Friday, October 07, 2011

LangMedia - A Cool Language Resource

When I do a security assessment in a country I've never visited before, before I leave I'll spend some time coming up to speed on the local culture and language. There are lots of resources for doing this, but one of my favorites is called LangMedia. It's a project of the Five Colleges consortium (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst).

LangMedia has free instructional material for learning an assortment of languages. And I don't mean just your standard Spanish, French, and Arabic. The Web site seems to specialize in uncommon languages and dialects for many parts of the world where humanitarian work often occurs. Course outlines, practice dialogs, audio files, and lists of additional resources are all available for viewing, listening, and downloading.

One of the most beneficial parts of the site is called CultureTalk. This is a collection of video clips of discussions with residents of many countries. The speakers talk about a variety of cultural topics, often in their own language (written local and English transcriptions are provided). The interview clips feature different people, with a range of genders, ages, and walks of life represented. To give you a taste, here's a CultureTalk page for Yemen. (You can download any of the videos, which makes for great prep on a laptop or tablet during long flights to your destination.)

LangMedia excels at introducing you to common words and phrases, giving you an ear for what a language sounds like, and presenting cultural aspects of places that far surpass what most guidebooks offer. And if you want to get deeper into a language, mentored and self study courses are also available.

If you do international aid work (or are just curious about different cultures), this resource is a must.



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