This page consists of links I have curated to help me figure out how I or any other adult learners can teach themselves languages (specifically Spanish) by navigating their learning journey with various tools. Is it possible for a self-directed adult learner to learn a language with moderate proficiency without using a face-to-face teacher? I want to prove that it is possible for self-directed learners to pick up languages without using traditional teaching methods. I intend to use this information for my final paper to determine if face-to-face language teachers are no longer necessary.
Sid is our resident hyperpolyglot. He grew up in Brazil and after some journeying around the world, he now lives an exciting life in New York where he works ...
Shannon Everett's insight:
I watched this TED X talk to compare this language learning expert with Benny, the exper below. I wanted to see if they had the same tips, or different tips.
Both speakers advised:
1) Making mistakes - Sid says don't be afraid to make mistakes because we need to make mistakes in order to learn, especially when langauge rules are not obvious. Benny recommends getting over this fear, or learners will never take the first step i.e. getting thin in order to go to the gym is like needing to speak with no accent before having a conversation. I like how voice recognition to help with pronounciation helps learners practice by themselves at home without feeling embarrassed or nervous in a classroom setting.
2) Having fun - or else learners will quit. This makes me think making friends online from another country to stay accountable, playing entertaining games, or learning languages while doing something fun like singing pop songs is very important.
3) Having a coach - Benny suggest making friends online. Sid recommends using a friend to make corrections that may not be obvious. This makes me think some form of synchronous teacher whether formal or casual is important to reach a higher level of success, but perhaps not until the foundational language skills have been formed.
4) Practice - put in lots of hours. Many hours of practice are needed to learn languages, and it can be done by yourself.
"Some people just don't have the language learning gene." To prove that this statement is patently untrue is Benny Lewis's life mission. A monoglot till afte...
Shannon Everett's insight:
I found this link on the language hacking site, and wanted to see what he had to say. Benny talks about his struggles learning Spanish, and points out the importance of intrinsic motivation. He found a study that proved that under the right conditions, adults can be better learners than children if they have fun and aren't afraid of making mistakes. Therefore, his main advice is to live the language instead of studying the languge. He encourages us to learn the way children do. This means that we should be more playful and curious about language instead of doing tests and studying books.
I like that he uses hacks and proves that traditional studying is not necessarily better. Language learning needs to be fun, social, and interesting to keep people motivated, and this is where formal teaching is lacking. This aligns with self-directed language learning because students can learn through games, walkie talkie apps, or fun YouTube channels. Students can learn slang or pop culture instead of scholarly works if that appeals to them. If they are having fun doing different things, they can pick up the language without formal teaching.
Daily Spanish lessons with native Spanish Teacher Laura Garrido Eslava
Shannon Everett's insight:
These lessons aren't the best video quality, but the content is excellent. Laura makes new YouTube videos every day to teach learners Spanish phrases in various categories. An adult learner can see what words look like by watching how her mouth moves when she pronounces phrases, which is helpful.
This is an excellent way to get more social interaction in a synchronous course because learners can comment, and get to know the instructor through video, which feels more personal than a game with no human face for instance.
There are many YouTube channels to teach languages, so it is easy for learners to surf around, and find an instructor that they like. If they ever get bored, they can switch channels, or only do lessons that interest them. This makes online language learning more personalized and more likely to suit their difficulty level, which is important for motivation, as I learned in the motivational paper below.
Augmented reality could soon make language barriers a thing of the past. Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo is working on a Google Glass competitor that will read text written in foreign languages and automatically overlay translations."
Shannon Everett's insight:
I started reading articles about Google Glass and language learning to figure out where they are right now in development. I want to know what we can do now, and what will be possible in the foreseeable future because I see Google Glass vastly changing language learning.
This article says that Google has an app called Google Goggles to recognize images, and as offered optical character recognition in a few years. "Google recent ported the functionality to its Google Translate app.", so it is definitely foreseeable in the near future that signs and words someone walks by will be able to be translated in real time.
This has huge implications for things like travel and language learning. One thing I wonder is whether it will make people more interested in learning languages, and help them to learn it better, or if they will not bother learning languages since they can rely on the app. Will language learning go the way of the calculator? Only time will tell.
A Microsoft Research study which tracked over two thousand hours of employee computer activity found that once distracted by an email alert, computer users take an average of twenty-two minutes to return to the suspended task with the same level of focus.17 In 27 per cent of cases, it took them more than two hours to return to the task they were doing in the first place. More recent studies have revealed that tasks take a third longer when interrupted by email. Whilst a study of employees at the communications firm Porter-Novelli suggested that the combined effect of incessant phone calls and emails can lead to a temporary drop in our IQ of an extraordinary and disturbing ten points.
Shannon Everett's insight:
Eyes Wide Open is a book I just finished reading this weekend about how we make decisions. This is important for self-directed learners because they need to decide who to trust. Is an expert actually going to get better results that a friend?
At one point she talks about modern distractions. She says that "Forty per cent of people continue to check their work email after hours or while they are on holiday. Eighty-six per cent of us use our mobiles while watching TV (this figure rises to 92 per cent for the 13-to-24 age group). An informal poll of friends reveals a geneticist who checks news sites every five minutes while at work, a TV executive who catches up on his emails on the phone while he’s on the stationary bike at the gym, an art dealer who logs on to the Daily Mail website sixty times a day."
This excerpt makes me think five things: 1) Using all of these language applications is good because people are learning in smaller chunks of information now, and have shorter concentration 2) Maybe these computer apps and games make it harder to concentrate because there are so many distractions on the internet at the same time. 3) Maybe it is somewhat helpful for learners to do some face-to-face learning where there is less overstimulation, so that they can fully concentrate. 5) Maybe doing small activities like word lists or broken up lessons during short spurts of high energy or concentration during the day optimizes energy levels.
italki is a language learning social network that connects students and language teachers.
Shannon Everett's insight:
italki is similar to www.livemocha.com and www.verbling.co except the website only features one-on-one synchronous online language learning with native speakers. While reading the about section, the quote, "Replace your inconvenient language school!" stuck out for me. At this point in my research, I am still unsure if a synchronous instructor is necessary. I do like the idea of having a qualified coach, but it is also possible to find a native speaker for free who is not an instructor. I am unsure of the results between the two, so I will ponder further. I do like the idea of connecting with native speakers conveniently online, but I am curious of the motivation level between an online teacher and a face-to-face teacher.
Coffee Break Spanish is a Podcast that I used to listen to in order to learn Spanish with audio. They have 80 20-minute lessons that come with pdfs to help learn vocabulary. This is an excellent way to get extra learning hours. I use audio books or audio learning while I commute to work to maximize time, which is important for adult learners working full time. It is similar to Pimsleur http://www.pimsleur.com/ , but is free.
http://vocabla.com/ is an interesting little game that you can play on your computer or phone. You can make lists by topic about different things, for example, 'food'. You can also practice learning lists that other users have compiled. From there, you can practice matching the English word with the translation until you have 100%. Once you answer the questions correctly, you can earn badges, and progress through the game. I think this is a great idea, except that in order to hear the audio translation, you have to pay 30$/ year. This would be a good add-on to www.duolingo.com instead of a standalone game.
"Duolingo is a free service that can help you learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, and Portuguese. Recently, Duolingo released a free iPad app to complement the free Android and iPhone apps that they offer."
I have been using Duolingo for some time, and it is really an amazing project. It is free and has no advertisements because users learning a new language are also translating sentences on the Internet. I think this is a brilliant idea which ties to Google's goal to have the Internet translated into all languages to make information universally accessible http://translate.google.com/ . Obviously, a machine cannot translate the internet perfectly at this point. That is why having students learn while translating the Internet is a viable solution.
In this blog, the author explains that in order to get to a Limited Professional Proficiency Level with language where "someone is expected to be able to converse socially and handle most workplace interactions successfully to a limited extent", it should take 750+ hours. For a more difficult language like Arabic or Chinese with different characters, it could take 1800+ hours. This proves to me that language games and online language learning are important for developing languages because students need constant practice to obtain their 750+ hours. Reaching 750+ hours alone via classroom instruction is not feasible for most people. I think that the more variety of media, games, and lessons available for self-directed learners, the better.
Livemocha, an elearning Web 2.0 platform, was founded in February 2007 by Shirish Nadkarni and Krishnan Seshadrinathan, originally from India, who recognized the need for language learning around the globe. Livemocha's approach -- a combination of technologies working together on a Linux platform -- enables members to have a much more interactive experience than they would through independent learning with traditional print textbooks. Short-term plans for Livemocha include adding more languages to its overall offerings with a goal of reaching 100 by the end of the year. Long-term plans include adding ways to better serve the growing customer base, such as making Livemocha's offerings available via a variety of electronic devices, not just on a PC.
Shannon Everett's insight:
This excerpt really stood out for me:
The challenge that we saw was most of the learning methodologies do not result in good learning outcomes," says Nadkarni. "My kids have been learning Spanish for a number of years in both middle school and high school. They get good grades, but if you ask them to carry on a conversation, they can't really do that. To become proficient in a language, you need to be able to interact with native speakers. You need to be able to practice."
This makes me think that some form of synchronous conversation is needed to become conversational. This does not necessarily need to be a teacher with a formal education, but there needs to be a buddy, friend, coach, motivator, or teacher of some form. I am still debating what I think the best approach is for choosing the instructor. I am starting the think a varied use of teachers in different forms might be best.
I also like this paragraph for my paper:
"Today, you have to spend quite a bit of money to go to a bricks and mortar institution. Our goal is to make it much more accessible, inexpensive, where you can learn a variety of different languages and connect with native speakers around the world"
This shows that free services may in the future be just as good as paid services, which may demotivate people to go to expensive classes.
Unconventional language hacking tips from Benny the Irish polyglot; travelling the world to learn languages to fluency and beyond!
Shannon Everett's insight:
This is a really interesting and fun website whereby the author of the blog is challenged to learn a language in three months by moving to another country. He then gives his community of about half a million people tips on how best to learn. I really like this idea because I think the best way to teach someone else is when learning is fresh. This makes him more relatable to new learners picking up languages. He has done a TED X talk and has appeared on other blogs such as http://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/07/01/becoming-a-man-of-the-world-how-to-learn-another-language/
This blog is especially helpful for Spanish because the author is Irish and the first language he learned was Spanish from living in Spain. He became so fluent that he started teaching Spanish and English while overseas.
Users in the community can connect with each other, and write out their goals for language learning to match up with other people with similar goals. The site is fun and emphasizes on intrinsit motivation and unconventional learning 'hacks' that may not be shared in an academic setting. I like that this site is about taking pleasure in learning and promotes lifelong learning, which is central to self-directed adult learning.
Robert J. Blake (2011). Current Trends in Online Language Learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, pp 19-35. doi:10.1017/S026719051100002X.
Online language learning (OLL) can take place in Web-facilitated, hybrid, or fully virtual classes. These formats are beginning to attract serious attention from the language profession and, in particular, the field of computer-assisted language learning (CALL). This article traces recent studies of online learning and then focuses in on its application to language learning through tutorial CALL, social computing, and games for language learning. I strive to show that tutorial CALL and computer-mediated communication can complement each other in the service of modern language instruction, along with the inclusion of language games. Although assessment studies of OLL remain sparse, the evidence is steadily mounting that shows that these new formats can provide learning environments conducive to successful second language development when properly integrated into the curriculum.
Shannon Everett's insight:
I really enjoyed this paper because the author includes studies where students using gaming and interactive online language learning where the results of learning has been much higher than students without. Clearly online language learning has a good future, and is helping students to learn better.
I especially liked the authors section where she talks about iCALL, which is intelligent computer-assisted langauge learning. With iCALL, the computer tracks the students mistakes and progress, so that customized feedback and lessons can be provided. This makes online learning environments more personalized, which is very important to learners today.
My experience of practicing French in k-12 with 30 other students where I had very little opportunity to speak to the instructor and be corrected is a thing of the past. The voice recognition software to teach students to pronounce properly has been greatly improved, and speaking and grammar skills can be learned with interactive games, making learning much more personal, dynamic, and fun.
How can you use TED Talks to learn a foreign language? Can they be listened in foreign languages too? Find all the answers and much more in this article!
Shannon Everett's insight:
In this article, the author explains how one can learn languages using TED talks since it is translated into 40+ languages. He recommends watching videos first in your native language, and then playing them back in the translated language. There are captions, transcripts, and audio translation.
Another technique is to watch Spanish speakers, and then translate the talk, which helps the learner to learn more about Spanish culture as well. I like this idea because in the motivational paper that I read, the author pointed out that motivation is highly related to interest and difficulty level. This method is a good challenge for advanced speakers, and keeps learners interested because they learn about topics they like while learning language.
When I think about the need for language instructors in the future, it makes me think of Google Glass because it could radically change language learning. I would think that in the future, glass will be able to turn voice to text, and therefore, make captions or translations, which would be extremely helpful for language learning. I also think it will be possible for Google Glass to recognize objects and label them in other languages, which would be similar to using Flash cards.
I think Glass will also be able to translate voice to speech, which would replace translators. This would be excellent for self-directed language learners. I also think it would be neat to just use the interface in Spanish to learn directions or to chat with a native Spanish speaker online.
However, since it is a computer tool, it maybe prone to error, and will not have the judgement to understand underlying meaning in speech. For example, Glass would not know intricate humor or cultural contexts.
This is a fantastic article I found while doing research for my final paper. I found the fulltext on Scholarworks, but was linked to the paper from the UOIT library.
In this lengthy thesis, the author examines different reasons adults are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. I think motivation is the biggest factor for adult language learning because it requires banking many hours over time to become proficient. If I can find out how a learner can stay motivated, then it is definitely possible for one to pick up a language using online tools.
However, if a learner needs motivation from a teacher or coach, they will need some face-to-face or online coaching. I am unsure at this point of my research if face-to-face has better results than online coaching.
Three models I am going to research further that I found in the study are: Keller’s (1983) theory of motivational design of instruction, Wlodkowski’s (1998) time-continuum model of motivation, and Malone’s (1981) theory of intr insically-motivating instruction. I am hoping to find some answers here to answer questions about self-directed learning.
LiveMocha is a website I learned about in class when we were comparing different online tools. It is similar to www.verbling.com because students connect to drop in classes online. There are then tools to practice the language offered. Students can also connect with native speakers. I wanted to save this on my board to collect different teaching tools for adult learners. This link demonstrates the vast array of options self-directed learners can use to study Spanish or other popular languages. There are many options for students to select teachers in any budget level (free or paid). This helps with motivation because it is important that students have lessons in the correct level of learning. If it is too easy, they become bored, and if it is too hard, learners may become discouraged. I like self-directed learning through technology because it is so personalizable.
Verbling is a website where a learner can enroll in group classes or pay for online tutors to learn languages. Tutors set their prices. What is nice is that the learner can connect from anywhere in the world at any time. This means there is more selection for instructors, and that students can have support whenver wherever by whomever they want. I think this is an excellent way to get face-to-face instruction without having to go to a physical class, which can be difficult for adult learners. It also provides more instruction and more available time slots. This website relates to the Granny Cloud http://www.grannycloud.com/index.html in my opinion because a self-directed learner can learn better with support from a coach or teacher who cares about their success. This helps with motivation and reaching goals. After looking at this website, I started to think that perhaps it is not necessary for learners to have face-to-face teachers. I am still deciding if an instructor is necessary, or if learners can get by with voice recognition, gaming, and video instruction.
Nulu is similar to www.loogla.com, which I have scooped below. The user chooses their level, and interests. They are delivered stories every day translated and pronounced by native language speakers. Once the article has been read, the user answers questions to see if they understood the story. The idea behind this is that users need regular practice to learn languages.
Loogla is in Beta testing, but it's an interesting concept. They believe that in order to learn a language, students need to be immersed in a language all the time. Their program incorporates activities into regular webpages the user would normally be visiting to help them pick up the language faster. I like this because it ensures that students are constantly learning bit by bit to make the new language stick, and to improve. This would help me with my Spanish journey because I like that it is incorporated into the user's every day life.
This is a website for a immersive school where students can visit Spain and learn languages. I think this would be a very good incentive for a self-directed adult learner to pick up a language when coupled with online language learning. Students could practice Spanish with one of the teachers online prior to the trip while using other online tools. Once they reach a certain level, as a reward, they can visit the school and be immersed in language learning while travelling and trying sports like "sailing, surfing, or scuba diving". When they go home, the teacher can follow up with them online. I like that this strategy combines experiential learning with online learning. Students would be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated, and it would be a life changing experience. I think this would be especially motivating for a student trying to teach themself a Spanish for the fun of it.