Online Language Learning Methods



Online language learning methods are exploding. Until just a few years ago, language study was limited to the classroom or personal tutor, or home study by book. In the last few decades technology has given us a much needed audio option - first vinyl records, then cassettes and recently cd. Now technology has finally given us the most efficient format yet - the internet. Options to learn a language by internet are still limited but the potential is not. What advantages or disadvantages are there for learning by internet? Let's compare.


Advantages

Free. Most online language learning resources are free. Whether they are maintained by a large corporation or a single student, most are available free for all to use. This alone makes them a great resource for language learners.

Text, audio, images and sometimes even video. You get the benefits of a written component and with some sites you will get some audio which is so important in learning a language. A few sites go even further and provide pictures or video for a full media presentation. This can be a powerful learning tool, and if it's free even better!

Less formal. Internet sites in general, including language sites, tend to be written in a more personal style than with the more formal commercial language learning products. Some sites maintained by individuals can actually provide some great insights into a language that you won't get from a book or commercial product. Occasionally you will find real nuggets of inside information about a language and its' phrases, idioms, popular sayings and slang. You can sometimes get more up-to-date information than you would otherwise.


Disadvantages

Must have computer and internet access. This is obvious, but unless you have some expensive gadgetry you won't always have access to websites. It's simply not as convenient as a book or audio method. Furthermore, in order to take advantage of the best internet resources, you must have a broadband connection of some kind. For instance, the free video-on-demand language learning programs provided by Annenberg/CPB require you to have a broadband connection. And with only a dial-up connection, downloading or streaming that all-important audio on many sites takes much longer.

Mostly for beginners. Most online language learning methods or resources are just the basics for beginners. They are not exhaustive or as thorough as a commercial product. You'll find e-mail courses, tutorials and grammars, general resources and cultural information, but there are fewer and fewer sites providing resources as you advance in the language.

Some of the best are not free. It is my contention that language learning ought to be free. While some people and even companies provide free information and resources for language learners, the best online methods or resources are not free.

The capability for online language learning methods to provide text, audio, images and video makes it the most efficient possible format for self-study, and the potential is unlimited. However, the current conditions and requirements mean that most people will have to use the internet to supplement some other method, such as books, audio, software or classes.

Recommended Online Language Learning Methods


About.com. About.com is not a method but an online resource maintained by qualified teachers. There is a good variety of languages, but the exact lessons, exercises and information available vary from language to language. It is easily the best online resource for language learners.

RosettaStone. RosettaStone publishes language learning software, but they also provide internet access to their products. The monthly fee is considerably less than the cost of their software products, but it is not free.

Individual Sites. There are lots of websites devoted to individual languages or groups of languages. Search the main search engines or check the language pages right here at the language learning advisor for specific recommendations.


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"The limits of my language means the limits of my world."

- Ludwig Wittgenstein