Byki (pronounce BIKE-e) is new language learning software from Recorded Books (publisher of the Pimsleur language sets) and Transparent Language. It contains 85 languages including ESL for several languages. No Hmong or Somali yet, but Byki is still growing.
Byki is based on a flash card system. It is meant to be the equivalent of the first 2 or 3 semesters of college. The user can save their progress and jump around among the cards, which have words or phrases in the user's native language one side 1 and the foreign language on side 2. There are 5 main steps in the course:
1. Review It--look through both sides of the cards. If the speaker is too fast, click on the "turtle" icon below to slow them down.
2. Recognize It--See side 2 of the card and think or say side 1.
3. Know It--See side 2 of the card and type the information from side 1.
4. Produce It--See side 1 of a card in your list and think of or say side 2.
5. Own It--See side 1 of a card and type the information from side 2. Clicking on the "keyboard" icon below will re-map your keyboard to the characters of the foreign language. It will not work for syllabic languages like Chinese or Japanese unless the user re-programs their home computer to type in that language.
In addition, you can record your voice and have it graded for pronunciation. This requires a microphone, but cheap ones can be purchased for $7 or so. Recording seems to work only with Internet Explorer on Windows PCs, but if anyone is able to get it to work with other browsers let me know. Some, but not all, of the non-Latin-alphabet languages have an alphabet tab to help in learning letters or syllables.
To help the user feel part of a learning community, each language has a Facebook page, Twitter stream, and a blog. A "Word of the Day" can be sent to the user's email or RSS reader.
Users are encourage to contact Byki's Tech Support if they have any technical issues. There is also an FAQ and a video guided tour.