Thanks to the rise of social networking, smartphones, and faster Internet speeds, it’s never been easier to immerse yourself in a new language without even leaving home.
The best-known method is Rosetta Stone, the interactive, total-immersion-style program that uses intuitive flash-card-like video games to teach students in the same way a child might learn a language. In other words: no boring grammar lectures or lessons. The service’s Totale Version 4 program ($249; rosettastone.com) offers interactive, voice-recognition-enabled lessons in any of 24 languages on CD, online, or via an app for iPhone, as well as through live online sessions with a native speaker. For the more scholarly minded, Livemocha’s Active classes ($99–$399 per year; livemocha.com) for French, Italian, Spanish, and German deliver a mix of text-based grammar and usage lessons and repeat-after-me-style exercises that use voice recognition to test pronunciation. Learners also interact with teachers and native speakers online, both in live video sessions and via e-mail and recorded voice messages.
Mobile phones and tablets offer options, too, through apps such as Living Language’s text and audiobook grammar lessons for French, Italian, and Spanish ($9.99; iPhone), or the Byki series ($7.99 each for iPhone; $9.99 each for Android), which will blast thousands of rapid-fire phrases and quizzes at you in more than 40 languages.
The methods may have changed in the Internet era, but you still need to practice. “The golden rule is twenty minutes a day,” says Livemocha CEO Michael Schutzler. “It’s not very different from learning the piano.”