If you’re looking for a new language learning program to throw in with your existing strategies I may have found just the thing for you.
Linkword Languages is a unique piece of software designed around a fast paced, mnemonic learning model that uses an approach I haven’t actually seen before; which says something.
But before you run out and spend money on Linkword, lets talk about it a bit first…
How it works
Linkword Languages is all about the rapid accumulation of new vocabulary using a mnemonic learning system not entirely unlike Memrise, but without the pictures. Instead learners create their own mental images and concentrate on them for a period of time. Linkword claims that this is superior to the picture mems because it engages our minds more creatively than simple photo association.
Learners are presented with a set of words, one at a time, and then asked to focus intently on associating the word with a mental image. Users are instructed to take about 10 seconds to visualize a given word before plowing onward through a relatively fast paced acquisition process. The instructions – the following of which is very important so don’t neglect to read them thoroughly – specify that you shouldn’t stop or go back to revisit words you answered incorrectly. They will come around again during review and doing otherwise will slow down the rapidity of the program, compromising its very focus.
In the case of clear and obvious cognates users are asked to concentrate for 10 seconds on associating the word with the national flag of a country in which that language is spoken.
In my case, this language was German. The example given in the instructions uses the German word for gentlemen: herren. The word is to be associated with a herring hanging from the door of a gentlemen’s restroom. Users concentrate on the image of that fish hanging there on the door as vividly as possible for the 10 second interval before moving on to the next word.
Each complete Linkword language course comes with 4 levels of difficulty that amounts to a total of about 1,200 words; a respectable number to be sure and one that covers all of the basics for the vast majority of conversations you’re likely to have.
The program claims that you can acquire the entirety of this vocab within 40-60 hours, (or around 10-12 per each of the 4 levels) of total study time and compares this drastic increase in retention and acquisition to that of conventional semester-long language courses at the university level – the average of which consists of about 40 in class hours and an indeterminable amount of time outside class studying. 1,200 words is a bit above the average number of words learned in a typical semester in a university course.
Linkword as an aid to dyslexic learners
But perhaps one of the coolest features of Linkword – and one that I’ve never seen anywhere else – is that it was specifically designed to be helpful to dyslexic language learners. While I was unable to test this for myself – being as I am not dyslexic – I was still pleased to read numerous reviews that indicated positive results. In order to test this against other research, however, I did some probing of my own and found a few sources, including this study that indicates that Linkword’s dyslexia aids might not be as optimal as they claim to be.
As I can’t speak for this from my own experiences, I’d love to receive some feedback from any dyslexic readers or learners you may know who suffer from dyslexia. Linkword offers a free trial that you can find here that may offer a sufficient test. Please let me know in the comments if this is something you or someone you know could help us with.
There’s an app for that!
The fastest way to my heart is through my iPhone. If you create a language learning product that has an accompanying app as complete and thorough as Linkword’s app you more or less have me at hello.
While the app is still subject to any flaws that the course might have, it is the entire course in mobile format, something rare among language apps that accompany larger software. Typically programs come with an app that serves as a bit of a supplemental, abbreviated version of the real thing. Even Memrise’s app is a lot lighter weight than their browser system, featuring a reduced keyboard, simplified options, no analytics and no access to premium features.
Linkword has everything that its parent program has. Score!
At about $16 USD (about £9.99 GBP) it’ll probably be the most expensive app on your mobile device. But don’t be too deterred. This app is the entire Linkword course. That’s levels 1-4 in their entirety, exactly the same as the PC or Mac versions, but more compact. This is roughly a $45 savings on the full program download for the exact same content. A total steal.
The company is quite helpful and humble about their product
Okay, so Linkword is bragging a little bit about how fast the program works – possibly even exaggerating the time frame. Despite this, one other thing that struck me as especially unique is the way in which the course’s creators flat out state that while their product is highly successful, it alone cannot make you fluent in a language. Despite this being true with virtually every single language product ever, most companies don’t come right out and say that you should be using their product along side others.
I find this humility extremely refreshing, a quality that really reinforces my appreciation for Linkword’s creator(s) and product. Diversification is one key when it comes to language learning and any company willing to recognize that it usually takes multiple methods to accomplish fluency has my vote.
The down sides
As always, nothing is perfect.
Unfortunately, and to be blunt, Linkword is ugly. Tragically ugly. Granted, aesthetics should never be the deciding factor when determining whether a language learning product is going to be successful for you. But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t potentially turn off some users. Linkword features a solid black background with large yellow lettering. I’ve included a screenshot as an example.
Supposedly this otherwise atrocious color scheme is in place as part of the aid for dyslexic learners, so it’s perfectly understandable. It also makes the program particularly light weight, so this very minor shortcoming is justifiable and not a significant barrier to success. It is also important to note that for many people simplicity is key and Linkword is certainly a simple program with no distracting bells and whistles.
Furthermore the order in which words are taught seems somewhat random and less than streamlined. The course begins with animals. While I’m okay with not re-learning the same introductory words and phrases for ordering alcohol, I find animals to be a particularly odd place to start, and in the case of German this was all new territory to me, so starting at the beginning with simple introductions and survival words would have been preferable.
Linkword offers virtually zero feedback on your success. If you get a word wrong, it just keeps on moving without any sort of repercussion. Generally too much negative feedback is bad, and since Linkword’s entire theme seems to be speed, this makes sense, but the sense of accomplishment is slightly diminished as a result. You are expected to plow ahead at the prescribed pace, not stopping for forgotten or missed words. While I appreciate this powerful approach, and you do get to review your new vocabulary later on, I got the impression that I was missing a lot.
Lastly, the instructions could have been a little bit more clear about how the audio works. Each word is accompanied by a high quality recording, which is great, the trouble is that it isn’t indicated anywhere that I saw how to play the word again. After a bunch of poking around I was able to locate it by clicking on the word itself. Ultimately though the program is quite simple and these minor difficulties are not a significant issue.
Summary of the pros
- Some scientific evidence suggests that Linkword works up to 3 times faster than other methods.
- Highly user friendly
- Supposed aid for dyslexic learners
- High quality audio recordings
- Helpful, very active designer dedicated to maintaining the product.
- Complete mobile version available at a staggeringly impressive rate
- A decent sized selection of language offerings including languages such as Welsh, Polish, Hebrew, Greek and both European and Brazilian Portuguese.
And the cons
- Visually unappealing
- Limited feedback or incentive
- Strange overall curriculum/choice of starting words seems quite random
Based on the list of pros and cons it’s pretty easy to see that there is really no contest here. Linkword Languages is a worthwhile investment.
We’re always searching for that magic language learning method. That one unicorn of a project that will help grant us the skills we want in as little time as possible. Could Linkword be the Holy Grail of rapid language acquisition tools? Possibly for some, but few programs work for everyone so you’ll have to find out for yourself.
The full program runs EUR €54.66 / US $59.20 That’s for levels 1-4 and a total of roughly 1200 words. Furthermore the Linkword mobile app, available on both iOS and Android devices, where the prices for the exact same course as the PC/Mac versions appear to cost between $12 and $16 depending on the language, making this an extraordinarily cost effective method for mobile learners.
Linkword is currently available in German, Spanish (Latin American and European), Italian, French, Mandarin, Polish, Welsh, Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, Greek, Portuguese (both Brazilian and European), and Dutch. Really an impressive selection; I was especially excited to see Welsh, a language that seems to have a lot of global interest but a limited amount of practical resources.
You can check out Linkword here at their website where you can also test out any language on the list via a short demo.
And if you or someone you know is dyslexic, I’d love to hear about your experience with the colors and design, even if it’s just with the free demo. Send me your thoughts and I’ll edit it into the post!
So are you going to check out Linkword Languages? Have you used it before? Leave your thoughts in a comment.
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