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Virtual Piano – Play Piano Online

This is an irresistible website if you enjoy playing musical instruments – whether or not you have any real ability. Virtual Piano presents you with a keyboard on screen which you can play in two ways. Either you can click on the keys with your mouse or you can use your keyboard where the letters correspond to the white keys and Shift lets you play the black keys. You soon get used to finding the keys on the keyboard as they go in sequence, but it won’t help you actually learn to play a real piano keyboard.

The site is still being developed and at the moment it can be used for fun, or to play tunes and have them recorded for you. Future developments include the ability to print out music, which would be useful. Virtual Piano also has some music available using the alphabet so you can type the tune into your keyboard – so you can play even if you have no training at all! There’s a Virtual Piano Facebook group for more information and so that you can hear what other users have created using this quirky technique.


Babbel – Learn and Improve Language Skills

I’ve given this site a thorough testing as I’m a bit of a language-learning fanatic. I tried it with Italian, which I speak well, and with German, which I’ve almost forgotten, to see how it would work for beginners and skilled students. It strikes me as an excellent language learning resource for a few reasons. First of all you can try it out for free to see if it’s helpful to you, secondly the rates are incredibly reasonable compared to other language courses, and thirdly it also has a social networking side so you can chat with and friend people in other countries who speak the languages you want to learn.

The actual learning methods are fun. I tested German for beginners and was taken through the opening class, which combined instructions on the basic ways to greet people with simple sentences you would use every day. This was taught using step-by-step fun methods – listening to the words and phrases while looking at pictures, then clicking on the pictures on the next screen to match them to the right phrase. These phrases were then jumbled and I had to put them in order, and also words were provided as anagrams which had to be rearranged by clicking on the letters. Each time the word or phrase was then given in voice. By the end of the lesson I had had fun and the method really put the words and phrases into my memory.

With Italian I tried a slightly higher level and was presented with similar methods but the phrases were more advanced. They were still the types of phrases you would need when travelling or meeting people for business reasons. The more advanced lessons included extra tasks including writing about set subjects although I’m not sure how those would be corrected.

This site would be handy not just for adults but also to help children with languages they’re learning as the voices are all native speakers. Along with the lessons there are sections with a complete vocabulary of the most important words, both basic and advanced, and a section with useful sentences.

Even as a free member you can test one class in each of the languages (German, French, Italian and Spanish are available) and also join the social network side of the website. The community is very friendly with chat going on continually and you can join in with whoever is in the chat room or go into private chat. You can also just watch and mark yourself unavailable. There’s an option to filter the members by age and language so you can find contacts to friend and communicate with to improve your skills, and it does look like a community where good international friendships could be made with people genuinely studying languages and wanting to talk to others to mutually improve. The price is 8.95 Euros per individual month, reducing to 5.95 Euros per month for 3 months membership, or 4.95 Euros per month for 6 months.


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