Students who plan to travel, attend college, or work internationally will find that fluency in a foreign language is a relevant and important skill to have. Even a basic understanding of a foreign language can make teaching English abroad a better experience, navigating other countries a breeze, or help a college application stand out. For these reasons, language learning is an extremely useful elective course.
The most common way for teens to learn a foreign language is in a classroom, but for homeschooled students, this may not be an option. Luckily, there are plenty of options to help homeschoolers learn a foreign language. Resources for learning outside the classroom aren’t limited to watching movies or listening to music in the target language. Here are some of the best online resources to help homeschooled students with learning a language:
Smartphones are common these days, especially among teens, which makes mobile applications one of the most universal and accessible ways to learn a foreign language.
A quick search for “language learning” in your device’s app store will yield endless pages of results. Students can likely find whatever language they are looking for. Memrise, Duolingo, and Babbel are great places to start and are compatible with both iOS and Android devices. They also present their courses as a game, which will help keep teens enthusiastic and involved with their studies.
Podcasts are an increasingly popular medium that can be beneficial for language learners. There are podcasts in more than 100 languages available on a variety of topics. To help keep them focused and interested in language studies, students can find a podcast in their target language about a topic that interests them.
One of the biggest advantages to podcasts is the chance to hear how native speakers converse with each other. Though slang, incorrect grammar, and linguistic nuances may be confusing, listeners have the exciting opportunity to listen to people use the language naturally while discussing a subject they enjoy.
Though social media may not come to mind as a language learning tool, it can be a useful way to study a foreign language as long as students don’t get distracted. Millions of users cover the globe on various websites, so students can use whichever platform they find the most useful.
Like podcasts, social media allows learners to experience how native speakers communicate naturally. Students can even connect with these native speakers and practice their writing and reading skills. Watch out for inconsistent spelling and improper grammar.
An online foreign language class is one of the best ways a student can use technology to improve their skills. Online courses work well for homeschooled teens, because students can figure out how the class will fit into their existing schedule.
Online classes offer the guidance and structure of a physical classroom without having to be there. Students have valuable resources at their disposal: a teacher who can help with any questions or problems and other students to practice with. Best of all, these students aren’t limited by physical location, so homeschoolers can connect with other students from all over the world.
Disadvantages to New Technology
As enriching as new resources can be, they aren’t a practical option for some language learners. Some of the drawbacks include:
- Online classes, often available through community colleges or other paid providers, may be too costly.
- The devices needed to access programs and websites are expensive and potentially distracting for some students.
- Mobile apps are effective, but often only for beginner-level comprehension. Duolingo users debate the effectiveness of the courses, and many say that it isn’t possible to become fluent in a language without using additional resources.
Benefits of New Technology
The benefits that new technologies provide for foreign language learners outweigh the disadvantages. Some benefits include:
- New technology can reach and help people all over the world, regardless of their physical location. Homeschooled students can connect with others who are passionate about the foreign language.
- If users have a device to access them, most social media, mobile apps, and podcasts are free.
- New technology can be helpful for homeschooled students who don’t learn well in a traditional classroom setting. Students have the chance to find interesting and helpful ways to improve their language skills.
For decades, technology has been influencing how we use and learn language. Technology can even help us improve our language skills at a young age. It promotes linguistic growth, and helps speakers grow with it.
Some methods of learning a language will work for some students and not for others. These new ways to assist language learning can be used in conjunction with other methods. If a student is taking a foreign language course online, they can also listen to podcasts or use language apps to help further their understanding. Try different methods and see which work best for you or your teen!
What types of activities and courses have you used as electives? Leave a comment and we may include yours in a future column!