One of the benefits of attending the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin was the chance to sample a few different language learning methods. MosaLingua is an app for iPhone or Android and it usually costs £3.99 (which won’t break the bank) but Gathering attendees got a free sample.
So, the first question was – which language to try?
Revising while learning
One of the tips to becoming a polyglot is to learn a new language through one that isn’t your mother tongue but you’ve already spent some time studying it. This gives you the chance to revise a previously learnt language (instead of having it go rusty) and stops you thinking too much in your mother tongue. I’m also hoping that it will help me to be able to swap between languages more easily. I decided to apply that principle here and rather than select English as my mother tongue, I selected French.
I confess to having a slight advantage here. The language isn’t completely unknown to me although I haven’t tried to learn it. I used to know a few Brazilians in Australia and I could often understand when they spoke Portuguese to each other. Also, when I went along to a presentation in Portuguese at the Polyglot Gathering, I found I could understand most of it.
What I’ve learnt so far
Well, I’ve been learning for a few days following the recommended 5 minutes per day. I would usually spend rather more time than that if I were serious about learning a language – about 20 to 30 minutes if possible – but I just wanted to dabble with Portuguese and see what I thought of the app.
Session One – I was presented with 5 words to learn for the day and they were all words I could guess: e.g. senhora, senhor, senhorita, obrigado(a). Obviously the app has to assume that the learner has no knowledge to start with, but when I had no difficulty with these words I was asked if they were too easy and if I wanted to progress to a harder level. For the moment I’ll stay where I am, but good to see that I can move on if I want to.
Categories and custom lists
The app offers the facility to create your own custom lists of words or phrases that you want to learn and you can ignore words that you don’t consider useful. The vocab comes in categories, so you can select to learn from a particular category, e.g. transport, shopping, basic phrases, emergencies.
By going to a Plus section, you have the chance to learn from dialogues. These are presented in steps: audio by itself initially so you can listen several times and see how much you understand. Then you can play the dialogue again with subtitles in your target language (e.g. Brazilian Portuguese), then with subtitles in the language you know (e.g. French), and finally, the whole dialogue is presented with key phrases on cards that you can learn and test yourself on.
You can get directly to the MosaLingua online community from the app where you can join a users’ group and receive advice on language learning. There is also information on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MosaLingua
So what do I think?
It’s a bit too early for me to tell yet, but the quality of the sound files is good and there is quite a lot of written advice on how to learn that is easily accessible within the app.
The app itself is easy to use and responds quickly. As I’m not in any hurry to learn Portuguese I’ll probably just puddle along with it doing the 5 minutes a day until I get to a stage where I have to put more effort in, then I’ll see how it compares to other methods. At the moment it only seems to be teaching me individual words and short phrases, but it’s too early to say how useful it will be and I have to start somewhere!
With any luck I’ll be able to add Brazilian Portuguese to my list of languages spoken at the next Polyglot Gathering!