In the age of “there’s an app for everything,” language learning has gone through a dramatic change. Although technology has played a role in language learning for at least the past few decades, it reached a new peak in the 2010s with the invention of language apps.
Open the app store on your phone, download a free application, and start learning vocabulary for one of hundreds of languages spoken worldwide. How much easier does it get? With this new ease of learning languages, however, it is worth considering how much we are actually “learning.” That is to say, when you use a language learning app, how effective will it be? Will you become fluent? And how do we measure such a thing anyway?
Language learning apps usually include flashcards as a major component. When it comes to memorizing and studying vocabulary, flashcards can be extremely useful. These apps usually also include flashcard-style learning for fixed phrases, such as “What’s your name?” or “Where is the bathroom?” — all items that are very useful for people trying to speed-learn a language in anticipation of a vacation to a foreign country.
Nevertheless, learning a language is about more than simple concepts and fixed questions. True proficiency in a language means being able to hold a conversation with another speaker of that language, often moving from topic to topic (some of which can be more complex than others) and thinking on one’s feet. Being able to solve problems in another language, have a debate, describe something in detail, and express one’s emotions are all important too. How can we learn these skills?
Anyone who wants to seriously learn a language will have to do more than use an app. However, these apps are without question a great start. For the most part, they are free. Some are better for drilling vocabulary, others for learning grammatical concepts, and some even allow you to chat online with other learners and speakers. All of these tools will certainly aid any language learner.
Still, the best way to supplement your education is by speaking in person with either a native speaker of the language or someone with a high level of proficiency. Speaking in person is especially important, because you’ll be able to learn to pick up on use of gestures, facial expressions, and body language. Open-ended, natural conversation is a great way to learn how to think on your feet in your new language. Finally, going out into the world and being immersed in the language will put you into a situation in which you are nearly forced to use your new language, allowing you to build on and develop your skills in new ways.
What better place to start than the Language Learning Institute, where you can find structured classes, conversation tables, and travel experiences to help you learn a new language? Sign up today!