Learning a language online: Is it possible?
Many things that we used to do in person, are now taking place online. Hotel reservations are almost exclusively made online today. Sending emails is so normal now, that sending a letter might be seen as weird. Booking a flight without an internet connection is almost impossible. However, one area in which the virtual world has only been making slow progress, is education. Despite there being many computer-based tools for learning, face-to-face classes are still the most popular option worldwide.
Will this always be the case? Maybe not. The online language-learning market is constantly growing. It is now possible to learn reading, writing, listening and speaking, all through your computer, or even your phone.
The most famous website and app for learning languages is duolingo, which has over 300 million users. Wow. I can understand why it is so popular, as it is the original game-based learning app. It encourages you to learn for 5 or 10 minutes a day, in a very stress-free way. As it has a large team of developers, it is constantly improving. Other popular apps are Memrise and Busuu, which each have their own slightly different ways of helping you reach your language learning goals.
Of course, the element of language that is most difficult to practise on the internet, is speaking. And, for many people, this may be the most important part of learning a language! To bridge this gap, one-to-one classes via skype (or other video-sharing applications) is becoming more popular. En-Ingles provides this service, as well as some other websites from around the world.
The greatest benefit of learning a language online is that is can be done in your own time, when it suits you. In fact, your daily language-learning session could simply be on the train to work every day. Furthermore, unlike with a paid course of classes, if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you can just stop and try a different one without any hassle. And you won’t lose any money if you take a holiday.
Some people are greatly self-motivated, and some people are not. If you fall into the second category, then learning a language online might be difficult. Having the freedom to learn a language whenever you feel like it, might mean never. For people with heavy schedules and little time to themselves, face-to-face classes can provide a helpful break to the week. Some companies offer in-office classes for individuals or groups, that can be a great way for busy people to integrate language-learning into a busy day.
There may be particular limitations of online language courses for advanced learners, as most apps, including duolingo, specialize in beginner and intermediate students. Rosetta Stone claims to accomodate for advanced learners, however, even the most advanced technology may not give advanced learners the spontaneous real-life language that they need to improve.
So… is it possible to learn a language online?
Kind of. There are definitely many fantastic ways to start and to improve your language. As with any method of learning anything, I would always say that your personal motivation is more important than the learning method. If you want to understand the basics of a language, then apps should be perfect. However, if you want to be able to truly communicate in depth with native speakers, then only real life practice will work.
Have you learned a language online? What pros and cons have you found? Would you recommend it? Let us know below.