What Happened To LiveMocha?


I haven't visited LiveMocha since probably last March, when it's usefulness faded behind my growing Italian vocabulary. But last week I went and played with it and found that it's completely different... and not in a good way.

I don't believe that any program, system, web site, book, CD, or software can ever be perfect, because language is used in real life, where the topics and the inputs are unpredictable and always changing. However, I have always found LiveMocha to be an excellent free tool, well-designed for the purpose of helping a complete newbie to get familiar with the sounds and writing, and a bit of the grammar in a new language.

The lessons were based on slowly adding new material, and repeating it in a few different contexts, and I found this to be a really handy way to get accustomed to pronunciation and slowly build a basic vocabulary to get started in a new language.

My only real complaint about LiveMocha's usefulness was that they never taught the most useful conversational phrases, such as "hello", "how are you", "good morning", etc. But that was only a minor complaint, since those things are easy to find on 100 other sites, or in a phrasebook.

Apparently, they've responded to that complaint

It seems I must not be the only person who had that complaint about LiveMocha. Last week, when I visited LiveMocha, I was shocked to be introduced to a completely new format for Lesson 1. Now, instead of building up from a handful of words in lesson 1, you are immediately introduced to 40 phrases, with little or no repetition.

It seems as if in order to respond to the one complaint about their product, they've compromised everything that made LiveMocha good. They seemingly "shoe-horned" the new phrases into the beginning of lesson 1, at the cost of everything that made LiveMocha a good tool for beginners.

In the past I have recommended their web site as a great free place for people to go to begin their learning in a new language, but based on my recent experience I will no longer be making that recommendation.

As of today, the only worthwhile feature of LiveMocha is their social network, and it seems like there are a hundred better ways to connect with people, so I am sad to say that my interest in their web site is done, and I probably won't ever go back.

Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.

Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • you know...there's a great, really old, time-tested tool for getting repetition with basic vocabulary so you can begin getting into native media... Can even incorporate multiple phrases and sentences to provide different contexts, usages and shades of meaning. Lots of free resources available for working with them too. Best thing of all, instead of being bound to the vocabulary determined by someone designing a curriculum, your free to add the vocabulary you need, or that you are encountering frequently when reading. You can work through them at your own pace, adding new words only as you get more comfortable, and ensure that all your context comes from native sources and isn't that dreadful, unnatural textbook language. Even better, most of the software working with these will run on portable devices and/or there is a paper and pen version, making it easily portable for use during dead time like waiting in line. That way your study time at home can be more fully devoted to just immersing in the language. Software versions usually make it easy to get audio from places like forvo.com, so that you can work on pronunciation and listening as well as meaning. Yup, this study aid can do pretty much everything your missing from LiveMocha now.

  • Are you seriously ranting about flashcards on a post about LiveMocha?What did you hope to gain from this?

  • I also abandoned Livemocha long time ago. Nothing there give's me a boost to improve my learning capacity or techniques. The only useful part is the interaction with other users and the opportunities for chat in your target language. But believe me , these are not that many and serious....
    I still wonder how they created this vast base of users that they have!

  • I'm sure they did what all startups do — buy users.But there really was some value to LiveMocha before. I just think it's lost now.

  • What other website do you recommend, as an alternative?

  • What do you think of LingQ?

  • I honestly have not used it, so I can't give a lot of feedback. I went to the web site once to have a look and was turned off by the prominently for-pay nature of what I saw. Also, I have a few personal reasons for being negatively inclined. One of those is that I have a Russian friend who was using LingQ to learn English, and was paying for the service, but the payment system caused some error and she couldn't get it fixed. She asked me to help, since her English was not great, and I tried contacting LinqQ on her behalf, neither she nor I received any response.

  • I find your question interesting. Why does there have to be another web site?Lately, I'm thinking that the best way to learn basic vocabulary would be without any web site or any learning program at all. I'm thinking of trying out the theory with next year's language. The plan is to use real-life application of the vocabular in order to learn it... such as learning the names of furniture from a furniture web site, learning the names of clothing from an online clothing store, etc.

  • Other than being stood up by tutors, I've had a very positive experience with LingQ. Like you said, no system is perfect, but I do think it is a good tool.

  • I also complained about the lack of useful phrases early on in LiveMocha materials n my review, but agree that they appear to have thrown the baby out with the bath water in their attempt to address the problem...

  • I refuse to try it due to personal reasons, including those I mentioned in response to another commenter. But I have heard some positive things from other people.

  • Indeed.

  • Hi Yearlyglot,Thank you for this valuable feedback, and we're sorry we disappointed you with our Lesson 1 overhaul. As you pointed out, we were eager to give our community the useful, relevant phrases they'd been asking for.You're right that the new version doesn't build on a core group of phrases and basic sentence structure. It teaches phrases one might need to know when visiting the country, rather than laying a grammatical foundation of basic verb conjugations.Both have value, and both have a time and a place. Clearly we should reconsider the time, place and method of presenting greetings and introductions. Plenty of changes are on their way, we promise!Fortunately, Lesson 1 is only a small nugget of the content we offer - our Basic courses alone span over 50 lessons. Lesson 2 now combines the building blocks from the original Lessons 1 and 2, so it is both more engaging (read: less boring) and teaches all the concepts just as effectively as it did before. In fact, our completion rate for Lesson 2 has increased dramatically since we made this change. So even if Lesson 1 is not right for you, our free courses are great for serious learners on a budget.By the way, have you seen Active Italian? It's our pièce de résistance, guaranteeing conversational proficiency. The content is top-notch, courtesy of the language instruction experts at Harper Collins. It's worth checking out if you haven't yet.Again, thank you for your frank review. As hard as it may be for us to hear, you are reminding us of what we strive to do best: effective, engaging, social language learning. Please send us your suggestions anytime at support@livemocha.com.

  • This sounds crazy.. !

  • Well, we already know I'm crazy. So the only question left to answer is, will it work! :)I intend to try it out with my language choice for next year...

  • Thanks for commenting here, and for having a good attitude toward criticism.For what it's worth, I should mention that I have over 30,000 MochaPoints, which is merely a way of using insider lingo to indicate that I've always been a heavy user and believer in your site. That's why I find this heavy-handed change so disheartening.And just to be clear, it's not the loss of the old "lesson 1" that bothers me. It's the loss of everything you stand for when you shove 40 phrases at people in their very first lesson. There was enough material in the new Lesson 1 to have made 8 lessons, and still be a bit overwhelming to a beginner.It's the kind of decision that makes me wonder what you're thinking over there.

  • Interesting.... Do you intend to do that organically, without plan or structure?Also, you mention there are other or better ways to find communities. Which ones are your favourites?-Martin

  • I'm still working out the plan in my mind, but I think it will be a hybrid... like a planned series of organic activities, if that makes any sense.And for finding communities, my favorites are different in every language. In Russian, it's Mail.ru and Vkontakte. In Italian, it's Meemi and Libero.

  • I went though Lesson 1. I have prior knowledge of Italian, so quite a few of the words and phrases were familiar. But 40 words/phrases in the first lesson does seem a lot to me. It would seem quite overwhelming to someone who is learning their second language, with no prior language learning experience.Another critique . . . is there any way to reset a course? I just don't feel that I've honestly earned the 40 mocha points simply by clicking through to see what Randy was talking about.

  • Well, it would be for the social aspects - finding other people to practice my Italian with.I just did a quick look-through the Friends section on LiveMocha, and well, I'm not too impressed with how it handles this. There really isn't any way to search for people who are native speakers as opposed to those who are learning it. When I click on "Friends", I see an intermediate view that states it is searching "millions of community members", and then gives me a very tiny set of people to chose from. The same people everytime.I'm writing this from the perspective from a web programmer who uses FB and Twitter heavily, is interested in Web 2.0 and developing social network sites.

  • Try Meemi. You'll like it. :)You can find me there by the name "yearlyglot".

  • Randy, I'm sorry to hear about the bad experience your Russian friend had at LingQ. I can't understand how neither she nor you received a response from us since we pride ourselves on our customer service and simply don't leave emails unanswered. Are you sure it was LingQ that your friend was using? At any rate, if there is still an issue that needs to be resolved send us an email and we will respond right away.As far as being "for pay", we do offer a Free membership, which includes all of our content and core functionality. As well, we do have services that are for pay and those members who seriously use our service do mostly pay. However, it is very cheap for the service you receive and unlike most of our competitors, LingQ will take you all the way to fluency.

  • Where can I find Italian 101? I can only gain an option to pay for your active course, whereas all I want is your basic course.

  • yeahh!! i'm already enrolled in italian 101 and 102 so those for some reason still work for me, yet when i went to find and enroll in italian 201, it wasn't available - nor was italian 101, 102, or 202 - or whatever comes after! i was so disappointed. it seems you only have access to the original courses if you had them before this new active course was introduced. i should have enrolled in the rest while i still had a chance..

  • Send us an email to support@livemocha.com - we're undergoing some changes with the structure of the Basic content and it's temporarily unavailable. We'll pass along more details if you wish!

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