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May 25, 2012

Learning English as a Second Language Online

For this post, we offer something a little different; a guest blog post. We have Estelle Shumann to thank for this post. I think you will enjoy her....

...astute observations.

Not so very long ago, the only way to master a foreign language was to travel to the desired country and spend time immersed in a culture of native speakers. Getting beyond basic vocabulary and grammar just wasn’t possible without hearing and living with the native language daily. But that was back when paper flash cards were regarded as high tech.

Today, the Internet brings immersion in a foreign language to your home. Web-based classrooms and online schooling offers anyone, anywhere, the ability to participate in classes for most languages. The Internet offers language learners the ability to engage in the language and culture in real time. Students can watch a newscast, children’s cartoon, or read foreign newspapers. Teachers are often native speakers of the language, so they can help students perfect accents and colloquialisms. With web-based video conferencing, language learners can watch the teacher speak and vice versa. They can even participate in live conversations and receive direct feedback.

The Internet also provides learning opportunities in terms of dictionaries, quizzes, drilling exercises, updates, short stories and literature, as well as television shows. And many of the drilling and testing tools offer instant grading, which tells students where they stand with the material.

Of course, one needs a foundation before that is possible. There are many language courses offered online, both for English Language Learners and for those who want to learn other languages, like Mandarin or Spanish. Some of these are even free, like Learn American English Online http://www.learnamericanenglishonline.com/index.html. Others are well known like Rosetta Stone and Berlitz. The Berlitz Virtual Classroom (BVC) takes online far beyond the realm of self-study, with individualized instruction and group instruction. With the BVC, students aren’t left to their own devices to struggle along. Teachers and students create a schedule that allows for flexible learning, but also keeps students on track and motivated.

Studies show that learning a language online is almost as effective as overseas travel. It is also far more effective than older methods. Part of the success of online language learning is due to the real-time responses to the classroom, creating mental associations with the new language which are much more solid than the written word alone. For instance, instead of learning that “sol = sun” students can see a video with the sun, making the deeper visual association with the word in English.

There are also many online certification courses for teaching English. TESOLhttp://www.americantesol.com/, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, offers several online certificates for different levels and audiences. For example, there is a certification for teaching children, as well as a certification for teaching business English. Once certified, TESOL instructors can travel the world, experience a vast array of cultures, and earn a living anywhere they choose.

Clearly, the Internet has changed the face of language learning forever. Never before has it been possible to see and converse with native speakers in real time. Through the connected world of the Internet, online language study brings entirely different and exciting possibilities to people around the globe.

Posted by mmorf at May 25, 2012 10:38 PM

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