It’s true that currently everything you need can be found online. Language learning is no exception. Before you even begin to start learning a new language, like Mandarin Chinese, it is most likely that you will end up doing some quick language research on Google. Many of us will choose not to go to a real local language school at the beginning, instead relying on online tools. If there are already many good resources, like apps and curriculums available on the internet, why bother spending so much time commuting to a school and following a fixed learning schedule?!
If you haven’t made up your mind yet, let’s look at some of the benefits of online language learning together:
The pros of learning a language online
Just as mentioned above, how much time are you willing to dedicate to learning to a new language? (And how much time do you really have available at the end of the day?) Since you not only need to take into account class times but also extra time for review and practice. On top of this, if you are attending a school, commute time also needs to be taken into account! In addition, you might need to cancel some important personal events to attend class… Basically, learning at a language school will definitely cost you a lot of time and it won’t be flexible!
But what if you choose to go online? Problem solved! You don’t need to spend any extra time other than the real learning and practice time. No more traffic jams and wasted time! No need to change plans. You can learn and practice instantly with a laptop, Ipad or a smartphone.
Whatever Material you Need, You Can Find it Online
Where to find resources needed if I don’t go to a local language school? You might find yourself asking this. But from my view, these days, everything you need can be found online!
Not only vocabulary list and grammar books but also all the audio and video materials you could think off. You can even use online translation tools like Google and Bing to help translate sentences, therefore supporting your learning, specifically reading. Smartphone apps can also be used to learn pronunciation and to test whether your pronunciation is accurate enough. If you have children who want to try Mandarin Chinese, you can also find a 1-on-1 language tutor on learning platforms like Lingo Bus! Doesn’t it sound good to have a personal teacher who can interact with your child face to face!
Arm yourself with all the magical technology
Today’s language learning is not just about memorizing vocabulary and practicing grammar patterns anymore. Researchers and educators all agree that the final goal of language learning is to be able to communicate freely in the given language. Technology has enabled many innovative ways to learn a new language.
For instance, with voice recognition, you don’t need to type in to search the meaning of a conversation. Just speak to your smartphone directly.
This can also be used to help you with your pronunciation, talking with SIRI, Echo or Cortana in the target language to see whether the bot can understand you!
For children, learning a new language has never been more fun than today! They can learn and practice using game-like apps or even by actually playing games on online teaching platforms. For young English learners, I would recommend the online 1-on-1 teaching platform from VIPKid. It is becoming one of the largest and most promising online English education platforms. For kids learning Chinese, they should try a free demo class at Lingo Bus where they can learn with experienced Chinese teachers.
That’s not even taking into account artificial intelligence that can analyze and learn how the human brain works and how people learn. With the assistance of big data and the growing ability of machine learning, AI can now help to optimize our learning process based on all the data collected from the real world.
Things to look out for when learning a language online
Although learning a language online has so many advantages, as everything else, it also has its shortcomings. I concluded the following from my own personal learning experience.
Be picky about what you have found
There are tons of material that can be found online and no doubt many of them are of great value. But it is also true that some of them are not of high enough quality or may even be misleading for beginners. Think about Wikipedia, it is so open and can be edited by anyone. Despite that it still plays an essential role in our daily life, if I were you, I would probably not use this as a language learning tool.
If you know nothing about a language or don’t have time to do basic research, your best bet is to find a language teaching service provider. This can be easy! A quick Google search will come up with a list of providers and reviews.
When you look for language material online, always bear in mind that you should first evaluate if the website you downloaded the material from is trustworthy. And try to find as many real customer reviews as you can, as you can always learn from others’ experience.
Protect and grow your passion
Without a teacher in front of you and a bunch of classmates that you can “compete” with, it will be pretty easy to loose motivation and give up. You have to know how to motivate yourself and persuade yourself to stick to your language goals. Otherwise, you can get distracted frequently and give up at a certain stage. The most useful suggestion on this issue would be, in my view, trying not to restrict yourself in a repetitive learning routine and always think out of the box. Spending half hour to think about fun ways to learn is worth more than spending hours to do things that are not going to work out for you.
The worst thing for language learning is following a bad plan. Plan smartly! If you find your plan couldn’t help you to achieve your goal, try to adjust it quickly. In fact, there are many existing plans that are proven effective available online.
Find a real person to talk to
- Language learning is all about communication. But even today, it can still be hard for those who are learning online to find a native speaker of the target language to practice with. In a traditional language school, learners can usually speak with a teacher who is a native speaker or whose language proficiency is close to native level.
Find the shoes that fit you the best
We have talked about online learning resources before. If you want to read news and stories in Chinese, you can check this blog: How to Learn Mandarin on the Global News Website. For our next blog we will talk about Apps that can help you to learn Mandarin Chinese so stay tuned.
Online learning is gradually replacing traditional ways of learning. As language learners, we should be open to all the new forms, methods and resources available for learning a new language. While doing our best to take advantages of all these development, we should also think about what works best for us. After all, it is better to stand in a pair of old shoes that fit you well rather than in a beautiful pair that pinches the toes.