Teaching new languages is easier with technology | Nov16 Newsletter
In a globally connected world, fluency in more than one language is becoming increasingly valuable, and the ability to teach students a new language is getting a technology boost.
With huge leaps in technology and social media sharing around the world, there has never been a better time to understand each other more clearly. Although bilingualism, or even multilingualism, is the norm in many European and Asian nations, foreign language studies in Australia are far from the mainstream. In NSW, for example, less than 10 per cent of HSC students study a second language. The good news is that new technologies can make learning another language less daunting.
The one designed for early learners
Colourful, digital learning that captures the attention of young minds is essential in introducing children to new languages. ELLA – short for Early Learning Languages Australia – presents basic words, sentences and songs that are appropriate for pre-schoolers and early primary students, and has the added bonus of improving ICT skills.
Currently the software offers Arabic, Mandarin, French, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese and Spanish, with Hindi and Greek to be offered in 2018. Preschools can apply for support payments to run the program, and parents can download the free app for their household devices.
The one that uses lexical frequency
Duolingo is a free, award-winning language learning program accessible online and in app. Duolingo draws upon the words and phrases that occur most frequently in written texts to work out which parts of any language are most important to learn. This creates a win-win for teachers and learners: learning the most commonly used words and phrases, in a format that exposes learners to the same words frequently, means that students will become familiar with their new language more quickly and efficiently.
Couple that with ‘gamification’ (rewards and reminders to practise daily), and it’s clear to see why Duolingo has over 150 million daily users.
The one for conversing with native speakers
With 120 languages and a community of 1 million native speakers and tutors, Tandem takes learning beyond the classroom and into the real world. Teaching yourself a new language can make it difficult to see your progress, but testing your new skills against native speakers is a fantastic way to see how far you've come.
Tandem allows you to connect with native speakers through text messages, audio recordings, audio calls and Skype-like sessions – short or long – in a very social way. A moderator vets each user when they set up their profile, and users can ‘review’ those they’ve connected with so other users can find a suitable language partner. Users are matched on interests rather than purely on language skills, so conversations are natural and fun.
Whatever level your students are at, the latest and most popular language apps and software have the same thing at their heart – a belief that learning a language should be inexpensive and easy to achieve. Through mobile, game consoles and computers, the world of language learning is opening up in a way that it never has before.