Learning a New Language Online Versus Learning In-Person

Once upon a time (actually, not all that long ago), if you wanted to learn a language, your only option was to take in-person classes. However, thanks to technology, you now have choices. In part due to COVID-19, more people than ever are embracing online education. These days, it’s possible to learn another language without ever leaving home.

If you’re new to online learning, you might be unsure if online language classes are as effective as in-person instruction. You’re worried about spending your valuable time and money on a method that might not work for you. Before you make your decision, you should see how the two learning methods stack up against one another. Understanding the pros and cons will allow you to see which is the right path for your language learning journey.

When it comes to learning a language, your studies must stay consistent. For that to happen, you must determine the correct learning method for you and progress while utilizing it. Whether that’s learning in a traditional classroom setting or studying a second language while sitting on the sofa, you need to decide which method is right for you.

The Current Language Learning Landscape

Even before COVID-19 forced people to stay home, technology was changing the way people learn and access education. From photography and creative writing courses to cooking and gardening classes, stay-at-home orders helped to generate an increased interest in online learning. Language learning was no exception.

In recent years, technology has helped to revolutionize language learning. Mobile apps, interactive software, and video conferencing platforms are providing choices to people who were previously unable to access such education. Because of the internet, distance is no longer a factor in learning a language.

With game-like apps such as Duolingo and platforms like italki that connect students with native teachers for lessons via Skype, people from all types of socioeconomic backgrounds can learn another language regardless of where they are in the world. All you need is a smartphone or an internet connection.

Thanks to video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, you can take language classes from native speakers regardless of where you are in the world. Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Pros and Cons of In-Person Language Classes

Of course, not everyone has access to a smartphone or a reliable internet connection. China, India, and the United States boast the highest number of internet users. However, language learners in African countries such as Eritrea, South Sudan, and Somalia are far less likely to have adequate internet access. For those people, learning a language with in-person classes isn’t just the best option—it’s the only option.

When you decide to learn a language with traditional in-person classes, you don’t have to worry about lag, static, delays, interruptions, or issues with the picture. Furthermore, your teacher’s voice is always clear and audible. Plus, you can learn from their body language and other non-verbal clues. This particular part of learning a language is difficult to convey through a computer.

However, depending on where you live, you might not have access to in-person classes for the language you want to learn. If the language you’re interested in studying isn’t popular, there might not be enough students to hold the class or even an instructor who can teach it. Similarly, your local language academy might focus on courses for beginners with few, if any, opportunities for advanced studies.

In-person classes might be the traditional way to learn a language, but it’s not the right choice for every student. Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Pros and Cons of Learning a Language Online

With online language learning, you don’t need to rely on the interest of other students or what’s available at your local academy. When you learn a language online, there are more opportunities to personalize your education. You can tailor your online learning to your particular interests, level, and needs. In most cases, it’s a far more efficient choice for language students with learning disabilities.

For example, if you’re learning Spanish for a holiday in Mexico, you can take online classes with a native Mexican tutor to get exposure to the accent you’ll be hearing on your vacation as well as focus your efforts on the specific vocabulary and phrase you will need to use. With video conferencing, you can easily converse with different speakers from all over the world and get the human interaction necessary to achieve fluency.

More opportunities for personalized learning means students must take a more active approach to their learning, which some less-motivated individuals might see as negative. With online learning, you’re much more responsible for your education. Unlike the rigid schedule of an in-person course, depending on the online tools you utilize, you will need to make and stick to your study schedule. However, for dedicated students, flexibility is one of the great advantages of online learning.

For the majority of people, learning a language online is far more convenient than in-person classes. With more options for customization and flexibility, you can learn a language your own way from the comfort of your own home. COVID-19 may have opened your eyes to the advantages of learning a language online, but as long as you’re a motivated student, you can continue to utilize technology to access education long after the pandemic.