MYLO is a UK goverment-funded project that aims to offer secondary school students a "new way to learn languages", specifically French, German, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. See my February 2010 posting on MYLO.
I have had a quick look at the MYLO Website and the MYLO YouTube videos. My first reactions:
The following message on the homepage (as of November 2010) does not inspire visitors with confidence:
"A new UK Government took office on 11 May. As a result the content on this site may not reflect current Government policy. All statutory guidance and legislation published on this site continues to reflect the current legal position unless indicated otherwise. To view the new website, please visit http://www.education.gov.uk/"
Why does the MYLO URL continue to use DCSF? The DCSF changed its name shortly after the new government took over in May 2010, and most old DCSF addresses have been updated.
As a former teacher of German, I looked first at the section on German Basics, Greetings and Goodbyes. The word "tschüs" (informal "goodbye") is introduced here. There are different ways of pronouncing and spelling this word, depending on the region, personal preferences, etc. The "ü" can be long or short and the spelling must correspond to the pronunciation. In the sound recordings in MYLO the "ü" is pronounced short, and therefore the spelling should be "tschüss", but MYLO presents the written form as "tschüs", which is the correct spelling only if the "ü" is pronounced long. I remember having this discussion when I worked on German Steps for the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/german/lj/. You will find "tschüss" in the BBC materials. Not trusting my own judgement or memory, I checked the spelling/pronunciation at http://www.canoo.net/. This confirmed that, since the 1996 spelling reform, "tchüss" is correct when the vowel is pronounced short and that "tschüs" is correct when the vowel is pronounced long. Duden agrees: 23rd edition (2004) and later. MYLO has promised to correct this error, but someone should have done some thorough checking in the first place.
The MYLO YouTube presentations are slick and the advice given in the “Learning to Learn” clips is sound, but I think it will wash straight over the heads of most teenagers.
I decided to put myself in the position of a learner. This is a bit difficult for me as I speak German fluently, my French is tolerable, and I have good survival skills in Spanish. I don’t know much Chinese, however. I followed a BBC radio course in spoken Mandarin over 40 years ago, and I have forgotten most of what I have learned, so I had a go at MYLO’s Mandarin Chinese exercises. I scored 100% on all the exercises that I attempted (matching sounds with the pinyin texts and the Chinese characters), but I learned nothing about the tone system and how Chinese is structured. Half an hour later I could not recall most of the words that had been presented. These important elements are lacking:
1. The possibility of recording and playing back one’s own voice, which is vital in the early stages of language learning and features in many software packages that have been published in recent years by companies such as EuroTalk and Virtual Languages.
2. There are no “real-life” images or videos. See, for example, the BBC’s introduction to Mandarin Chinese at http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/chinese/. Furthermore, the BBC materials are much better in terms of presentation, e.g. the tone system, pinyin, Chinese characters, and what the words and phrases actually mean. There are also useful links to external sites.
3. There is negligible feedback in the exercises in MYLO, and I don’t recognise the pedagogical and cognitive principles on which they are based - maybe a variation of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development? Feedback is crucial. We learned a lot about interactivity and feedback (both intrinsic and extrinsic feedback) while working on the TELL Consortium software in the 1990s. See ICT4LT Module 1.1, Section 7.1 and Section 7.2:
MYLO advertises itself as a “new way to learn languages”. Well, not really. Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) has been around since the 1960s, CILT’s first publication on CALL - aimed at secondary school teachers - appeared in 1982 (I was one of the authors), and multimedia CALL has been around since the early 1990s: see my EUROCALL 2010 keynote,
“Where have we been, where are we now, and where are we going?”
We have learned a lot of lessons on this long journey, but MYLO does not appear to have been listening.
I am not alone in criticising MYLO. A lively discussion is currently (November 2010) going on in the Linguanet Forum.