There is no shortage of incredible learning tools available to aspiring foreign language students. Books, online classes, grammar guides, software programs, mobile apps… you name it, it’s out there.
And (for the most part!), it’s great stuff. There are fantastic resources across platforms for learning the world’s most popular languages, and we’ll continue to highlight some of our favorites here on the CORE blog.
Yet as thorough and helpful as they may be, these resources are really best used as supplements to lessons or tutoring. Anyone who’s tried to “listen and repeat” a phrase in a completely unknown language can tell you that it’s not an easy task—not to mention that you’re not always the best judge of how good your own pronunciation sounds!
The early stages of learning a foreign language can be the most crucial for those exact reasons. There are obvious benefits to having a teacher physically or virtually present to guide you through mastery of the building blocks, monitor your pronunciation and intonation, and jump in with corrections before an error becomes an ingrained response. If you’re studying a character-based language, an instructor or tutor can play an especially helpful role in the development of your writing and reading skills.
Conversation practice is also a formative part of the process, and trained instructors are built-in conversation partners or leaders. Speaking with classmates and teachers results in a better understanding of the nuances of a spoken language and raises new questions to inform your learning… and that’s something you simply can’t get if you’re exclusively talking to yourself and attempting to sound out foreign words by ear.
Of course, the best type of language learner is an engaged learner; someone who is willing to work hard, dedicate time to reviewing material, and put aside shyness in order to become a better speaker. Online tools and games and grammar books and audio materials can all go a long way toward learning more, faster—when you have a firm foundation in place! Working with an experienced instructor or tutor in group or one-on-one lessons will help build a solid base for future learning, including any self-study options you may choose to pursue once you’ve grounded yourself with the basics.