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Consider yourself warned: no app or online program will make you fluent in a language. Companies need to stop selling services based on false promises.
Don’t get us wrong, we truly believe that great tech can transform the economics of language learning. But the language-learning industry still seems mired in too many false promises and gimmicks. So, let’s do a little myth busting:
You can’t learn a language in 10 days. Learning a language is an ongoing process and while great technology can be part of making the process much faster, getting good enough to use a language successfully across most real-life situations isn’t necessarily a fast process. On the other hand, you can learn to say hello, please, and thank you in a couple minutes, at which point you know more of that language than most people on earth. You can just keep getting better from there if you put in the time!
Technology cannot replace human instructors. Technology will not replace teachers. However, teachers who use technology well will replace those who don’t. And it’s true that the right tech can execute some aspects of a language much faster and more efficiently than a human instructor, such as mastering thousands of words and phrases. But when it comes to really using a language authentically, nothing trumps spending some time with a good instructor or a native speaker.
“Advanced” content doesn’t mean anything. Or more to the point, it can mean anything, which doesn’t help learners determine if it’s the appropriate level for them. There are meaningful language proficiency scales used to indicate the level of instructional materials, but most products generally don’t mention them, because they don’t back up those “language in 10 days” claims.
An app alone won’t make you fluent. Yes, you may be learning a lot from them, but that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly “50% fluent” in Spanish after tapping around an app for a few months. Viewing yourself as a lifelong language learner and doing language every day learn will make you fluent. Good apps can be a useful part of that. It’s not the app, though, it’s you.
Here at Transparent Language, we know that the most successful path to language proficiency is to pair great tech with a well-trained human instructor. That’s the foundation of our DABL methodology, a virtual flipped classroom approach in which learners master relevant, level-appropriate words and phrases before energetically exercising their new knowledge in class. “Class” time develops language skills. Computer time prepares. Simple in concept, but truly transformational when executed well.
Even without a human instructor, language-learning apps and websites can still play a role in language learning. It’s a great way to build the basics—introduce the alphabet, drill vocabulary, recognize grammar patterns—with a high level of flexibility. Learners can (and should) fill in the gaps by taking a class, having conversations, reading everything they can get their hands on, listening to local news and music, and so on.