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learning languages online. really?

December 6, 2011

I’ve recently started thinking about the topic for my masters thesis. Yes, that time has come… Lucky me. And i couldn’t get one particular thing out of my mind-learning languages online. With all the online courses on offer today, I have written a few of them in the past, and with all the resources we can find online today-when will teachers become obsolete? And why? To put it in Carrie Bradshaw words-I couldn’t help but wonder-am I studying and preparing for a profession that is about to go extinct?


As most of you know, I have tried something similar to online learning with the italiano 1o1 section of this blog, but it’s barely scratching the surface. Still, would it be possible to create a website or a blog that will enable us to master a language completely, without the help of tutors and actual human contact. I have to say-I’m skeptical myself, but I can’t help investigating a bit further. For that, I’m going to need the help of my trusted associate (insert your name here) and a lot of time and effort. So I figured-why not make a real and proper thesis of it.

I appreciate all input, opinions and suggestions, as always, and I welcome you to give me as many links to as many websites or blogs involved in language learning. It will be much appreciated.

So, what does the future look for us, language professors and tutors? 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2011 22:25

    Warm greetings from the romance capital of the World!

  2. December 6, 2011 23:05

    A future where learning happens online without any human contact whatsoever? That’s highly doubtful I think – unless AI ever develops to a level where it’s capable of reproducing human speech and behavior to a point where robots have things unique about them that we actually want to be able to communicate with. Ha. The thing missing from online language courses is the spontaneity and communicative nature of interaction with humans. Of course online learning combined with offline learning can really be a powerful combo. If you haven’t, check out Their model of online coursework combined with one-on-one conversations with a teacher is quite effective. Of course, the missing part of the equation there is “real world experience”, but hey, no teacher or school anywhere can truly offer that!

  3. December 7, 2011 21:47

    Well, isn’t the point of most language learning interaction? And if so, then surely practising interaction makes sense…

    As you know, language isn’t a science… It deals in nuances and feeling, and that’s not something a computer can master. Which is why, as a translator, I’m not scared of Google Translate either.

    Great idea for a thesis, though! Will you share your findings here?

    • Maja permalink
      December 8, 2011 10:59

      Absolutely. I intend to keep you updated on the research (should I choose this topic) and maybe even need your help with it. I would appreciate feedback every once in a while. 🙂

  4. December 21, 2011 11:41

    I’d be happy to read your thesis!!!

    Learning a language without physical contact is definitely possible but I also feel that having a language partner that you converse with frequently over Skype or MSN messenger is still a form of learning with physical contact. You are still interacting with the other.

    I am learning Chinese from scratch, I move a lot so I can’t sign up for Chinese classes at my local Confucius Institutes. Cost wise, online courses are cheaper and more accessible (in my mp3 at all times). Will these courses force language teachers to lose their jobs? I don’t think so. At least those teaching the language physically and online and blogging about it won’t lose their jobs. I would urge teachers to use some online language courses to teach their students with. The content available is very modern me thinks.

    That said, I have a feeling that some online language learners will reach a certain level that will force them to seek a proper language teacher online or offline or a community speaking their adopted language. I stress the some because there are many language whores out there that love mastering the basics of 10 languages or concentrating on the writing systems only. They can read and probably write but they can’t speak it. They are highly literate non operational speakers of XXX language which I think is the result of prioritising one aspect of communication over another.

    Language tutors will always be needed, just be innovative and be able to tailor your lessons to the student because that’s the type of teacher I’d be looking out for when/if the time comes… xx Layinka

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