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Measuring the cost of learning languages Posted by on May 7, 2018 in CL-150, Language Learning, Language News

How much does it cost to learn a language? With the demand for language skills sharply increasing, there may be a more pressing question: how much is it costing us not to learn languages?

An opinion piece in the Economist casually states that language learning has become so affordable that “the cost of learning a language is mainly measured not in money but in time.” Regardless of which metric you prefer, the cost of language learning is decreasing. The cost of not doing so, on the other hand, is becoming unaffordable.

What is the cost of not learning languages?

Nearly everyone agrees that language skills are important and valuable to businesses and organizations from every industry. Even so, if language training takes too long and costs too much, most people will try to find a way to do without.

There’s a reason the demand for multilingual employees in the U.S. more than doubled from 2012 to 2017, with job openings coming from banks, insurance agencies, hospitals, engineering firms, and beyond.

A 2014 study by the Coalition for International Education found that almost 30% of U.S. business executives surveyed reported “missed opportunities abroad due to a lack of on-staff language skills” and 40% reported that language barriers prevented them from reaching their “international potential”.

business deal

A special report by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 64% of businesses believe language and cultural differences have constrained international expansion plans, with 49% reporting the communication misunderstandings resulted in “financial losses after a major cross-border deal has fallen through”. On the other end of the spectrum, 89% agreed that international communication improved revenues and profits.

Other studies support the idea that multilingualism is good for the economy. According to the World Economic Forum, “countries that actively nurture different languages reap a range of rewards, from more successful exports to a more innovative workforce.”

As the Economist Intelligence Unit puts it, businesses are “dangerously overlooking the need to invest in training”. But with the cost—in terms of both time and money—continues to decrease and the logistics and results continue to improve, the reasons for doing without are becoming nothing more than excuses.

But organizations cannot always expect the find the ideal candidate with the right combination of experience and language skills. As of the 2014-2015 school year, online 19.66% of K-12 students were enrolled in foreign language classes, indicated the language gap will not close anytime soon.

With innovative online training programs now available, the cost of language learning should no longer be measured in terms of money or time. The real cost of language learning is the opportunity cost of not doing it.

Traditional language training for professional purposes takes too long and costs too much.

Imagine that someone is removed from their normal job and sent to a language school somewhere for training. Add up expenses for travel, facility, teachers and administrators, student food and lodging. Add to that the estimated dollar value of the disruption to operations because that person is now unavailable to do his or her job.

That’s too expensive, particularly considering that developing language proficiency takes much longer than the typical few-week long training course that is common for many professional skills. Beyond the beginner levels, even two more months of training moves the needle only slightly.

Language training was once a you-pick-two scenario: programs that delivered results took too long or cost too much.

Online learning can reduce the cost—and improve the logistics—of learning a language.

Of course, language learning does cost money and organizations looking to train employees pay in terms of dollars and cents, not hours and minutes. Innovative online programs can radically reduce the bottom line. In the same way that GPS and mobile devices revolutionized how we navigate, technology has radically improved the way we teach and learn languages.

Online learning has changed how we learn languages, but also when and where. When lessons are delivered online, students can learn anywhere, anytime, on any device. Remember that employee we mentioned above who was sent away to language training, leaving their work in limbo? Not necessary.

virtual learning

Virtual training programs remove time and place restrictions, which significantly reduces logistical costs, including the cost of removing someone from the office for several weeks and the disruption that can cause.

Instead of reporting to a schoolhouse for 4+ weeks, learners can train in place, staying where they are and completing language training part time. The cost of training is significantly reduced (remember, no travel, lodging, or facilities required) without the disruption of removing a key person from the team.

Integrating tech and human instruction makes learning more efficient and satisfying, maximizing returns on time invested by teachers and students.

Technology is not the total solution, and cannot replace human instruction. We have found that the best answer by far is blending technology-driven learning with human instruction, using each for what it does best. 

classroom discussion

Pre-class learning opens up class time for communicative activities that apply and demonstrate that learning.

Computers excel at delivering game-like activities that adjust to each student and drive faster mastery. This lends itself to aspects of language learning like memorizing vocabulary and phrases, which can be executed much faster by a spaced repetition algorithm than a set of hand-made flashcards, for example.

Human instructors excel at planning and leading communicative and peer activities, creating a human connection with the language not easily replicated by technology.

When combined, it looks a bit like this: an instructor creates an online vocabulary lesson; students master the words and phrases through fast-paced, well-sequenced learning activities and arrive in class prepared to use their new vocabulary; the teacher facilitates a debate, a round-robin discussion, or any other compelling, communicative activity.

When done well, blended learning saves time—and increases satisfaction—for both instructors and students:

  • Instructors spend less time creating learning materials: No more combining a Word document with some audio files, pasting images, and making dozens of copies. Online lessons can be created once and reused ad infinitum.
  • Instructors spend less time grading and providing feedback: Online lessons can be tracked and graded automatically, so instructors can view results and provide feedback and assistance to those who need it most.
  • Students can learn at their own pace: Online lessons allow everyone to spend just the right amount of time learning, without being held back or rushed by their peers in class.
  • Students can track their own progress and selfcorrect: Instead of demonstrating learning at home and waiting for their homework to be graded a full day later, learners can see their results in real time and improve their weaknesses immediately.

We’ve seen the benefits of blended learning first hand. A recent cohort of professional language students enrolled in our 12-week blended course achieved the same proficiency gains as a traditional, classroom-based 6-week program. The course may have lasted twice the calendar time, but the 12-week learners only spent four hours per week training, compared to the full-time expectations of the 6-week program. They also trained in place, learning part-time between shifts from the comfort of their own homes. Whether you measure the cost of language learning in terms of time or money, that’s a substantial return on investment.

Language skills are vital in today’s world, so acquiring a language needs to cost less, take less time, and not keep valuable personnel away from their jobs. We’ve made that our mission.
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About the Author:Transparent Language

Transparent Language is a leading provider of best-practice language learning software for consumers, government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses. We want everyone to love learning language as much as we do, so we provide a large offering of free resources and social media communities to help you do just that!


Comments:

  1. Tristian Wilson:

    Het guys,can anyone help me set up this Cl-150 account for the library?

    • Transparent Language:

      @Tristian Wilson Hi Tristian! Are you active duty military or do you have a .gov or .mil email? If so, you can access the CL-150 for free through JLU. Instructions are on this page: https://www.transparent.com/government/cl-150-access.html

      If you don’t have a .mil or .gov email address, you’ll want to learn with Transparent Language Online instead (it’s the personal/civilian version of the same platform). You can search for libraries near you who offer it free: https://www.transparent.com/libraries/find-transparent-language-online.html

      • Tristian Wilson:

        @Transparent Language Hey,thanks for the quick response.Yes,I currently have both a.gov and military email.The problem is that my screen always goes white while trying to access the log-in pages.I accessed the link you provided.I then hit the portal to start an account and it just went white.I’m on a air craft carrier so it may be my internet.The links to your other social media sites does the same.Maybe,we can do some sort of chatroom.I was born in Brazil,but English was spoken in the house also because my mother was an first secretary at the embassy.Let’s figure out something.Thanks.

      • Tristian Wilson:

        @Transparent Language Hey,BTW,can you send me a hyperlink to your f.b.page and twiiter also.The regular link on the page just goes white.It wil be months before I can get better service.The other hyperlinks you sent in you first response worked perfectly.Thanks.

  2. Tristian Wilson:

    What does the statement”your comment is awaiting moderation”mean?

    • Transparent Language:

      @Tristian Wilson Hello again! We moderate all comments from first-time posters to control spam. Now that you’ve had one comment approved, though, you shouldn’t have to await moderation anymore. Were you able to connect with our Support team and log in this week?

      • Tristian Wilson:

        @Transparent Language Yes,I was.Thank You!My internet connection goes through the ships server.While we are in certain waters,we are not allowed to go through directly to social media sites.We have to piggyback to prevent other from governments from being able to hack our ships system.It’s normal for SPECWARGRU,but annoying.

      • Tristian Wilson:

        @Transparent Language Hey guys,
        I tried to participate in the Italian blog today and the Japanese blog yesterday with no success.All of the comments are awaiting moderation.Three of my shipmates comments are also awaiting moderation.
        P.S.no new posts for Brazilians?come on!!!

        • Transparent Language:

          @Tristian Wilson Ah, yes, each blog requires its own moderation/approval. Those are moderated by the blog authors themselves, so I’ll let them respond to you when they log in next. It’s a part-time gig for them, so I appreciate your patience until they get back to you. 🙂

          • Tristian Wilson:

            @Transparent Language Okay,Thanks.
            Need any more part-time bloggers?I travel the world for a living and keep hefty journals too.

          • Transparent Language:

            @Tristian Wilson We’re not looking to add to the team right now, but I’ll keep it mind. Enjoy your travels!

  3. Carl Enoch Widger:

    We know now the price of learning a new language in money and time isn’t that expensive! But now, let’s calculate the cost, of not learning a second language (a job, a family, physical and emotional health, maybe some friends – that you lost touch with.) Weighing the options,
    may not be easy! But they are certainly clear.

    God Bless You My Friends,
    Carl Enoch Widger ⏰ (time is ticking)

    • Tristian Wilson:

      @Carl Enoch Widger Wow!That’s pretty deep.I’m nikkei from Brasil.I speak portuguese,fluent english,some japanese and spanish.I have lost tiuch with so many friends and have so many regrets regarding that.I’m in the Navy,so my social media is extremely limited.Without the assistance of bloggers,I’m totally out of the loop.I have missed so much and so many.


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