A few months back, a friend of mine forwarded me this request for a source:
I'm looking for sources to discuss the shift of foreign language learning from classrooms and one-on-one tutoring into the online, Internet realm. Can languages be learned as well online? Why is this format gaining ground? Are high schools getting out of language teaching?I've heard nothing since, and the journalist has posted nothing related to language learning since then, so I'm guessing that the article was killed.
In any case, I thought the questions were interesting, and, after the jump, you'll find my quick answers to the questions.
To answer your questions quickly, I'm very much of the opinion that languages can be learned online. Given the unimpressive results of U.S. language learning in school, you're not setting a high bar when asking if learning online can be as effective as learning in school. The answer to that question is a solid "Yes" followed by "and my money's on it being even more effective".
The resources available on the net enhance a language learners ability to learn immensely. Immediate access to native speaker tutors. The ability to instantly look up vocabulary, written characters, verb conjugations, grammar rules, etc. Exposure to any sort of target language content you could want via the internet. These far surpass the traditional "Crack open the text book, start on unit 1" approach that lingers in many schools.
I would say the two biggest reasons that this format is gaining ground are (i) traditional learning methods are boring and (ii) traditional learning methods are ineffective. Perhaps the efficacy of the newer learning methods remains to be proven, but that they have managed to dial down the boring is beyond doubt.
I think it's premature to say that language teaching is dead in high schools (see here), although I would hope that the traditional teaching method gives up the ghost. I think we're going to begin to see more approaches like that of Drake University, which systematically leverage the power of online tools within an academic institution.