There may be many benefits to learning a language in a classroom environment, but there are nearly as many disadvantages to it. With the Internet, it has become much easier to learn a language from the comfort of home. However, it comes with its own serious disadvantages.
If you are serious about learning another language, there are definitely things that will hinder your success if you are relying on technology to make up for personal interaction.
First, let’s look at the advantages of learning online. Once those are clear, it’s time for a closer look at the three keys that will ensure your online learning is a success.
Advantages of Online Language Courses
While you don’t have a classroom, there are a lot of great things about learning a language online.
You can study whenever you feel like it, so the class is completely based on your schedule. Without regular class hours to consider, you can learn at your own pace, picking it up when you have a bit of extra time, or backing off when you get too busy with other things for a week or two.
You aren’t limited by location either. Having to go to a particular facility or building for a class is a time consuming endeavor all on its own. By learning online, you free up your time so that it is dedicated just to learning the language.
The cost of learning your target language is also completely up to you. If you want to do it on the cheap, or even completely free, you can. Many language courses end up being very costly, and the more exotic a company considers a language, the more they are going to charge for a class. For example, initially I looked at learning Japanese through a classroom. It took me very little time to realize that I wasn’t about to pay a few thousand dollars because Japanese wasn’t as common as French and Spanish, which cost a few hundred. In the end, I was much happier with learning online because it was nearly free, and it was a much more authentic experience.
One of the biggest benefits is that you have options like no generations before you have had. Technology has made it so that you can learn any language you want while using your preferred methods. You can use traditional textbooks ordered from Amazon, podcasts you find free on your smartphone, apps you play on your tablet, and flashcards specially designed for you by a particular app. Don’t forget that you can stream movies and TV shows too, making it more entertaining to learn languages than it ever was before.
Making Your Online Education a Success – Key 1 – Use the Tools Wisely
You have a world of tools and opportunities at your disposal, so you need to use them wisely. Being smart about what is available is far better than doing whatever, whenever you want.
Start by figuring out what your best learning style is and play to that. If you are a visual learner, find things that will help reinforce that. If you are a tactile learner, get cracking on those apps.
Be very aware of your language level. If you are a beginner, it’s probably a little too early to be seeking native speakers to start holding complex conversations. Focus on learning the basic core, then graduate to something more complicated once you feel comfortable with the language.
Use material that you find engaging. What worked for someone else may not work for you, and if you try to force it, you are much more likely to discourage yourself than you are to succeed.
Be wary of ratings that don’t appear to be well thought out. Pay attention to how many reviews the product has gotten. If 50 people have used it and the majority give it 4 or 5 stars, that means a lot more than if 7 people have given it a 5 star rating out of 10 reviews. Take the time to read through what people liked and didn’t like about the product or service, particularly if you are going to be paying for it.
Finally, make sure to switch out your materials regularly. You don’t want your mind to stagnate on one or two things. Challenge yourself by rotating out the things you learn.
Making Your Online Education a Success – Key 2 – Use Your Time Wisely
This suggestion is probably the most important key on the list, and it is the one where you have the most control and are the least likely to be cautious. The way you time your study sessions, the amount of time you give them, the frequency, and the activities you do will all be a part of what makes your studying successful.
You should be listening to podcasts and watching shows in your target language, but that is not the same as dedicated studying time. They can keep you interested in the language, making them important, but you need to keep studying the language, even once you become an advanced speaker.
To really push yourself and your learning, you can do these three things several times a week.
Making Your Online Education a Success – Key 3 – Expand Your Network
One of the easiest things to do online is to create a wide network with people who are both learning the language and those who already speak it. People know to do this, and yet far too few actually use this great tool. This failing can be attributed to the fact that people aren’t comfortable conversing in a new language, but get over it. If you don’t start talking now, what makes you think you will start talking again later?
The people online are there to learn, just like you. Native speakers will be more than happy to partner with you so that they can study English (just make sure that the time is pretty evenly split between English and your target language – you aren’t helping yourself if you let it get too English heavy just because it is more comfortable for you).
The following are a few sites you can start exploring to get your network started.
Set up a Skype account because that is one of the best ways to get connected, no matter what site you choose. Be as helpful to others as you want them to be with you so that you can build a solid, reliable network.