Thanks to the proliferation of such apps and online software, language learning is as accessible as ever. With just a few clicks, you can be on your way to picking up new vocab and grammar knowledge galore, often at little or no cost.
But even the co-founder of one of the biggest apps of the bunch, Babbel, admits that if you really want to achieve fluency, there’s one crucial ingredient that you can’t leave out: good old-fashioned human interaction.
Babbel’s Markus Witte stressed the importance of person-to-person language practice in a recent interview while promoting his company’s new language-learning holidays. If the creator of a human interaction-devoid app isn’t enough to convince you of the necessity of a good chat, there’s no shortage of evidence backing up his claims.
Luckily, if you're one of the millions of people currently stuck at home, there are plenty of options for human interaction available to you.
Online private or group classes, offered through platforms like Google Meet, are widely available and allow students to communicate with native speakers from wherever they are and easily work towards fluency. If budget is a concern, find yourself a language partner and get chatting; Facebook groups like Mundo Lingo can put you in touch with individuals who want to exchange practice in one specific language for another, or sign up for E-QIP's conversation practice events on Eventbrite.
Or, if you're anxious about chatting with a native speaker, call up a friend who's learning the same language and aim to achieve fluency together. Conversing with a native can be intimidating, and, when attempted too early on in the learning process, can be discouraging to the point that it kills your enthusiasm.
Social interaction is integral to the seamless language acquisition children are capable of; even babies pick up language better with peers. It makes sense, then, that adult learners would also benefit from communicating with others.
The language that exists on the page (or screen) is often very different from the one that lives on the streets, and it’s not uncommon for learners to easily master the fundamentals but fall apart during the simplest of real life conversations.
Regular human interaction bridges that gap between the rote learning of words, phrases and rules and the muscle memory that forms from regular practice, and many of the most effective language schools (including yours truly) centre their approach on a model of learning through speaking. That means students who can fend for themselves in a foreign city, communicate effectively with coworkers and get their point across in a job interview--all of the skills that the majority of language learners set out to achieve in the first place. On that foundation, the trickier stuff--expressive writing, for example--can be laid.
However you decide to get your speaking practice in, remember that learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint--but don’t be surprised if after a little human interaction, you find yourself moving faster than you ever thought possible!