Every possible approach you can try to learn a language — whether it’s app-based learning, traditional classrooms, online language classes or throw-yourself-into-the-deep-end levels of immersion — will usually be more effective when combined with elements of other methods. Learning methods don’t exist in a neat binary of good and bad, and most people’s language journeys consist of a varied diet of approaches. An app can get you far, but combining your lessons with a rich diet of podcasts, movies and practice sessions in your target language will help you cross the finish line. There are a number of very good reasons to take online language classes, though, and you shouldn’t miss out on them just because you’re still harboring some common misconceptions about online language tutoring (like that it’s too impersonal, or that it’s not as comprehensive or high-quality).
Online language learning has evolved greatly since the 1960s, which is when computers first began to be used by language teachers. Obviously, there was no internet back then, but in these early days, computers were used to spit out repetitive language drills. By the 1990s, language learning as a field was beginning to embrace a more social approach, which meant prioritizing language learning in authentic social situations. The internet has made it possible for language learners to connect with peers and native speakers all over the world, not just those who happen to be in the same physical classroom as them.
It’s hard to say how much of this shift would have occurred had the internet never existed, but this socio-cognitive approach is now central to language learning in both online and classroom-based environments. Believe it or not, online language classes can be even more interactive than traditional classes thanks to tools like forums, chat rooms and break-out rooms — not to mention what are frequently smaller (and more intimate) class sizes.
If you’ve been largely going it alone but are missing out on the social component of live online language classes, there’s an argument to be made for adding them to your curriculum.
The Top 5 Reasons To Take Online Language Classes
1. You’ll learn the lessons of other students who are in the same boat as you.
There’s something encouraging about learning with a group of people who are prone to making similar mistakes and having the same questions as you. The social component of live classes allows you to grow with other learners, and as a result, compound your learning. As the adage says: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And that’s assuming that you’ll definitely go faster alone when you have to figure certain things out for yourself.
There’s also something to be said about the motivation boost you’ll get from other people. This won’t be equally true for everyone; some people are more internally motivated than others. But if you’re the kind of person who is more likely to stick to a commitment when you feel accountable to the people around you, online language classes will provide helpful inspiration.
2. Online language tutoring will provide you with specific answers to your specific questions.
Though apps and books are designed to anticipate the most common questions learners will have, they can’t address all of them. There’s value in trying to look for the answers yourself, but live classes come equipped with a supportive environment and a teacher who can answer your questions quickly and succinctly.
3. You’ll get to embrace making mistakes in a safe space.
Making mistakes is a crucial part of language learning. Some would even say it’s the best way to learn. But for the vast majority of people, the prospect of messing up in front of total strangers who may or may not have the patience for your fumbles is intimidating enough to discourage them from the get-go. Language anxiety is real, and it costs a lot of students the opportunity to advance past their awkward stage. In online language classes, mistakes are encouraged and expected, and this might be enough of an ice-breaker to help you build up your confidence before you start speaking in real life.
4. With online language classes, you’ll practice reacting to dialogue you can’t fully anticipate.
Though most readymade courses involve a certain amount of dialogue to help you understand how the language sounds in a conversation, the examples are sometimes intentionally boilerplate, which has the benefit of giving you several canned responses you can draw on in the early stages of learning. Real conversation is rarely by-the-book, however, and there’s no substitute for actual, person-to-person dialogue for acclimating yourself to the natural twists and turns a conversation can take. Consider it a linguistic form of agility training.
5. You’ll get instantaneous feedback on what you sound like to a native speaker.
Even if an app has the ability to assess your pronunciation with speech recognition features, it can’t entirely replace the level of instant, personalized feedback you’d get from a language teacher. Like that you’re not rolling your Rs properly in Spanish, for instance.
One of the best reasons to take online language classes is that instructors come equipped with the perspective of a native speaker, as well as the ability to correct you and tell you when you mess up a verb tense. In any other situation, you might get your point across sufficiently, but the people you’re talking to will likely let you fumble quite a bit more out of politeness.
Introducing Babbel Live
Babbel’s roots are in the learn-it-yourself app world, but we’ve always been big believers in supporting learners along every step of their journey. That’s why we’re so excited to be offering Babbel Live as a higher-tier subscription, for users who feel like they could benefit from live online language classes with world-class instructors. Plus, classes are capped at six people, so students get the benefit of personalized attention and meaningful interaction. The Babbel app is included for free with a Babbel Live membership.
Ready to give Babbel Live a shot? We’re currently offering online Spanish classes, French classes, Italian classes and German classes.