I'm not talking about learning a language, I'm talking about learning to tell them apart.
I have a hard time identifying a language that's being spoken, especially if it's being spoken very fast.
I've been studying Mandarin Chinese for a year, but when someone is speaking in an Asian language at
full speed, I still can't tell whether it's Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, or anything else. It's embarrassing to me that I sometimes think I "recognize" a few Mandarin words and it turns out that the person was speaking in Korean.
So I propose a web site where people can go to practice their language recognition.
The core of this website will be hundreds of recordings of speech in each language. The recordings should be of various random texts, and will include samples spoken by people of all ages, both genders, and a wide variety of regional accents within each language. Each recording should be long enough to give the listener time to acclimate and discover the qualities of the language.
There will also be a User Submission section, where anyone can record themselves speaking their native language, and then upload the recording to the website and place it in the appropriate folder. I think people would be eager to and have fun doing this, because by doing so they'd being helping other people correctly identify their language and hence their culture.
With practice, listeners will eventually learn little "tells" which help them to identify certain languages; for example, how in Italian a lot of words end in a slight pause and the syllable /lay/, or how Japanese can be distinguished by the commons words "no" and "desu".
If users want to post tips on how to identify their language or others, that would be great too. Best of all would be *annotated recordings*, where the recording stops and a voice says "Did you hear that little "tzih" sound just now? Keep listening for it; that's one of the giveaways of _____ese.
Quizzes will let you select a group of languages to be tested on, and will play 25 not-yet-heard recordings for you and count how many of the languages you successfully identify. The quiz will alert you of which two languages you still have trouble distinguishing between.
Written Languages and English Phoneticized Names:
The website should include a section for identifying written languages too, as some people may have trouble telling written Korean from Japanese, or Arabic from Thai. The secrets regarding this (such as the tip that "if you see circles, it's Korean") are not inbred, have to be learned.
Tips for identifying English romanizations of foreign words should be provided too. For example, Korean names translated into English often have the vowel sequences "eo" or "ae" in them, something which Chinese names [almost] never have.
I'm not good at judging a person's nationality by their appearance (for example, Korean vs. Japanese, or, strangely sometimes, Chinese vs. Latino - I think it's a skin color and hair color thing), and I recognize that this would greatly aid in identifying their speech. But the purpose of this web site is to distinguish languages, not to make assumptions based on facial features. There are probably already sites which help people recognize ethnicity by facial features.
To summarize -- although plenty of recordings and videos in every language exist on the Internet, a website where you can play recording after recording of any given language without pause would be very helpful for people who are trying to improve their "Language Recognition" skills.