The social network
|This is how Livemocha is modeled|
Photo credit: Linda Hartley licensed CC BY 2.0
Livemocha offers a free basic membership, much like most other social networking sites. When you join as a free user, you have at your disposal an array of free courses graded in levels along with several exercises and an entire community of fellow language learners to interact and socialize with. These courses have lessons covering every aspects of a wholesome language learning program, i.e., writing, reading, listening, and speaking.
The site has a rating system where you earn points and badges for performing various activities. You earn points not only for successfully completing your lessons but also for contributing to the community at large. For example, you earn points by chatting with other learners, reviewing their exercises, offering them feedback, etc. This is a symbiosis where your exercises are reviewed by those proficient in your target language while you review those of someone who is learning a language you’re fluent in. So, effectively, you are a teacher as well as a student, both at once. A brilliant concept that helped me acquire most of my Spanish skills without a formal teacher! Livemocha also offers a range of paid courses if you are willing to shell out some dough but this article is only going to discuss what comes for free.
Just like any other social networking site, you start by creating an account and a profile with some personal details. Well, you don’t absolutely have to load up tons of personal information on this site as you would normally do on your Facebook profile. Almost every field is optional and you are free to decide how much you are comfortable sharing.
However, a profile devoid of any informtion looks pretty much spammy or insincere. Don’t forget that this is a community and the more you are invested in your social endeavors here, the more juice you get to draw. Since your profile is the first impression, it should be reasonably friendly and inviting. A decent mug as your profile picture counts as a necessary PR step.
Do put up a friendly note about yourself and your language learning interests in your “About Me” section as that’s the section that essentially introduces you. The next absolute necessity is telling what languages you speak and what you wish to learn. This will not only help other community members know what you are pursuing and what you know, but will also help Livemocha suggest the most relevant profiles whenever you perform a community search. So, if your profile says that your native tongue is English and you are learning Spanish, Livemocha would suggest to you native Spanish speakers who are learning English.
How to get the most out of it
Once your profile is up, you can immediately start engaging with the vast network of learners and learning resources. In the beginning, however, the whole array of options and tools might get you overwhelmed. So, let my experiences with Livemocha cut right through the clutter and bring to you the 4 most useful tips in order to maximize your benefits:
- Focus solely on the reading and speaking lessons. A major portion of every course is composed of modules where you click on pictures and listen to an audio telling you what the picture stands for. In my opinion, this module is an utter waste of time and energy as it won’t get you anywhere in terms of either speaking or reading Spanish. Instead, it is best to just skip to the reading exercise where you record yourself reading a given passage in Spanish and submit the recording to the community of native speakers for review. This will help you with pronunciation and diction in the most effective manner.
- Immediately start helping others with their work. So, if you are a native English speaker learning Spanish, you should immediately start reviewing the drills completed by native Spanish speakers trying to learn English. Don’t procrastinate on this one as helping others will get you more help which you so desperately need. A profile poor in “teacher points” is easily seen as someone selfish and unwilling to help – not the best impression you want the community to have of you. Helping others is the best way of making friends with native speakers and accelerating your learning.
- Always acknowledge their helpfulness. As you start submitting your exercises, you will start receiving valuable feedback from other community members who review your work. You must get into the practice of rating every feedback in terms on helpfulness and, if possible, offer a comment of acknowledgement. This will not only earn you points but also show your gratitude for their help. Besides, a good rating from you would also add points to the members whose feedback was rated and this would act as an added incentive for them to review your work more often and more sincerely. On the other hand, not-so-helpful reviews are also weeded out organically in this process.
- Interact with other members. We admit we are no fans of the Java-based chat interface of Livemocha but the activity nonetheless remains integral to your language acquisition program. Real-time interaction can teach you several finer nuances of colloquial Spanish which are otherwise not available on any course. If the interface peeves you, feel free to move over to something else like Skype once you have become reasonably comfortable with the chat-buddy.