That rolled around quickly again, didn’t it?
2023 has been a year of language ups and downs. Amidst some sadder news, like the mothballing of old courses, and language department struggles at leading universities, there was a lot to celebrate, too. AI has gone big in the language learning world, supporting learners everywhere for free. And the non-Duolingo crowd of apps has only got stronger (continual love to Duolingo when you control the owl, of course). Offerings like Lingvist and Lingodeer now give learners more choice than ever.
It’s all got me a bit nostalgic for my own year of language learning treats. I’ve enjoyed so much of what’s been on offer this year, free and otherwise. It’s only proven to me what a well-supported bunch we are in the polyglot world. And long may that continue.
Anyway, here are a few 2023 treats that were right up my street. I hope you like them, too!
Speak Gaelic learners have great cause for cheer this season. The BBC’s vast new offering for Scottish Gaelic learners has been a shot in the arm for learners of this beautiful, precious Celtic language, and goes from strength to strength. It’s filled a gap left by the equally excellent, but ageing Speaking Our Language, and it seems determined to build on that heritage in a big way.
We’ve not only got multiple series of CEFR-levelled TV programmes, but also an excellent activity website, a podcast, and now, a series of course books. They even manage to be entertaining, thanks to the infectious cheer of Joy Dunlop and humour of Gaelic’s social media man, Calum MacIlleathain. That’s no mean feat for a language course. Legends, the lot of them.
Even if you have a passing interest in Gaelic, check the series out. It’s a masterclass in how to support a learning community.
The French educational publisher Éditions Ellipses was my big surprise of 2023. Ever a fan of triangulating my languages, I happened upon their language learning catalogue in France this year. They cover over 20 of them, supporting grammar, vocabulary and cultural learning. Well worth a look if you have French and fancy using it to learn other languages.
I bought a couple of good ones in Lyon, but they’re also available on Amazon: I particularly rate Petites histoires pour apprendre le grec moderne if you’re working on Greek, and Vox allemand for more advanced Germanists.
AI Platforms (LLMs)
I alluded to it in the intro, and it’s impossible to discuss learning in 2023 without a mention for AI. That’s Large Language Models to you and I in the know, as they’re appropriately named – and they’re content whizzes, making for a perfect partner with language learning. I spent so much time bending them to my polyglot will this year, that I wrote a book on using them, AI for Language Learners. Obviously, I would well recommend that as a Christmas treat for any language lover! 😉
The greatest thing about AI for languages is that it’s free to build into your learning routine. Microsoft’s Bing chat is now available to all, and is as good as the best paid models right now. If you want to have a play, check out my articles on creating your own Assimil-style language learning texts and creating Anki decks using AI for starters. Once you get stuck in, you won’t be able to stop!
Language Learning : The Return of …
For me, 2023 continued the personal movie that is French : The Sequel. After abandoning French pretty much immediately after school, it’s slipped back into my life almost accidentally. For one reason or another (mainly music), I keep finding myself in France.
It’s led, of course, to those Éditions Ellipses surprises in Parisian and Lyonnaise bookshops. It’s been such a pleasure, reconnecting… I’m not sure my French will ever be that good, but it’s fun trying! And it just confirms again that sometimes, you don’t always choose the language.
What have your 2023 language learning highlights been? Let us know in the comments!