Yes, Christmas is just around the corner! And, if you’re anything like me, you enjoy a healthy (and very human) mix of perfect prep and last-minute lunacy. However well I plan, there are always a couple of things that sneak onto my to-do list in the last couple of days.
Never fear: if you still have language learning friends and family to treat, these are our top gift picks for linguistic stocking fillers.
Teach Yourself Tutor Series
There’s nothing more exciting to a linguist than a brand, spanking new language learning book. This year, Teach Yourself have really come up trumps with their ever-growing Tutor series of graded grammar lessons and drills.
The fact that these tomes are aimed at “Advanced Beginner” and above makes them particularly appealing to polyglot hobbyists, who often approach grammar with a ton of existing knowledge that can make basic primers boring. Add to that the fact that they’re available in some lesser-studied languages with fewer available resources, and the series is a real winner. Props to Teach Yourself!
I’ve already invested in a couple, and am impressed at the clarity of explanation and usefulness of the exercises. I’d be smiling if I woke up to any more of these on Christmas Day, let me tell you.
My only request for the Teach Yourself Santa: please, an Icelandic version next year?
Virtual Chinese assistant
This tech project has been catching fire recently on funding site IndieGogo. It’s a virtual, conversational assistant designed specifically with the goal of learning Chinese in mind. Hěn hǎo!
It’s possible to pre-order Lily as a backer right now, which is a pretty exciting way to get in on ground level as an early adopter and supporter.
It is just available in Chinese for now, sadly (well, sadly for those of use who haven’t tackled Chinese – yet!). However, there is a hint that further languages will be added in future. Definitely worth bookmarking that page!
Otherwise, alternative virtual assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home have a slowly growing selection of language learning utilities, too. Amazon even introduced software for you to teach Alexa new languages in 2018, underlining a commitment to making the device more polyglot-friendly.
Books and gadgets are ace, of course. But good old, human, face-to-face contact will add some real-world shine to someone’s Christmas language baubles.
There are few platforms as effective and reasonably priced as iTalki for online lessons. Whether your friends and family are already familiar with it or totally new, you can boost their learning with the gift of iTalki lessons credits.
I burn through mine at a rate of knots, so like-minded linguists will really appreciate some gifted learning time!
App Store credit
Similarly, we language learners can end up spending money like water when it comes to subscriptions for learning platforms. Babbel, Duolingo, Memrise… Premium tier access all adds up.
And it’s not just language-specific services, either. General productivity utilities like Evernote are fantastic learning tools with monthly or annual price tags. Netflix and Amazon Prime also have burgeoning collections of foreign-language viewing that linguists can devour.
As most such platforms are app-based, users can usually pay with app store credit directly on a mobile device. That makes gifting credit for app stores like iTunes or Google Play a great way to support your linguistic loved ones in their online language quest.
You can even acquire app store gift card codes for free through survey sites like Swagbucks. Surveys for pressies? Sign me up!
The gift of time
I’ve said it many times before, but the greatest gifts don’t have to cost anything. Solo learning can be a lonely business, and a bit of people power goes a long way. Why not commit to partnering a friend in their learning?
It’s not just about being a study buddy at the same language level, either. Studies repeatedly support the notion that we learn by teaching. In light of this, why not volunteer your time to your nearest and dearest as a peer student? That’s a gift to them and to you. Win-win.
However you celebrate this year, a wonderful Christmas to one and all. Good tidings of language learning joy – have a great one!