21 February 2010
So the other day I was chatting to an old friend I used to work with and he dropped a bombshell. He announced that travelling half way around the world to learn a language was he thought, a waste of money. He rambled on about how travelling should be for experiencing the new, for having a good time and for opening the mind. Education and travel didn’t mix he concluded. One was necessary but not fun, the other fun but not necessary. what..? WHAT..what a load of horse s*$t. I was agitated. I tried to dismiss him and change the subject to the Ireland´s forthcoming football encounter with the Brazilians but he continued…
Like a child proclaiming to the world just how much better his Christmas present is than yours he told me all about a Spanish course he had just started with Rosetta Stone ( I thought he was referring to a county music singer at first). He had paid US$1,000 to this NYSE listed company for their top of the range TOTALe package and received a huge heap of CD’s which he boasted came with interactive games, personal testing functionality, live coaches and..., he went on..., even voice recognition software. He finished off with some beautifully rehearsed arrogance “Ill be fluent in a year while you are still pointing and shouting little potato man”. So yeah as you can imagine the agitation stage was now over and we had moved into full blown rage zone. Thankfully we were talking on skype so the thought of ripping off his head and throwing my hot coffee on his then decapitated neck remained just that, a thought. (NOTE: catchthelingo does not in any way condone the use of violence or in any way take responsibility for the lose comments of certain members)
I told him for $1,000 he could have taken a flight down here ($672 return inc taxes from JFK to Buenos Aires with TAM airlines for 6 week stay), used CatchtheLingo.com to find 30 hours ($300) of personalised one on one courses with our best price guarantee, even booking a combination of three top locations for his course, developed his Spanish to proficient conversational level, experienced some amazing and be set to continue learning the language with the interesting people he would surely have met. I almost felt sorry for him but he deserved it. Pity the fool as Mr T would say..
OK so maybe Im falling a little unbalanced with my view here, so let me say this. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using the internet to help you learn a language. The internet is an incredible resource and the quality of what is offered is improving at an immense rate. There are some excellent, good value sites out there (check out word2word.com, babel.com, www.livemocha.com). In terms of quantity of material these sites are ace. In terms of how the information is delivered these sites come trumps again. On-line language tools should be used as a support for traditional classroom and on the ground immersion learning but they should not be completely relied upon.
Essentially the two main problems with relying on computer based learning are
1. Lack of 'real' incentive to learn.
2. Absence of real life practice to help you learn.
3. Online learning is too flexible. Lack of structure.
4. Online learning is too forgiving.
Its difficult to remain motivated because lets be honest about it, interacting with a computer can only be so satisfying. Also a computer class is likely to become quite tedious after a period of time as you repeatedly log on and are forced to shut down the world around you, to engage, in what will feel like a very alien language.
How much easier is it to learn when you are surrounded by that language? Of course the other thing is, you can always put a computer program on pause if the desire to check your facebook or watch a flick becomes more appealing than learning the subjunctive tense. This obviously does not enhance the learning process. Finally its important to bear in mind that just like sport where training without match practice wont ever make a good player, language without real life practice wont ever make a good speaker.
So to wrap it up our advice at catchthelingo on this is yes to use computer based resources but dont lock yourself in your bedroom just yet. Get out there and live the language of Spanish..
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