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Lifehacker and Other Stuff

From: Keith K.
Sent on: Friday, February 7, 2014 10:09 AM

Hola Amigos ... I probably should start writing all my messages in Spanish, but when I have tons to do sometimes it is easier to just whimp out and say it all in English.

In any case, did a survey recently to determine the Five Best Language Learning Tools (, and out of nearly 3000 responses here are the results (together with a few of my comments).

Duolingo  58.26%  (1,664 votes) - Duolingo has taken the internet by storm over the last year, a pretty slick FREE program that only asks you to help (fairly regularly) with translations and whatnot.  I have actually worked through the entire program, and it will take you up to Intermediate level however with very little on the subjunctive.

Anki  12.99%  (371 votes) - I still don't know why this program is so popular, the Spaced Repetition Software (SRS) technology is certainly better than plain old fashcards, however it still costs to buy the program for your iPhone, and I still find Anki boring and nothing I ever stick with ... and besides, you can get that same SRS in the engine of various programs available now (such as Memrise) listed below.

Pimsleur  12.71% , (363 votes) - My personal favorite program for the first 4 years of learning Spanish, one drawback is definitely the price (if you buy it from the publisher), but I found Levels 1-3 on Craigslist for a fifth the price, and I bought level 4 when it was first released and got 50% off.  Not only does Pimslear help you learn to speak (and without books!), but each 30 minute lesson works great for while you are exercising.  I have gone through all 4 levels at least 5 times, much of it while on my bike riding up City Creek Canyon.  However, I must confess that I rarely use it any more since my Spanish has progressed to a strong intermediate level -- don't I sound like an arrogant little Spanish snob now?!  What has become of me?!

Livemocha  8.16%  (233 votes) - Here is another program I don't know what the fuss is all about, the software behind the system (at least the last time I used it) was so basic that is was of little use, and the problem now is that Rosette Stone purchased Livemocha so now you get the upsell from Rosetta Stone all the time.  I think Livemocha draws so many people for the social networking more than anything, and it was at times pretty seedy a few years ago when they were focused on building their community as large as possible while in the meantime there were all sorts of, shall I say "come-ons," from people that you had to put up with.  I once reported to Livemocha a new member whose profile photo showed part of his private parts, but I am quite certain that they have really cleaned up the site (especially since Rosetta Stone bought it).

Memrise  7.88%  (225 votes) -- I don't know much about this program yet, although I have the app loaded on my iPhone, and it does use SRS and other learning technology in the engine so that is good.  And as far as I know, it is free at least for introductory levels.  Memrise is much more than a language learning system, languages are just one part of it.  Memrise has also launched a Cat Spanish app that is fairly clever and is focused on teaching you phrases, but for me the Spanish is too basic (and my Spanish snobbiness rears it's ugly head again).  The other thing I might mention is that Cat Spanish is a memory hog, and I suspect Memrise is too, so if you have a limited data plan on your phone and are not connected to a wi-fi, you could be using up all your data in a hurry (and 2 months in a row I paid the $15 surcharge for exceeding my limit).

Lastly, I am still building out my little Spanish Vocab Extender site at so check it out sometime and let me have any feedback you might have, and if you feel like donating a few bucks to help me out, please click on the Donate button -- muchas gracias.  On the Rescources page you can download for FREE many of the files, spreadsheets, and other helpful resources I have collected over the years -- so have it, and qué le vaya bien!



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