What Does It Mean to Learn Languages Online?
What is learning languages online? It is a question that many people, especially those who are perhaps more accustomed to traditional and organic teaching, may be asking. And it is not the only one: how good is online teaching? Is it possible to learn something as complex as a language with the tools provided by the internet and the computer? I mean, we don’t have high school documents or books, there’s no blackboard, the teacher is on a screen.
All these questions have answers that we will answer little by little. But before starting, I would like to tell a little about my personal experience, how I came to the conclusion that studying languages online was the most convenient and has nothing to envy traditional teaching methods such as an institute or a School of languages.
All this started when I decided to take Russian language lessons. My teacher was from a city close to mine, and that’s why we agreed to meet on Wednesdays after university in a nearby cafe for both of our houses. The fact is that she couldn’t every Wednesday since she had other matters to attend to, so, although not very convinced, I agreed to start online classes with her.
Accustomed to traditional teaching, having done my studies in English and French in person, I found the internet to be a horror: can you really study a language adequately in these conditions? Well, even though I wasn’t sure, I didn’t have many options and so I went ahead.
First we did a face-to-face class and an online one. Little by little I began to notice that, despite the distance, we did the lessons perfectly. I understood everything, I could follow my teacher and her book with no problem, and even when she shared the screen and showed me the documents we used for the lesson and wrote on them, I knew I had an advantage that I didn’t have at the Institute. Then came other resources: videos, audios, images, everyone could see them live and hear them live. At the Institute many times the teacher would bring her old cassette and if you were unlucky enough to sit far away that day, I’m sorry you couldn’t do the listening.
With French I had had the experience of having a teacher with 100% of his attention on me, although the classes were still face-to-face. The problem was that actually, that was for a short time, since other partners soon arrived with whom, although I had a very good relationship with them and it was nice to have them, I must say that pedagogically it was not useful to me. I had knowledge of Portuguese and English, so my experience studying languages was much greater than that of my classmates, so many times I understood some things much faster and instead had to wait for them to understand what I had already understood, so we could move on.
That made learning slow, tedious and many times I had to make a trip from my house to the Institute to see the same topic from the previous week. On the other hand, with Russian it was different: I was from the comfort of my home, having tea, learning at my own pace and with a greater range of resources that I did not have at the Institute. Soon I totally changed face-to-face lessons for online classes and decided to do the same with French. It was the best decision I made and currently I am studying three languages online: Russian, Serbian and Bulgarian. But thanks to the online classes, I also learned Italian and improved my English, Portuguese and French.
That also helped modernize myself as a teacher, and soon I started offering online lessons as well. The result was impressive: topics that normally took me weeks to explain, I could cover in just two or three lessons. That is how I understood the importance of online learning as a superior form of education. Clearly teaching online made me a better teacher, and helped my students progress in a way that used to take me months to achieve. This would have been a mystery, if it wasn’t for my own experience as an online student: clearly my progress was much greater than when I was studying at the Institute.
Many might think that online teaching is something impersonal. I don’t blame them: I thought the same. Not having the teacher there to raise your hand and ask a question, or pat him on the shoulder after hours to ask him to explain something that was not understood during the lesson. But I realized that it was actually much more personal than before: the teacher was 100% aware of me, attentive to my doubts and concerns and to resolve them immediately. On the other hand, I could write to her before the class: “teacher, I did not understand a certain topic”, and before the next lesson she would prepare other materials to explain it in another way. I mean, it was ongoing communication that I clearly couldn’t have with my Institute teachers, many of whom didn’t even share their email. Or if you asked for a topic to be explained again the next lesson, they didn’t (and rightly so) because that might slow down the others.
Obviously, as a teacher I was also able to give these benefits to my students and create a deep bond with them that undoubtedly positively affected the educational process. It’s nice to find your teacher as a friend rather than an authority figure. It is much better to go at your learning pace instead of having to follow a strict program where the most important thing is that all the topics are completed and not that you learn. It is without a doubt the most comfortable thing that exists to do the class from the comfort of your home, finish the class and not have to make a long trip back.
So in response to the question in this article: what is learning languages online? It is the future education, the one that will allow you to make impressive progress as a student and master the language you want in much less time, from the comfort of your home, and with a teacher who is 100% attentive to your needs. It’s just a matter of trying a lesson and you’ll immediately notice its many benefits.
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