Language skills have never been more valuable than they are today, in the classroom, the workplace, and the world at large. The cultural incentive has always been strong for students who choose to learn a new language, but now the financial incentive is catching up. As technology continues to bring our world closer together, the demand for people who speak multiple languages will only rise in the job market. It’s no surprise, then, that more students than ever are seeking multilingual skills as a key component of their education. The broad appeal of language skills means that these students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and they’ll be seeking to truly learn a second language, not just check off a box on their degree requirements sheet. This creates a unique challenge, but there are some great tools available to help students of all skill levels meet the challenge of learning a new language.
Language Learning Apps, Sites and Software
The list of apps, sites and software available to language learners is long and varied. There’s no one-size-fits-all choice, but there are plenty of great options that will appeal to a variety of learner types. You can find everything from study aids to full-fledged learning programs. New options are constantly emerging, so it’s wise to check often for new and different tools.
- Apps – Duolingo is currently one of the most popular among free language-learning apps, teaching with a mix of games and translation. For students seeking a study aid rather than a full program, language-to-language dictionaries and similar tools are widely available, and often free.
- Software – While even for-profit apps tend to come with a reasonable price tag, dedicated language learning software generally requires a more significant investment. If you choose this route, look for programs that offer free trials, functionality on multiple devices, extensive support, and differentiated instruction.
- Websites – Language learning communities like LingQ offer a mix of educational software and live help from native language speakers. The community aspect offers a certain comfort level, allowing students to find help quickly even when a professor, tutor, or skilled friend is not available.
Other Language Learning Tools
Unlike the dedicated language learning tools listed above, the following tools weren’t designed solely with language education in mind. That doesn’t make them any less valuable, though.
- Podcasts and video content are both valuable learning tools, allowing educators to leave lessons or offer help on a topic that learners can then access at any time. Multimedia options are a great way to serve multiple learner types.
- Anyone who has learned a new language will tell you that learning to read, write, speak, and listen in that language are all unique challenges. Text-to-speech programs are great for bridging some of those gaps, allowing learners to listen to content as they read along, or take their lesson with them and learn by listening on the go.
- Text to speech won’t do the translating work for students, but it will allow them to listen to the language as spoken by a native speaker. That’s a huge help when a student is trying to become fluent in a new language.
- Classic study tools like flashcards still hold some value, too, especially for students who grew up using them. Most apps and software, however, offer those same tools in a more efficient, convenient package.
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