Learning a new language can be a daunting task. Even if you’re using a free app that sends you daily reminders, it can still be hard to find the motivation to practice every day without the help of instructors or peers. That’s where online language courses can help.
Whether you’ve decided that it’s time to become a polyglot, or you’re preparing for an upcoming trip of a lifetime, there are a number of reasons why you may want to learn a new language from the comfort of your own home. Online language courses can provide you with the tools, support, and structure to meet your language learning goals.
While these programs may come at a cost, the resources they provide for students often mimic in-person language courses that offer full-service support, from reading and writing to speaking and listening. Rather than being your own instructor, you’ll get the support of a qualified language teacher who can help ensure your success. And you may also get to connect with other language learners around the globe!
Need to Know
With dozens of free apps and websites offering language learning for any level, it may seem unnecessary to invest in an actual language course.
But the reality is that most of the free language software, while fun, is generally ineffective at long-term language retention. You may end up remembering a few keywords or phrases, but after you stop investing your 15 minutes a day, the memorization you’ve done starts to fade away.
That’s why it’s important to think about language learning as much more than just rote memorization. You need to listen to native speakers, ask questions and get answers, and be able to practice with other learners. Here are some of the important advantages of online language courses:
Unlike free language apps, online language courses connect students with actual human instructors! This is a huge difference: rather than relying on technology to determine your ability and offer appropriate coursework, you will be able to interact with an instructor or tutor who can offer suggestions, correct your accent, and provide personalized feedback.
Even though you won’t be attending in-person classes, most online language courses offer either live class sessions or individual tutoring consultations. In either case, you’ll be able to interact with a language expert who can help determine where you’re succeeding and where you may need extra support.
Language is inherently communal; the goal of learning a new language is about interaction, connection, and communication. That’s why it’s so important for long-term success to learn a new language in a context where you can interact with other speakers.
Online language courses will often allow you to connect with peers who are in a similar language learning stage as you. You can be practice buddies, swap tips and tricks, and help build each other’s confidence. It’s important to have a community to keep you on track and offer support.
Tools & Resources
Just like learning any subject in school, learning a language online requires textbooks, worksheets, and learning tools of all kinds. Many online language courses will offer a wide range of resources that support students of all learning styles.
It’s key that these tools are matched with your language level so that you continue to be challenged. One size does not fit all, and online language courses can often tailor materials to your needs.
Structure & Accountability
Ok, sure, in an ideal world we would all have the motivation to become self-taught polyglots. But the reality is that most of us need an accountability buddy.
Online language courses set you up for success by creating a structure and timeframe that keeps you motivated and moving toward your goal. Regular assignments, quizzes, and discussion groups keep you accountable and getting the most out of your experience.
Word to the wise: there are plenty of advantages to taking an online language course, but remember that not all courses are created equal. Do your research, read reviews, and make sure the course you register for can help you achieve your goals.
Choosing a Language
There are a number of reasons to study a new language. Whether you are planning for an upcoming trip, working on a new business venture, or you simply want to give yourself a new challenge, there are plenty of incentives to become multilingual.
And there are just as many languages as there are reasons to learn them! Many people will have a specific language in mind when they decide to take a language course, but if you’re looking for some language inspiration, here are some of the most commonly studied languages online:
- English — It makes sense that English tops the list since there are roughly 1.5 billion speakers in the world!
- Spanish — For those of us who took Spanish in grade school or high school, the basics may come back quickly, but a course can help with retention and fluency!
- Mandarin — This is particularly hard to learn on your own, so working with qualified instructors can help in making sure you understand pronunciation, intonation, and cultural context.
- strong>Arabic — Another challenging language to learn, Arabic is a great choice for online study as working with an instructor or private tutor will help you keep on track.
- Japanese — It seems like Japan is the new hot destination these days, so it makes sense that people want to learn Japanese!
Planning Your Experience
In order to get the most out of your experience and the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions before signing up for a program.
What Are Your Goals?
Are you hoping to learn a few phrases so that you can interact with locals on an upcoming trip? Do you want to brush up on a language you already know? Are you embarking upon a whole new language journey with the goal of eventually becoming fluent?
Different goals will require different courses. If you just want to learn the basics, maybe you want to sign up for a short-term course that incorporates a lot of exposure to the idioms of a specific location. If you’re hoping for more holistic and long-term language learning, maybe you want to sign up with a private tutor or apply for a course that meets year round. It’s important to take stock of what you want to achieve so that you choose a program that’s a good fit.
What’s Your Learning Style?
Some people learn best in a one-on-one setting while others thrive as part of a lively classroom environment. You’ll want to think about what type of program will work best for you—private tutoring, group classes, self-direction, or a combination of all three.
Additionally, you’ll want to think about your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to language learning. If you anticipate needing extra support with speaking, perhaps look for a program that prioritizes informal conversation. If you know that you’ll need to have stellar written capabilities (maybe you’re applying for a job in a foreign language, or preparing to study abroad), perhaps look for a course that emphasizes reading and writing.
What’s Your Budget?
Language courses can indeed be spendy so it’s important to think about how much money you can invest in this experience.
Some programs will charge by the class, others by the hour, and others for the entire program duration. Prices can vary dramatically, from $15 for a single class to $500 for a full course. Many language institutes will allow you to buy classes in bulk which helps reduce the price.