $200 US (140 €) for six months.
It’s also possible to get a monthly subscription for about $35 US a month. In Babbel, on the other hand, the cost of a six-month subscription is about 33 €, while three months cost about 20 €.
Langled has some free content, and some available only to VIP Member (15 € per month)

Should you hear of other similar sites, please give me notice.