Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Offer online language courses

The Boulder Public Library has expanded its selection of online language courses through a program that officials are touting as a pretty phenomenal resource that few people know is available for free.The library has offered its PowerSpeak language-learning software for more than a year, but the service was recently expanded to include courses in Korean, Russian, Italian, English for Mandarin speakers and Japanese.

The system was launched locally in May 2010 with programs in Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese and English for Spanish-speakers.Melinda Mattingly, the reference and collection development manager for the Boulder library, said the program mirrors the capabilities of the popular language software produced by Rosetta Stone.But while a six-month subscription to one online language through Rosetta Stone costs about $300, Mattingly said the library's PowerSpeak software offers the same type of program for free with a library card.

We started looking for something that would really work for library patrons,Mattingly said.We saw the demonstration and were impressed. It uses a story to give context to the vocabulary.The library spent $1,800 for the system, which can be accessed using any computer with an Internet connection and a Boulder library card number.She said the service is also advantageous for the library, which doesn't have to worry about keeping track of the program.
It can't be lost or stolen, she said.We don't have to manage any materials. There's a real cost savings for us.

The popularity of the program has grown steadily from 684 sessions in 2010 to 850 sessions during the first half of this year, according to library statistics.But Mattingly said she hopes more people take advantage of the service.Our hardest problem is getting people to see what the library has electronically,Mattingly said.We have these incredible resources that we're using public money to buy so people can share them.The library is working on revamping its website to make those services easier to find.Cindy Merlin, who is from Bordeaux, France and teaches French at Fairview High School in Boulder, said she was impressed with PowerSpeak as a tool for beginners, travelers and tourists alike.It's very user friendly and very appealing, she said.It's quite thorough, actually. It's a good introduction to the culture and the language.

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