10 Best Ways to Learn a Language in the Time of COVID.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually all classes have become virtual. So, what is the best way to learn a language while interacting through a video chat medium?

  1. Make sure that you and the host have high-speed, reliable internet. There is nothing worse than being booted out of a Zoom session or having your teacher freeze in the middle of an explanation.
  2. Equally important is a comfortable, quite place for your lessons. If quiet is not possible, noise-cancelling headphones could be the answer.
  3. Select a teacher who uses interactive teaching methodologies. Does s/he have digital picture cards? Interactive websites? Does s/he use the whiteboard for explanations and allow you to use it for your questions or feedback?
  4. If you are paying for a class or session, make sure that the class size is limited. An ideal number for video sessions is 4 students or less – at your same level. Sometimes there is a delay in hearing the question and responding, so a crowded chat room may progress slowly. Keep in mind that you will pay more based on reduced class-size or private sessions, but this keeps the sessions more effective.
  5. Select an instructor that has years of experience. Many teachers are having to learn how to use the new digital teaching medium. You do not want a teacher who is new to teaching and trying to learn a new medium at the same time. Ideally, you will find a teacher who already has experience using the digital platform.
  6. Adults learn best when the material is relevant to them. How relevant is the vocabulary you are learning? Are you using a high school textbook, an inflexible app or custom-designed curriculum?
  7. PRACTICE. Does your teacher give you relevant homework assignments? Does s/he suggest ways you can practice such as watching a movie on Netflix in your target language with the subtitles of the target language turned on. We usually recommend attending cultural events in your target language, but because of social distancing practices, maybe you can find an online event on Eventbrite or Meetup. We may even invite you to join a video call to Costa Rica or Cuba!
  8. DON’T BE SHY. Communication is not a test. You do not need to aim for perfection. If you think about how an immigrant speaks English, you don’t listen to each and every error, you listen for the message. That is how you should aim to communicate in your new language. Think in simple sentences and phrases and have fun with it!
  9. Choose a few good apps. There are several good apps such as Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Babbel. While we find they are good tools, our students usually come to us because they need more. We will refer you to other sites to help practice concept you are learning and will continue to keep the lessons fun and relevant for you.
  10. Take the lesson offline. We recommend using flash cards you can hold in your hands. In fact, we have designed 5 sets of flash cards for teaching the basics in Spanish. We also use picture-based cards for learning new verbs. Sometimes we have you write things with pen and paper to get a different part of your brain working than just the using the computer screen.