Some of you might know that I am not a big fan of language learning programs / websites. The simple reason is that I had in the past very poor learning experiences with the ones I had tried. Through all those sad memories I became a self-study enthusiast with only books and simple vocabulary-character flash cards.
So some time ago I was approached by Lexikeet to check out their language learning program. Of course I was at first reluctant due to my poor experiences from the past but I decided to give it a try. To be honest, I expected once again some dull study program which might even overwhelm me in the beginning with constantly new vocabulary and short sentences, well, it turned out a bit different.
How Lexikeet works
First of all you can select between a few languages you want to learn. These languages are Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Japanese. English is available as well but thus far only for Spanish speakers. In my case I decided for obvious reasons for Mandarin Chinese though Japanese would interest me as well.
After you select the language it continues with obvious selections such as difficulty and what kind of daily situations you want to prepare yourself for. As I had studied already for too long time Chinese I wanted to choose at first the advanced setting but after quick decision I ended up with the beginner level. I did so to see how these days’ programs or this particular program is handling the introduction into a new language and furthermore, to see how solid by basic Mandarin knowledge still is.
It all starts with something called “Lexi’s Pinyin Shuffle” in which you get introduced in multiple lessons to the tones and their variations. After each lesson there are several words written in pinyin, the important thing here is not on their translation but on the fact to find the right word which is read to you by native speakers. It sounds very simple but I actually struggled especially in the beginning as I am mostly used to the pronunciation of my wife so it took me a while to get used to different native speakers reading the words and pin pointing the right word and tone from a broad selection.
After each Pinyin shuffle you can decide to do more lessons, to revisit the lesson or to continue with the normal study program. As soon as you decide to continue with the normal study program there is a selection of different items such as for example Reading and Writing Drills. Each one has a time estimation behind it and furthermore you see on the screen a timer. This timer or clock has a limit of 15 min. As it turns out when you reach 15 min of study time, Lexi will tell you that you have reach the recommended study time and that you should return next day again.
At first these 15 min might appear very short for someone who wants to study a language, however it is actually rather nice as you don’t get distracted too easily within such short time and you may (at least me) try to achieve as much as possible within the alloted time which results in a very intensive study experience. I cannot say if the time restriction is meant to be viewed in such a way but it helped me to go through with it with full concentration. Worth mentioning is the fact that when you overload yourself with new vocabulary also the lessons in each of the normal study fields increase. To make sure you can still handle it Lexi offers to adjust the lessons for you so you don’t get overwhelmed.
By now you may ask yourself what on earth is Lexi. Well, as it turns out Lexi is a little budgie who tells you when you reach the 15 min of study time, tells you when you did something wrong or gives the answer of a study problem in case you don’t know what to do. Lexi is basically the mastermind in this program and knows immediately when you answered wrong or tab out…
Anyways, let’s go on with the program. I had in the beginning trouble with the slow pace but this was due to the fact that I had studied Chinese already beforehand for some time. The slow pace improved for me when I figured out how to quickly add new vocabulary to the different drills which improved the difficulty, depending on the amount I added per session.
Through this you can already see that everyone can pace their studies themselves and decide what they want to achieve on a daily basis. When you feel confident in certain words in all the different drills you can mark them as mastered. I believe it means that they rarely turn up during the studies afterwards but I cannot say for sure as I have never used the mastering option. I can assure you this was not due to me being unable to actually learn something and master it but because I wanted all the available vocabulary turning up randomly during the study sessions, no matter if I was damn good with them or just so-so.
Lexikeet also offers you a character writing section and to be honest, I barely used it. The simple reason is that it is not really comfortable to use a mouse to write characters on the screen. I guess I would have used this option much more if I had some pen computing device to make the writing process smoother. [Edit: You can use Lexikeet of course on a touchscreen device so the handwriting process would be much better but it never occured to me to use my tablet, I blame my wife for this has she hogs the tablet all the time.] Another option I didn’t use are the Speaking Drills as you should use a microphone to and can listen to yourself afterwards. It is not because I don’t like my voice but my last microphone I trashed over a year ago and I am not into buying new stuff before moving away.
After you have done all the lessons of the pinyin shuffle, you may start doing “Lexi’s Grammar Constructions” in which some simple (at beginner level) grammatical points are introduced. These lessons I could only use once my allotted 15 min were over. I do not know if is working as intended but it was fine for me as I could focus on the normal lessons and then put a handful of grammar lessons as a finisher for the evening.
What I gained through this
It is really impressive how much simple repetition of hearing the vocabulary, selecting the right character and writing down pinyin at least 4 times a week does for you. Yes, I knew all the vocabulary I had in this program beforehand but I always had the problem with the tones. Now, after doing this program for several weeks I am sure about the tones of every single word I studied. There is no more guessing for me whether it is the first or second tone, I just know it, because I had to write them down in pinyin so damn often. So yes, I actually enjoyed this program but it is just my personal experience and this brings me to the next point.
Who shouldn’t use Lexikeet
People who want to learn a language without much effort. Really? Don’t try it. Of course you can get here many useful phrases you can use in daily life but these you can also pick up from any other website or study book. To put it into simple terms “Learning a language is a grind”. There is no way around it and if you expect some magic program doing all the work for you then you are wrong here as you would have been wrong in so many other study programs.
You can sign up for a free trial here
How I will go on from here? Lets see! Right now I am in a busy phase of my life with my little son singing in the background, preparing to move to another country and planing the renovation of our new home so I can’t say when I will continue with Lexikeet. But I know for certain that I want to continue, for one to finish the beginner studies (I always have to finish something before going on) and then I want to see how the advanced studies will be (perhaps another review?).
Edit: Oh, and before I forget: Sorry for the messy review but the last one I did was some review years back during my high school time. And no, I do not profit in any kind by any of you trying out the program. The only profit I had during the time reviewing the program was a improved solid base of Mandarin Chinese, especially when it comes to the different tones 🙂