Being a foreign language teacher, I am frequently asked to give my opinion of the many software programs available for foreign language learning. These are my thoughts on the subject.
Foreign Language Learning: PACING
Yes, it’s true that software programs allow you to go at your own pace, but if you’re like most of us, a little structure tends to go a long way in helping you reach those goals. Regularly scheduled class meetings, along with required assignments, quizzes, and tests, can certainly make for more accountability. Further, if you find yourself procrastinating between lessons, you may end up repeating much of the previously learned material just for the sake of moving forward. Hence, the software program soon finds itself on the shelf amongst many other unfinished programs.
Question: Do I have enough self-discipline to get it done?
Foreign Language Learning: COMMUNICATION
What is your purpose for learning the target language? If your answer includes speaking the language, you will find that the live classroom offers more opportunity for interpersonal communication. While it’s true that most software programs are able to fully immerse you in the target language, the immersion is typically one-sided and the need for true language production on behalf of the learner is not factored into the experience. Only in an actual classroom setting is the exchanging of ideas from both parties necessary in order to have a meaningful conversation. Consider also, are there opportunities around me in which I can practice speaking the target language? If not, a classroom situation might provide this occasion.
Question: Do I want to speak and understand others in the target language?
Foreign Language Learning: CLARIFICATION
You are enjoying your software program when suddenly there arises a bit of ambiguity. On the screen is a picture of a beautiful window overlooking a field of brightly colored flowers as far as the eye can see. Does the word that you’re hearing refer to the window or to the sea of flowers beyond the window? At this moment, it would be ideal to quickly get clarification and move on. Alas, a swift response in this environment is usually impossible. Your choice: continue without explanation or interrupt the lesson and do a bit of research.
Question: Do I enjoy figuring out the meaning of new words and phrases through context only or do I need translations into my native language?
Foreign Language Learning: MATERIAL
Since most software programs are designed to promote mastery through context only, in the same way you learned your native language, thematic material is not generally used in this format. Instead, you are put into various situations while being immersed in the target language. This means that you will not operate within a specific topic, such as food, clothing, sports, etc., and even though you are provided context in the situation, the circumstances before you may be endless. Additionally, some software programs do not provide detailed grammar rules, but rather depend on repetition to teach the system and structure of the language.
Question: Do I need rules and certain structure?
In conclusion, am I saying that a live classroom setting is the best choice for everyone, all of the time? Certainly not. For example, software programs can be very helpful when used to further proficiency in a language in which an individual has already obtained a great foundation. I believe that there are specific differences between classroom learning and the use of software programs and it is important for each individual to make an educated choice.
Interesting Source for further reading:
Gina Duss earned her Bachelor of Science degree in French Education from University of Georgia and furthered her studies at the renowned Middlebury College’s French immersion program. During her college years, she was blessed to study abroad in Tours, France and the rest is history! She has taught in various capacities over the years from elementary to high school and is thrilled to be in her current role teaching students from all over the world through online learning. Gina brings her love for everything French: the language, the culture, the country, and the people, right into the classroom! When she’s not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband, children and many fur babies.