eLearning a new language... Does it work?

eLearning a new language... Does it work?

Alicja Greaves King
Alicja Greaves King

Senior Content Manager

How learning languages has changed

You would have thought that spending over a year stuck in your own house would have negated the need to learn new languages. But boy, is that the wrong take...

According to everyone's favourite green owl, Duolingo; 'Over 30 million new people started learning a language on Duolingo in the weeks following the outbreak of the pandemic' and that's just Duolingo alone.

It seems that the pandemic gave people the time they needed to stop putting off their new year's resolutions and start learning their chosen language. But due to the lack of face to face contact, the way these new languages were being taught was via eLearning!

Whether it was mobile learning with Duolingo, Babbel, Memrise, video conferencing with VerbalPlanet or Busuu, or multimedia courses with GlobalExam, or CLL - eLearning became the only way to tackle language, and even though we can venture past our front doors again, eLearning has remained active in the language scene.

Loïc Herbe, COO at GlobalExam explains, "Lockdown and partial activity caused by the Covid crisis created space and needs for learning languages online. Our highly personalised and certifying offer attracted new users who were hoping to travel or change careers after the pandemic. In B2B, the schools or training centres we work with were in great need of quality distance learning to carry on with their classes”.

Why is this?

Well perhaps once you finally learn how to conjugate verbs, you might as well keep going! But another reason is the surge of digital nomads. People (en mass) have realised that if they don't need to be in the office to work, why do they need to be in the same country? People are working from all over the world and with that international mindset, comes the need to know new languages.

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Why HR may focus on language courses

Language courses have been popular in the workplace for tens of years now. Albeit below soft skills and management, but the reason for their introduction may have been to answer a rising demand from coworkers wanting new opportunities and challenges... more motivational than practical.

And with the rise of remote working, freelancing and now, digital nomads, offering languages as a way to motivate coworkers and boost company loyalty has surely increased.

However, motivation isn't the only reason why language courses are becoming a popular selection in HR teams. Going back to freelancers and remote workers; you may hire a person who has strong skills to complete a set task but lacks the language to communicate in-depth. These people will benefit from language courses set by the HR team. Similarly, a new hire may know the company's chosen language well, but may struggle with 'business jargon'. Meaning if you want your new remote worker to give you a 'ballpark figure' you may need to teach them that phrase before expecting a quantitative result.

Alternatively, it may be the company that needs to switch languages. An example of this is our very own myskillcamp. Once an exclusively french-speaking company, due to hiring internationally and expanding into new countries, English is now the main language. This means that our resident Francophones have enrolled in English courses provided by myskillcamp.

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How to eLearn a language

Recently, we ran a poll on whether eLearning can be used exclusively to learn a new language. It was pretty close in terms of scoring. However, the majority was YES!

So with that, let's investigate the positives to eLearning a language;

  • Save your courses

Whether it's a quiz, written course, video or audio, you can always save your courses. This is invaluable when it comes to language as you need repetition in order to effectively learn a new word. In fact, studies show you need to relearn each word a total of 17 times (urgh) to properly mash it into your long-term memory.

  • Multimedia

In fact, you can't just relearn the word the same way each time. Differing methods are needed. Which is why having multimedia courses can help you get to grips with each new word and phrase faster.

  • Mobile technology

Learning on the go is a god send for those with dull commutes, spare moments or sleepless nights. Picking up your phone and opening your chosen language learning app is quick and simple, not to mention effective.

  • Videoconferencing

For the purists, we have videoconferencing. All the fun of face to face, with none of the effort of putting on trousers. Also, since the spoken element of learning a language (including pronunciation and confidence) is vital, talking - even virtually - is an important part of the process. But when you don't have access to a native in your vicinity, using video conferencing programs are a godsend.

Platforms, apps and companies use many gaming tactics to keep their learners engaged for the long-term. The scoring, achievements and sharing elements prevalent are ideal for learning languages where repetition and motivation are needed.

  • Alert and Notifications

Sometimes, you just don't feel like learning, in more extreme cases, you don't want to leave the comfort of your own home. In those times, face to face or classroom learning gets pushed to another time. However, eLearning can provide the nudge you need to dedicate the time to learning. By sending push notifications, texts or emails, people can simply engage with their courses - even if it's just for a small amount of time.

  • Learn from locals

Think about where you live, there's a good chance that the people living in the north of the country sound a lot different from those in the south. When it comes to a new language, there are plenty of subtle differences that can be easily missed when you decide to learn it. To give an example, let's take French! We have... French, Canadian French, Belgian French, Swiss French, in fact 29 countries speak French. And in France alone, there are as many as 13 regional accents. Traditional french courses are very rigid and formal, giving the learners a clear disadvantage unless they plan to live in Paris. With eLearning, there are plenty more opportunities to learn the specific dialect and accent that belongs to your chosen language. For instance, connecting to a local via videoconference.

  • Timing

For those in HR and L&D, the first pro of eLearning is that it can be slotted into busy schedules. Many traditional language courses focused on grouping coworkers together after work which can lead to high drop-off rates and tired learners. eLearning can be done in a colleague's own time, boosting engagement rates.

The second pro for HR and L&D is content curation. Unlike having to hire a tutor to come into the office, you can find the content that already exists and add it to your learning platform, or assigning existing courses to learners through training organisations.

That's a lot of pros! However, with any kind of skill, 'in the field' / 'on the job' learning is always needed. Immersing yourself in your chosen new language may be scarier than taking a course, but it's an element that must be included.

How to create a language learning program

Whether you want to find your own eLearning courses and add them to your company's training platform, or enrol your learners with a training organisation, it's very simple for those in HR or L&D to give their learners the tools they need to start learning a new language.

In fact, myskillcamp has many learning courses from our partners, including those from CLL and GlobalExam that you can check out.

To ensure you select the correct eLearning courses, not to mention the correct goals and timeframe for your learners, it's important you come up with a plan. Establish your goals and metrics, calculate the workload to give the learners, ensure you have the right tools and platforms, and enable feedback between you and the learners so you can see if the courses are working.

For more information about eLearning languages, subscribe to our podcast, 'MyPodCamp'. Our episode called 'eLearning Languages' covers how eLearning can help you learn new languages, with special guest, Loic Herbe, COO of GlobalExam.

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