The Instruction and Outreach Department manages and coordinates library research instruction for students, faculty and staff through course-related workshops, outreach activities, personal consultations, research guides and other instructional materials.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

The wonderful world of Internet language learning resources

During the four weeks that Alex and I have been volunteering with Instruction and Outreach, one my projects has been helping with the creation of a LibGuide to assist students of foreign languages, and in particular those learning languages outside the context of a university class.

Consequently I've been spending some time exploring the world of free online language resources, and while I've run across a number of antiquated, sketchy or poorly-designed sites, the more I look around, the luckier I feel to be a language learner in the Internet age, with instant access to so many useful tools and detailed reference works--and perhaps best of all, with endless opportunities to encounter authentic foreign language material, both written and spoken.

I won't try to list all the helpful resources I've found, but here are a few that stand out:

RadioTime is a directory of online radio broadcasters with an on-board interface. Listening to foreign radio stations is a tremendous way to develop language skills, and RadioTime's regional directory offers easy and reliable access to stations all over the world.

Tex's French Grammar is a clever, comprehensive and entertaining introduction to French. It's been around for a long time (I dimly remember using it during my initial forays into French many years ago) but it's showing no signs of age. Tex's home is the Texas Language Technology Center at UTexas, which also offers online language resources for Arabic, Spanish, Persian, German, Portuguese and Italian. Definitely worth a visit.

Rikaichan is a Firefox extension which brings up an instant popup translation when you move your mouse over Japanese text. It's a beautifully quick and click-free way to look up unfamiliar words. is one solution to the problem of getting accents, umlauts and their ilk into your text. It provides an online text box with buttons used to enter the special characters of 19 different languages. You can enter text and special characters into the box, then copy-paste it wherever you need it. Easy! Or, as they apparently say in Icelandic, "au├░veldur!" ("├░" provided courtesy of

This is a tiny sampling of the helpful tools language learners can find on the Internet. If you have favorite online language resources, we'd love to hear about them!

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