Let’s face it: the term “online learning” has become a mess, almost a junk shop where anything related fits in as long as there is WiFi!
“Online learning” has become a sort of hotchpotch that contains dozens of components and combinations of technologies. Some of you may grind your teeth just when you hear “online language course” because you relate the term “online” with self-study, boredom, solitude and loss of motivation.
Now, let’s put a bit of order in this mess and agree on a definition of Online Learning, even if it is just for the purpose of this post
The easiest way to define online learning is to agree that it is simply the opposite of face-to-face in the sense of physical contact. As per online learning, technologies have to be a means and never an end nor the use of technologies just for the sake of technologies. Technologies should serve the sole purpose of teaching effectively and just as if students were physically present. If it is well planned, delivered by a teacher who masters technologies and has chosen the right digital tools, an online language class can be just as good as face-to-face.
Watch out: There are excellent online language courses, mediocre ones and even dreadful ones
Type for example “Spanish online course” on Google: page one shows a plethora of online language courses. You will soon feel dizzy with the number of options. You will probably spend so much time exploring that you will go bananas. A bit like Netflix, by the time you finish searching for something to watch, it’s time to go to bed. It is true that some language learning sites are dazzling, trendy, cool, have promising claims and are inexpensive by the way. Digital marketing and design knows how to make black gold out of mud.
Don’t get overwhelmed with this myriad of options
Here’s a list of handy and undoubtable list of “GO” and “NO GO” to avoid pouring your money and your time down the drain
Learning the language by yourself? NO GO!
Run away from anything that convinces you to learn a language by yourself, in your own bubble. Language learning apps are enticing, economical and flexible and can help you learn the ropes of a foreign language. But, let’s be serious, even a sincere learner who tried them will tell you they never learnt beyond the basics and were tongue tied while trying to speak as such courses don´t offer an opportunity to develop conversational skill. What is the point of learning just rules of grammar if you can’t converse?
Combining self-study and tutoring? GO! … hmm, wait, not too fast
Some other options offer a combination of self-study and tutoring. Unfortunately, most of them are based on asynchronous learning (where instruction and learning may not happen at the same place or same time) in order to reduce the cost of human interaction. Those may be good but certainly not the best. Whatever the course is; just make sure that at least 50% to 60% of the content is delivered live, by a human being, a native or non-native teacher can be a question of taste.
Learning Spanish, French or Javanese in 3 months? NO GO!
Seriously, unless you have nothing else to do in your life and you are ready to sacrifice your mental stability, such a promise is a scam. The European framework of languages is neither a joke nor a technocrat’s whim! It clearly establishes the number of hours of study for each level unless you feel ready to compete with the world famous polyglot Zyad Fazah, this one is a real NO GO!
All language classes delivered live? GO! But remember: no pain no gain
Although it may sound demanding, a minimum discipline to learn a language is good; you need to give it its own time and space. If you are not ready to dedicate your time for real action, you are not ready for the exciting adventure of learning a language. Like any other discipline, practice leads to perfection. You need immersion, human interaction and someone to guide you.
The online course content includes social and cultural activities? GO!
One of the main motivations to learn a language is by definition the need to communicate with other beings, the natural instinct of establishing links with other humans and learning about their reality, their environment, their culture. It is also extremely beneficial to relate a language to the culture or cultures related to it, be it music, cinema, history, art, literature, savoir-faire.
It’s a one-to-one online language course? GO! But don’t shoot from the hip!
Ok, there is no denying that having a private language course whether online or face-to-face has a series of advantages. The content can be more personalised and the entire session is dedicated exclusively to you. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the right option for you. If you have specific needs such as improving your pronunciation or preparing for an official exam, it will help. It’s also more expensive and if it’s low-priced, mind the profile and the experience of the tutor, no one gives anything for free and quality comes with a price.
it’s a group based online language course? GO! But check the details
A group based online course can be efficient. A group class is highly motivating since you share similar learning objectives with classmates. The progress of others in the group can also trigger your motivation, simply, because you compete in a positive way. Number of classmates is the key here though; ideally 5 to 8 people, but never more than 10.
The boom of online language courses has provided a great opportunity to learn in groups formed by classmates from all over the world. cultural diversity in language classes will enable you to make friends from anywhere on earth that share your objectives and nurture your enthusiasm.