Some people feel that if they are serious about learning a language, the online world should be the last place to make it happen. I beg to differ. With the internet, things we thought were out of reach a few decades ago, are perfectly feasible. The world around has shrunk tremendously. Since the beginning of the pandemic of 2020, more people have subscribed to virtual learning programs in all kinds of topics, and the online world is offering language learners a myriad of opportunities.
Ways to study a language online and their benefits.
Free online materials.
You must be familiar to these. The main provider is YouTube. You can find an infinite number of accounts for a great variety of languages- mainly aiming at beginners- where you can find information about your chosen language. The inconvenience might be that because you are spoilt for choice, you end up not knowing which accounts to follow and you might feel confused as you are following 10 or more people that sometimes share different opinions and techniques over the same subjects.
Busuu. The advantage of using these is especially if you are short of time. You study at your own pace. You do not need to follow a strict timetable. You can access them whenever you got fifteen, twenty minutes here and there, from anywhere and from any available device. Although Duolingo caters more for the beginners, the other Apps offer resources for different levels of proficiency.
Another great advantage is that they are affordable. Some are free and others offer a premium option which is reasonable.
Most of these Apps have an integrated gamification process, which makes it more enjoyable for the users and keeps them engaged in the study process.
They all use spaced repetition to assist you in learning vocabulary and relevant phrases.
Babbel, Busuu, Rosetta Stone are less gamified but offer a more immersive learning experience.
Although great at introducing you to your new language, the language learning Apps won’t help you reach advanced proficiency on their own. Bear in mind that they are not a replacement for a language coach/tutor.
You can follow different language accounts on Facebook or Instagram. There again, you might get acquainted to the language you wish to study in a fun way, but this is not enough on its own. You might have to combine them with various other resources.
The advantage might be that you get to belong to a language community that may hold you accountable for your study if you requested their help.
Online language coaching/tutoring.
To truly learn a language in a reasonable time, you must have conversations with natives or people with higher language proficiency. You can achieve it with a coach/tutor. 1-on-1 online instruction is by far the most beneficial method because it forces you to use the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing).
It is cheaper than a traditional course at a college or university. You learn how to improve your pronunciation. You also learn day to day expressions, slang, and dialects. You get first-hand introduction to the culture.
Especially in the current worldwide health situation, it is highly convenient as we do not know when the next lockdown will fall upon us and force us to interrupt any face-to-face contact.
You can follow your lesson from the comfort of your home or your office. Your tutor will guide and correct you all the way.
You will be speaking from the start, no matter your level and this will slowly build your confidence.
The coach/teacher shares various study materials during the sessions: videos, documents, audios, pictures. These will help you learn more efficiently.
Your lesson is customised to your needs. You will have an input over what you wish to study. The tutor will identify your weaknesses and work on them so that you may improve.
You progress at your own pace and do not feel peer pressure.
Self-paced Language courses
These offer various benefits. You do not need to learn in a classroom environment. You can program your study time around your daily commitment: work, family, chores.
You can complete the modules and assignments in your own time: after putting the children to bed, or on your lunch break.
You save money and you do not have to spend time and energy in commuting.
The course content is usually interactive with videos, audios, images, exercises. You will also receive guidance about where to research particular grammar points.
You will have more time available to get acquainted to the material, analyse, and learn the content.
The course creator/teacher always offers an email, text messaging or live chat to tackle your doubts and have your questions answered.Sometimes online groups are provided with the course so that you can receive support from peers and group admins.
For the introvert or shy person, another benefit is that nobody else is aware of your progress, just you and your teacher.
There are various ways to learn a language online. It can be free or paid, live language classes or a language course, or you can also use gamified Apps. If you are busy and you are facing time constraint, you should definitely take the online route and choose the option that suits you best.