Learning another language is a complex task and to help there is a wide range of software available at vastly varied prices and with different aims. This article is not about recommending a specific make of language software, not because I dont have opinions on the matter but rather I believe that people learn in distinct styles. It follows from this that the same software is not suitable for everyone. Instead, this article is considers what you should look for when you are in the market to buy language software, which in fact is more about you than the software.
Start with yourself
The starting point is not with the software but with yourself. You need to establish your goals. Of course you want to learn a language but to what level and how much time do you have to devote to it ? Regardless of whether or not you intend to use a computer as your primary learning method , you still need to set aside enough time. There is no point in buying an expensive language course if realistically you can not fit the time in to use it to the full potential.
What are you going to use the software for ?
The obvious answer is to learn a language, but learning a language is best approached from different angles and so a software package on its own will generally not be sufficient for any but the most simple of purposes. If the software is going to be your primary learning method, then it needs to be sufficiently comprehensive to meet your learning goals. Remember that no piece of software will bring fluency or allow you to talk like a native. Language software is a very useful way of acquiring vocabulary and testing yourself on what you know, but you can not converse with it. The question to ask is whether you intend to use the software on its own or in conjunction with other products or language courses.
What should the software do ?
It should encourage you to use it. As Ive already written, different people learn in different ways and so the same software will not necessarily appeal to everyone. Try the software and (a lot of language software has a free internet demo) and check it suits you. If you dont enjoy using the software then no matter how comprehensive and sophisticated it may be, it is worthless to you.
The features you need will depend on your goals, and no-one apart than yourself can tell you where your learning emphasis should be. Do you just want to learn a few words ? Is spelling important to you ? Do you want to spend time on your pronunciation ? If possible download the software from the internet and check it does what is necessary for you.
What should the software cover ?
There is a lot of language learning software on the market designed for all levels of ability, and with prices to match. Ensure that the software matches your goals and intended use.
For example, Linguata language learning software is designed for the learner who doesnt want to learn a language fully, but wants to learn selected words and phrases before travelling. This suits me as I like travelling but I dont have the time or aptitude to learn too much of any particular foreign language, and my goal is usually to learn a few hundred words whenever I visit a new country. If you are at an intermediate level or want a more structured approach then this wouldnt suit you. I also tend to use language learning software as a secondary learning method. In other words, when I am learning a language I will use a structured course away from it and use the computer as an aid to learn words and practice pronunciation.
Different software for different people
This article started considering language software but the focus quickly moved onto the user. You. Only you know your aims and so only you can match these with the appropriate software. It would be easier to say buy Xs language software, and many people prefer this type of recommendation, but in reality there is no best that suits all learning styles. Remember to consider your goals, time available and how you intend to use the software before making a purchase.