Still Think Apps Will Replace Language Teachers? Think Again.
By Maria Inês Teixeira
Put your hand up if you’ve ever studied languages with an app.
Have you reached a decent level that has made you proud? Great!
Now, please put your hand up if you would feel really nervous and uncomfortable if somebody just turned to you right now and said:
“Walk through that door and survive the most important job interview of your life in German.”
“Talk to your partner’s parents in Spanish and make a good first impression that they can never forget.”
“It’s an emergency, you must explain everything to the doctor…in French!”
Apps are fantastic tools with a beautiful mission – bringing education closer to us all. But after studying with them for so long, shouldn’t you be seeing better results? Be honest with yourself. Even if you have learned new words, managed to grasp one thing or two about grammar, and even managed to greet somebody in your target language, can you really be content?
Sometimes your only solution is going back to basics. Here’s how investing in a language teacher will actually give you that boost and take you to where you want to be – which, let’s face it, is not clumsily ordering a cup of coffee!
Teachers actually react to what you say and do
Unless your idea of an exciting encounter is an evening with Siri, you’ve got yourself a problem with apps to try to learn a language. See, there is so much to language learning that has to do with reaction, body language, tone and emotion – non-verbal communication! And teachers go way beyond that, too. They laugh with you. Cry with you. They change topics, ask you to “say that again”, tell jokes and let you interrupt them. And most of all, us teachers see that pretty face of yours blushing as you go blank and smile nervously – which, let’s face it, is pretty adorable!
Teachers hit the target right away
Teachers are trained to be able to assess your level accurately, understand your weakest points and determine your strengths in a matter of seconds into a conversation. They won’t force you to repeat or insist on vocabulary you already know and find boring, which is the case with most apps. Content is curated for you only, and even group classes adapt to the students who attend. Imagine the time you could be saving to actually focus on what you don’t know! Which takes us to…
Teachers keep it useful
You know what a teacher won’t do? Teach you the word “electro-octopus”. That is because nobody says “electro-octopus” or any other ludicrous words you are unlikely to ever use in real life! A competent teacher makes your goals a priority. They will walk into that classroom or start your online class knowing just where to strike.
Apps do offer content organised by interest and topic, but do not teach you – and only you, as the unique being that you are with particular dreams and needs – to master exactly what you want to master.
Teacher feedback is music to your ears!
Let’s play a game. Look at the following two compliments and guess which came from an app and which came from a teacher. Number one is “30-day strike! Good job! Keep it up!”.
Number two is “That was fantastic, Jamie. I love the way you’ve improved your pronunciation these past two weeks and how you still manage to be expressive and enthusiastic, even though this topic was new to you”. And now, ask yourself – which would you prefer to get? Right.
That is because your brain can only take compliments that are worded the exact same way for everybody else a given number of times before it starts becoming numb to them. That won’t happen with teachers, who will actually give you personalised feedback.
Teachers tell you hard truths
Way too often, apps treat language learners like children. Points, strikes, awards, animated characters. That is not negative at all and we all need some fun to spice up our education! But teachers also demand more of you when they know you can do more. A teacher who puts your learning first provides customised negative feedback.
A teacher tells you exactly what you need to improve, by when and how you can do it. You will naturally take this criticism more seriously because it comes from a certified professional and you do not want to let yourself or your dedicated teacher down.
Teachers keep you accountable
Yes, apps do send you occasional notifications reminding you to study. Quick guess – you usually delete those immediately and feel no remorse whatsoever. On the other hand, teachers expect your attendance (in-person or online) and your commitment. You are more likely to try to perform better in front of a teacher who counts on you than tapping buttons. When was the last time you’ve wanted to please an app?
Teachers actually explain
Apps can explain grammar rules and why an answer is right or wrong. The difference? A teacher will explain that twice. Three times. Fifty. And if you still don’t get it, they will reword it, give different examples, provide relevant references for your context and make sure you understood it before moving on. If that is not putting your needs first…!
Teachers make you speak from Day One
Some apps are fantastic for helping you improve your pronunciation and overall idea of what a language is supposed to sound like. That’s great! But teachers will actually make you speak. The embarrassment, shyness and awkwardness that come with getting yourself out there can only be overcome with actual speaking.
This brings us back to non-verbal communication and how tone, body language, reaction and emotion can influence the effectiveness and direction of your conversations. Knowing how to deal with all of this can only come from regular speaking practise!
Apps have certainly earned a place in our hearts, as they allow us to learn something incredible every day and practise freely. But mistaking apps for the only tools that will save your language learning could be fatal for your fluency. Stay focused on the one thing that truly matters – your success!
Welcome teachers and Lingoda into your language learning strategy. And when you do, don’t tell us we didn’t warn you about that huge smile on your face when you’re able to nail it a couple of weeks later! Check out our free 7 day trial and you can find out for yourself.