I’ve seen the last few months trying to learn Italian using online resources and technology. I definitely learned some of the language, but more importantly, I learned A LOT about learning online. Here’s what I learned.
- You simply cannot expect to learn online without doing some work offline. You would think this should be a no brainer, and for you maybe it is. But for myself, I had some weird thought that I would be able to learn everything I needed to learn online without using a pen a paper for example. I thought I would be able to learn it without practicing the language away from the computer. I was wrong. Yes you can find a lot of information online and yes a lot of it is helpful in teaching you something. However, you cannot forget about other methods that help us learn such as writing, underlining text, labelling pictures and reading. You need to use the offline learning skills you have to enhance your online learning experience. For my project I found that if I was struggling to remember a term that it helped to write the term down a few times so that I actually learned the spelling and what the term meant. I know other classmates have used post-it notes to label items around their house to help them learn. These are great examples of how offline strategies can help reinforce your online learning.
- There are hundreds of resources available online. Which ones work best? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I would recommend doing some simple searches online to try and find some resources that others recommend. Search for things like “best way to learn a language online for free“, “learn a language online” or “best apps to learn foreign language”. In order to find out what works best for you or which you like most you have to simply try them out. You can read reviews from other people but they might not feel the same way about a site that you will. For example, Vanessa found that she wasn’t too impressed with Duolingo and although I see where she is coming from, I think that it can be a valuable tool. It’a a matter of trial and error for you to find some resources that work for you.
- Connect with others and create a PLN. There are so many ways to connect with others online. For myself I used Twitter, Instagram and blogging to follow and connect with others. By sharing my blog I was able to connect with people who read my blog and commented on it. Through comments on my blog I was given suggestions for additional resources to check out for my learning project. I was able to connect with others on Twitter and practice some of my language skills as well. There are some great websites that allow you to chat or talk with others who can help you learn the language you are working on. Depending on what you are learning about your PLN might look different. You might connect with others by sharing step by step videos for cooking, or following an online Twitter chat. Everyone’s PLN will be different, but it’s important that you reach out and try to connect with people.
- Step out of your comfort zone. There are so many beneficial things that can come from stepping out of your comfort zone. In my learning journey there were two things I did that really made me step out of my comfort zone. The first was reading a book in Italian. It was only a children’s book, but it was difficult to put myself out there and read it online knowing that I probably mispronounced a number of words. I practiced over and over but never felt confident enough that I was reading it perfectly. I decided to just record it and post it. It was a good opportunity for me to hear how I sounds when I speak and reflect on it. The second thing I wanted to do was have a conversation with someone online. I was hoping to have a Skype meeting with someone but I didn’t feel confident enough in my speaking skills, so I opted for the next best option and had an online chat with a couple of people through WeSpeke. This was truly a great learning experience for me as it gave me an opportunity to have an unscripted conversation with someone. I had to think about what I wanted to say and try to put the words together in a sentence. I found that I had to use a translator to help me complete my sentences but it was nice to connect with someone and practice what I had learned. Both of these situations caused me to step out of my comfort zone and I think I learned a lot from each experience. Had I not pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone I would have missed out on these great opportunities.
- Practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more. Regardless of what you are learning, you must keep at it. Learning a new skill does not happen over night. It’s important to practice and be consistent. Learning takes time. Even practicing for 15-20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Use the people in your network to connect and practice or ask for help. Watch a video while waiting for a bus, listen to a podcast in your car. Whatever you do to connect, try to do it every day. If you are involved in a MOOC, do the work that is required, check in when you are supposed to…participate. You get out what you put in, so if you are serious about learning, you’ll find the time.
In follow up to one of my first blogs showing the beginning of my learning journey here is some evidence of the progress I made. I’m happy to say that I reached 37% fluency and level 11 on Duolingo. On my placement test at the end of my learning journey I was able to place out of 4 categories so that was also great. Below are some photos of my progress and a video showing my final placement test.
Duolingo Placement Test – Post