The best way to learn a foreign language is through immersion – ideally for at least a year in a foreign country that speaks that language. Realistic? Not for most of us. So what are other ways one can learn another language? Luckily, online language learning has come a long way in recent years. A simple Google search shows there are many online resources. For beginners, online courses are helpful as the instructor has already chosen some of the best resources and combined them into specific learning paths. Plus, online resources are a fraction of the cost of immersion!
1) Self-Paced Language Courses
The most basic language courses are self-paced, which allows you to work wherever you want – whenever you want They often provide interactivity with native-speaking voices, exercises with immediate feedback and links to a large variety of web resources.
In addition to learning the basics through self-paced general language courses, there are now more industry-specific courses – called occupational language courses. Instead of learning the entire language, perhaps you need a starting point for a specific challenge. For example, a front desk person in the healthcare industry finds language challenges with Spanish-speaking patients. She isn’t interested in fluency – at least not yet – but wants to know a few Spanish phrases to gather information and comfort people coming to the clinic. Online resources and courses are now available specifically to help her with this language need.
2) Instructor Led Courses
Many universities and community colleges offer their own online language courses. Instructor led courses generally have a set pace and more accountability with specific start and end dates, group discussions and homework. These options are great for students who find more structure helps their learning. Many instructor-led online courses also now include occupational courses to help workers in a specific industry learn what they need for their specific job.
3) Supplementary Online Resources
What if you already have taken a language course, but you just need to practice it? With the web, you now can find native Spanish speaking tutors, such as www.SpeakShop.com or www.italki.com to help you practice your language skills in the comfort of your own home. Need help with vocabulary and verb conjugations? Try the many language flashcard sets at www.quizlet.com or get instant grammar feedback at www.conjuguemos.com. Want to practice your Spanish listening skills? Try the Spanish Proficiency Exercises at the University of Texas at Austin or News in Slow Spanish. How about joining a language learning community online? Try LiveMocha or Duolingo.
4) Watch a Movie
Don’t forget one of the easiest and cheapest ways to “immerse” yourself – movies from the comfort of your own couch! Most streaming services, like Amazon Prime or Netflix, have subtitle and audio options where you can listen in Spanish or read the Spanish subtitles. Or you could go “old school” and put in a DVD/BluRay to choose Language or Subtitles options for your selected language.
And if you do really feel like getting out of your house for a bit, see if there is a local Conversation Group. If you are in a university town, there are probably Conversation Groups already set up that you could join. Just call your local Language Department and see. Or check out meetup.com. In the Spanish language alone, there are over 2200 Spanish Conversation groups around the world. See if there is one near you. Whatever you do, just enjoy the language learning experience and realize that language skills are keys to opening up many new doors.