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Linguists say that the best way to learn a new language is by communicating in the same physical space with a native speaker or teacher.

But now that isolation from coronavirus leaves us with little human interaction in the months ahead, teaching and learning styles have been compromised. After the shutdown of foreign language centres and schools, people have turned to online resources for learning material.

What the experts say…

Andrew Brown, founder of The Global Language Network, believes that “when it comes to learning a language, nothing compares to the in-person experience” but the coronavirus has presented a challenge.

In response, the Global Language Network now conduct more than 80 of their in-person classes on online platforms, such as Skype or Zoom. “At the time of a humbling global pandemic… what we need the most is communication and unity,” he said.

What about apps?

Apps such as Duolingo and Babbel can kill the quaran-time by offering fun activities to pick up a new language. You can work on your vocabulary, listening and comprehension skills. But given that the apps rely on you to go out into the world and interact with native speakers, is it realistically possible to achieve fluency?

“When someone is already in isolation and then finds an isolating way to learn a language, it’s a particularly dooming recipe,” said Brown. Whereas, online classes are a two-way experience which allow you to converse with another teacher or learner in real-time.

Brown is concerned about the idea of the future of language learning being left in the hands of language apps. “I have always thought that if you want to speak like a computer, learn from a computer. If you want to speak like a human, learn from a human,” he said.

Learning a language in the comfort of your own home
Language learning in the comfort of your own home

So how can we learn a language properly?

This doesn’t mean you should ditch the apps! As well as online classes and apps, you can read foreign publications, such as Germany’s Deutsche Welle or France’s Le Monde. Additionally, websites like Hello Talk and Tandem link you up with native speakers who are probably stuck in self-isolation too. Use this time to expand your linguistic horizons!

Bonne chance! Viel Glück! ¡Buena suerte! Buona fortuna! Gangi þér vel!

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