The 4 Most Common Misconceptions About Online Language Classes

Whoever you are, and whatever educational background you hail from, you probably have some unconscious biases around online learning. Let’s unpack them.
Una mujer enfrentando los 4 mitos de aprendizaje de idiomas online

“Online language learning is more impersonal.” “Online classes won’t give you a full curriculum.” “Learning online is less structured than in-person classes.” “Online classes are easier than ‘real’ classes.” Do you agree or disagree with any of these implicitly? Even if you have enough experience with online learning to know where the truth ends and the common misconception begins, you probably came into it with at least one of these biases.

Although it’s true that online language learning will never fully recreate the experience of an in-person class, there’s good reason to believe it doesn’t necessarily have to, and that that’s not such a bad thing anyway. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions people have about online language learning before they get cracking.

Common Myths About Online Language Learning

1. The experience is more impersonal/You won’t get individual attention.

It’s natural to assume that a lack of physical closeness will result in a lack of intimacy in your learning experience. But one thing Babbel Live teacher Noël Wolf has found to be true from her experience teaching online language classes is that they can be, and frequently are, just as personal as in-person classes.

“Nowadays, we are already used to online communication and don’t see it as something unnatural anymore,” Wolf said.

Babbel Live classes are limited to six students for this reason. You’ll get the benefit of interacting with other people at a similar stage in their language lessons, but in a small enough group that you can still get lots of individual attention from your teacher.

2. It’s not as interactive as in-person learning.

Maybe you’re used to sitting in Zoom meetings with your camera off and your microphone muted. But online language learning can be even more interactive than traditional classes, believe it or not.

What you lack in the immediacy of being face to face, you make up for in the use of forums, chat rooms and break-out rooms that allow you to interact with teachers and other students in real time. Plus, online classes are sometimes smaller than in-person classes, so there’s more room for everyone to participate. Certain tools that are not as available or streamlined for use in a traditional classroom setting (like surveys and videos) make online language learning a more interactive experience.

3. It’s too easy and/or lower quality compared to classroom learning.

It’s a common belief that online language learning is less comprehensive than traditional language classes, but this is frequently the opposite of the case. Online classes are often a well-rounded multimedia experience that features video, audio, and written material.

According to Wolf, a common misconception is that no books means no structure. “It’s the opposite!” she said. “No paper means that all documents are saved and cannot get lost.”

Additionally, Babbel Live classes can take you all the way from an A1 to a C1 learning level. There are classes that will engage and challenge anyone from a total newcomer to an advanced learner.

4. It’s harder to concentrate at home, and all that screen time is tiring.

Okay, there’s actually some truth to this. Some people might find it harder to concentrate at home in general. It’s easier to get distracted by social media, by stuff in your apartment or by that load of laundry you’ve got going. And too much screen time can be draining!

Consider, however, that online courses give you flexibility and convenience that traditional classes don’t. It’s easier to fit online language learning into your schedule when you don’t have to factor in a commute, and when you have multiple time slots to choose from. This makes it easier to study at your own pace, and in a way that holds your attention and doesn’t wear you out.

Plus, Wolf points out that most in-person classes last for 90 minutes to make the commute worth it. Online classes usually only last 45 to 60 minutes, which makes it easier to concentrate and stay engaged.

So yes, online classes won’t be identical to in-person, but that’s no reason to write off online language learning entirely. It’s a useful tool that can make learning a language easier and more accessible, so it’s definitely worth a try.

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