Imagine if you could learn a language like this. Well, you can!
The words “language learning” conjure up for most people a traditional classroom, homework assignments, and the stress of final exams. But like playing the guitar, distance running, or collecting stamps, it can also be a hobby.
Now you might be thinking: if only it were so easy! Who’s going to teach me? Who do I practice with? Where can I hear and read the language?
The Wealth of Online Resources
Everyone knows that the Internet has revolutionized the book business, news media, social interaction, and much else. It’s less often noticed that it has revolutionized language learning. You don’t need to be enrolled as a student in a school, a university, or a language academy, nor do you have to depend on the availability of teachers in your area: many language tutors work online and are just as effective as they would be in person. We language tutors at Cambridge Coaching, though based in Boston and NYC, can help you with French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, or Latin tutoring services all around the world, and at practically any reasonable hour.
Once you find a teacher, the Internet offers more resources than you will be able to use. You might not even need to buy a book. To build on what you learn with your teacher, you can read or watch the news in your language of choice. You can enjoy film or listen to songs while reading the lyrics (getting the lyrics to a catchy song stuck in your head is a great way to learn intuitively). There are excellent online dictionaries for many languages (wordreference.com is good for starters). You can find the answer to practically any grammatical question with a simple google search. (“Spanish imperfect vs preterite” brings up numerous lucid explanations of the differences between these verb tenses, with examples and practice exercises.)
Finally, if you’re reading this post, then it’s likely that you have at least advanced knowledge of English. And if you know English, then you can find people anywhere in the non-anglophone world who will be eager to trade conversation in their language for help with English, either in writing or by Skype. A number of websites facilitate these contacts at no cost. (I’ve found that conversationexchange.com works well, but there are a number of others.)I have a friend in Brazil who started learning English online a couple of years ago. He lives in a small city with few English speakers, much less teachers available for one-on-one instruction. Twenty years ago, a desire to learn English would have been simply unrealistic for a person in his position. But he started out working with a teacher through Skype, and then immersed himself in the language online. He did everything that I mention above: he watched movies, listened to music, and created language exchanges with English speakers interested in learning Portuguese. Within a year, voilà: he was comfortable conversing in English. He continues to strengthen his knowledge with conversation partners around the world, and the language has opened up to him life-changing professional opportunities.
What about a teacher?
But despite this wealth of resources a click or two away, you still will need a teacher if you want to reach a level where you can really use the language. Believe me – I speak from experience, having both recieved and given Latin mentoring. Exchanges are a fantastic support to language learning, but they don’t provide the necessary element of structure. The people who sign up in online forums might correct your pronunciation and teach you some vocabulary, but they won’t have the expertise necessary to design a coherent program of study. And if you try to create your own program, combining different online resources, your progress – if you make any at all – will be exasperatingly inefficient.
So if you’re looking for a fun way to take advantage of your free time, and you want to read Borges en español, or get past the English-only tourist façade on your next trip to France, or get Latin mentoring to help you recapture the language you learned in high school, you can be sure that, as long as you have an internet connection, these goals are entirely reachable.
For more relevant reading, check out these other blog posts, written by our language tutors in Boston and New York: Dispelling Myths about Language Tutoring, Simple Tricks for Summer Language Practice, Lessons from a Latin Tutor. If you’re in need of one-on-one support—whether it’s Chinese, Spanish, or Latin tutoring services—always feel free to contact us at Cambridge Coaching. We offer online tutoring around the world, and in person language tutoring in Boston and NYC. We’re happy to work with you at your pace and according to your schedule and needs.