Using the Internet to Learn a Language
If you want to pick up a new hobby that will make you both more educated and more cultured in the ways of the world, learning a language is a fantastic idea. You may think that you wouldn’t know where to start, but the truth is you can start right now, while sitting at your computer, and it won’t cost you a thing unless you want it to.
Choosing which language to learn may be the most difficult part of getting started. There are hundreds of useful and interesting languages; how do you know which one you should start learning? The truth is, any language you learn will be a boost to your skills. Some languages are useful because they are spoken by so many people (Spanish or Chinese, for example), and others may be useful to you personally because of your heritage or background. But if you learn a more obscure or even a so-called “dead” language, you will find that you have a very specialized skill that may be well sought after, especially if you can learn to translate to a high standard.
A quick Google search will prove just how easy it is to find online lessons — the more common the language, the more lessons you will find. There are some web sites that specialize in a particular language or group of languages; others are more like social networks, where you can study any language you want, and also get the benefits of networking.
The social network approach is interesting because not only do you get to learn a language, you also get to speak and write directly to people who know that language natively, and who are trying to learn your language, as well. You can exchange e-mails or have instant messaging chats, learning and practicing your skills while the other person corrects you. Essentially you become a teacher as well as a student, which can help you better understand both sides of the learning equation.
Sites that offer structured courses usually work on a tiered system, or have a free trial period during which you can try their services. On many sites, the lowest level remains free indefinitely, but the information given is limited at best. Some special sites (usually run by very charitable individuals rather than companies) do offer full language courses for free, and often these are of fantastic quality because they’re based on a labor of love rather than a desire for income. If you do choose to go the corporate route, you will likely get a very professional set of lessons (some even come with personal tutors), but depending on the speed with which you want to learn and the level of proficiency you want to achieve, the pricing structure can vary from reasonable (a few dollars a month) to outrageous (several hundred dollars a month or more).
Of course, as with any other online services where there is an option to pay, you have to be careful about what you’re getting into. Make sure you do an adequate amount of research into any service you are considering paying for, to find out what others have said about the experience, and to try to ascertain whether it is worth the money. Checking out the situation before buying anything will not only help you get the best value, it can also help you avoid scams. Make sure you learn what sort of reputation a site has before giving them anything out of your pocket.
The Internet is a treasure trove of readily available information, and these days pretty much anything you want to know is right at your fingertips. Languages are interesting and entertaining to learn, especially now that you can talk to anyone around the world instantly, and easily make new friends who speak your target language. Whatever language you choose, you’re bound to have fun learning it online, and the knowledge you gain from this rewarding pursuit will benefit you for a lifetime.