Language learning has been revolutionised by the creation of the Internet. My first introduction to language learning was a record on a record player – my children probably have no idea what a record player is!
At the time, that record was my only access to learning a foreign language. I then progressed to a phrasebook and finally classroom lessons. Today, at the click of a button, we are connected with people all around the world. We can share information and knowledge with millions of people. We can hear foreign languages spoken every day without having to travel. Language lessons can be held online. We can access more content in any language in one Google search than we can possibly read or listen to in a lifetime. The Internet has thoroughly changed the way we learn and access information.
Let’s not forget that learning a language online doesn’t mean just sitting at your computer… you could be on the move with your mobile or tablet and still learning languages – fantastic! The Internet has changed our behaviour and this is an ongoing evolution with new apps and processes being created every day – exciting!
With the Internet at your disposal… here are our top ten tips for learning a language online
1) Try using Skype or Google hangouts – with either of these services you can talk to anyone, anywhere, in the world. Use it to link up with other people learning the same language, or with a language exchange friend or with your language teacher.
2. Listen to the radio in the language you are learning – you can now access pretty much any radio station in the world via the Internet. Do this either via a specific website or app to flip between one station or another … just search the app store on your mobile or tablet.
3. Read foreign language newspapers from your mobile, tablet or pc – many of the big national newspapers now have an app. Figuring out the headlines in a foreign language everyday can only improve your language skills – how would have done this every day before the internet?! Think BBC, Le Monde, the Moscow Times, La Stampa, El Pais, Bild.
4. Take part in online language classes – there are many free and paid online language exchange and tutoring classes available on the Internet. Busuu, Livemocha, iTalki, Verbling all offer classes you can join in with online.
6. Find a language pen pal – stay in touch and exchange languages. Instead of finding a pen pal via word of mouth, you can use an online service like Interpals to find a suitable pen pal then use the Internet to message each other or arrange to speak over Skype or Google hangouts… send each other emails, share links to interesting information. Many polyglots like Tim Doner use international penpals to keep practicing the languages they have learnt.
7. Find free or paid introductory online lessons to suit you – there are so many! They all have different techniques, styles to teach you. Some might focus on memory, such as Memrise. Some can work out what language level you are already at, like Duolingo. They can be an ongoing set of courses, or just a five-minute burst of practicing some vocabulary. Every little helps – it’s all down to practice!
8. Use YouTube – listen to songs in a different language! Watch silly videos or ads in different languages. Try singing along for fun (!) and to practice your speaking skills…
9. Internet translation – there are many online translation services to help if you are stuck working out a word try Google Translate, but use cautiously. Most language buffs would recommend these services for translating one or two words at a time – they are simply not sophisticated enough to translate huge swathes of text. Plus the point is for you to use the language – not for Google to do it for you!
10. Mobile dictionary apps – there are also some great online dictionary services and apps out there – one which gets a thumbs up is Dict.cc – download this and you can check words you don’t understand.
Try not to get too waylaid searching for different ways to help you learn online! Most importantly you need to stick to doing the actual learning… we all know how distracting the Internet can be. With 4.5 billion web pages worldwide it’s easy to get sidetracked.