Knowing more than one language is a regular thing for most Malaysians, and indeed many other peoples around the world. However, there is always that one extra language we yearn to understand. Whether it is picking up Japanese to watch more anime, or learning Mandarin because you are a shame to your culture for not being able to speak your mother tongue, here are five of the most popular (and useful) languages that can be learnt from the internet.
Mandarin is one of the more difficult languages to pick up, largely due to the tonal nature of the language. Fortunately, the importance of Mandarin Chinese on the global scale also means that there is no lack of resources for learning the language.
The BBC still operates a section on its website with basic instructions on the language. Admittedly, the videos don’t always work but the podcasts sections are still perfectly serviceable. While these other two options offer more up to date lessons. They, however, appear to be written by native Chinese speakers. Which makes the English a little hard to work around when trying to understand how the lessons are meant to be structured.
Operated by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcasting service, Deutsche Warum Nicht might just be the best language teaching podcast available. The lessons are divided into four seasons that follow the story of journalism student Andreas Schaffer and aims to teach conversational German that is actually useful.
The course utilises passive learning techniques and tries to get listeners to figure out what the actual translation is by explaining what is going on. A small issue with the course is that it is not divided grammatical topics; which makes going back to relearn a particular part of the course an exercise in digging through audio archives. Fortunately, the structure of the programme shouldn’t have people going back to the start too many times.
Tae Kim’s blog is a comprehensive resource for picking up Japanese without having to leave the house. The website is available as a book on Amazon.com, and comes highly recommended for those interested in learning the language. Oddly enough, there is a disclaimer on the blog which warns readers that it is still a work in progress. That being said, it is complete enough to grasp a basic understanding of the language. Thankfully, Kim has also included a message board for people who need to ask questions; or just practice what they have learnt.
Each lesson comes in the form of a video; which helps with visualising how sentences are structured in Japanese. A massive help to those used to the haphazard manner in which English is often expressed. The only negative feature is that Kim’s voice can sound very dull; although this is mitigated by the short nature of his lessons.
There is some amount of romance attached to the ability to speak French, which is why this is one of the more popular languages to learn for anglophiles. Unfortunately, the BBCs guide is no longer working properly and exists purely as a half working archive.
The best free alternative happens to be this blog. The host, Alexa Polidoro, has a terrible accent when speaking English, which makes it a little harder to catch what is going on. Although native English speakers shouldn’t have too much of an issue. However, the website hasn’t been updated since 2009; and the background makes it impossible to read the text without some highlighting.
Korean isn’t exactly the most widespread of languages, but this is on the list because it has recently become very popular due to the influx of Korean dramas and music. This set of podcasts is unusual in that it doesn’t take a top down approach to explaining the language. Instead, each episode revolves around a Dutch, named Joop, man trying to learn Korean from his very Korean wife. The situations are a little forced, but do a decent job of establishing a basic understanding of conversational Korean.
The rest of the website is a collection of links and material to support the understanding of the lessons. Despite the name, the lessons are not updated weekly; but it has been going on long enough that there is plenty to go through before one runs out of things to learn or practice.
Special Bonus – Malay
It would be safe to say that everyone who visits this site has the ability to speak Malay. But this is here because it would be an immensely helpful link to pass to foreigners coming to live in our country. Malay as a language is rather simple due to the lack of almost arbitrary grammar rules, or complex pronunciation systems. It an easy language for other people to pick up, although there is a definite lack of modern online sources for it. This particular website is quite good at explaining how the language works while also providing a basic understanding of conversational Malay. Unfortunately, it suffers from a design that looks like it’s a 1999 Geocities website. Still, it is the best place to start learning the local language.