Learn New Languages With Duke Libraries

Students, faculty and staff can choose from dozens of foreign languages

The Byki system allows users to use flash cards, take quizzes and more.

Rachel Ariel wanted to take classes in German for some time but never got around to it. Last fall, that changed when she went online to try Byki, an online language-learning system offered free to Duke community members.Using flash cards and grammar quizzes, Ariel remembered bits and pieces of the language she studied once in college and occasionally heard growing up in Israel."I think that many people have some sort of knowledge of quite a few languages, but like me, they took foreign language classes a long time ago and never did anything with it," said Ariel, a librarian for Judaica/Hebraica  in the International and Area Studies department . "Going online and spending a half hour with Byki and can make a tremendous difference in your understanding."Along with flash cards and tests, Byki also offers learning tools like blogs, words of the day and language overviews for about 75 languages, including Swahili, Estonian and Bulgarian. Faculty, staff and students can use Byki to translate into or out of the foreign language they choose or to practice pronunciation and listening comprehension.Linda Daniel, librarian for sociology, cultural anthropology and linguistics in Research and Reference Services, said that offering language programs like Byki is important for Duke University Libraries because it fits with Duke's strategic plan to place an emphasis on learning about international languages and cultures."With increasing interest from Duke students and employees in a more globalized world, we realized that the library could play a part in learning opportunities," Daniel said. "Faculty, staff and students are all active learners, so we wanted to offer a way to support Duke's growing international efforts."Byki isn't the only way employees can learn a new language. Duke Libraries also offer audio and video courses that are available online or can be checked out for up to a month. Among them is Pimsleur, audio CDs that cover popular languages like Spanish, French and Arabic. Each audio CD collection has lessons from introductory grammar to advanced conversational skills.Duke community members can also use the Duke Library website to access "Kwintessential," which has a collection of etiquette, customs and protocol guides for countries throughout the world. "Leaders across vocations in the 21st century need to have a global imagination, and that imagination is enhanced significantly by competency in the languages of diverse cultures," said Greg Jones, vice president and vice provost for Global Strategy and Programs. "As Duke develops its identity as a global research university, these many resources are key for our whole community."Ariel, the librarian in International and Area Studies, is grateful to have Byki as a resource. She's hoping the program will help her learn enough German so she'll be conversational in the language for an upcoming trip to the country."I like that I can go home and do a little bit at a time and not have to restrict my schedule to attend classes," she said. "I'm thankful to have Byki so I can improve my German to the point where I'll feel comfortable in stores and restaurants."