I am young and I have the world at my feet. I want to get away from it all and travel to Latin America. But my trip is not just for fun. I want to learn Spanish and immerse myself in a new culture. I decide to use e-learning as a tool to support my language learning, but I cannot help but wonder: Can you learn a language through e-learning?
Join me on my journey and we’ll find out!
¡Hola México! How e-learning helps me to learn Spanish
Learn when and where you want with e-learning.
First stop: Mexico City.
I feel excited as I board on my flight to Mexico, knowing that my trusty e-learning is by my side. Now I can learn Spanish whenever and wherever I want. ¡Vamos!
Ten hours later, I step off the plane onto a different continent, one that’s completely new to me. The air and the people are different. Everything seems chaotic. Exhausted from the journey, I take a taxi. Too timid to speak Spanish, I gave the taxi driver a note with the address of my hotel.
The next morning, jet lag woke me up early. In the comfort of my bed, I repeat the Spanish I learnt yesterday on the plane. After a breakfast of tortillas, I venture out into the city. I pluck up courage and ask a local for directions in Spanish (“Dónde está el Zócalo?”). Later, I order my coffee in Spanish (“Un café sin azúcar, por favor”). Proudly sipping my unsweetened coffee in the second-largest square in the world, I take a moment to relax and do a quick e-learning lesson.
A good e-learning is fun.
Second stop: Yucatan.
Yucatan, the land of beaches, cenotes, and diving – I had read all about it on my e-learning (in Spanish, of course!). Thanks to the app, I had the confidence to ask for diving lessons at the local school – “Quiero clases de buceo” (I want diving lessons). A handsome instructor introduced me to the fascinating underwater world of the cenotes.
As I ventured around Yucatan, I did not want to let my Spanish slip away. So, I took some time to complete the first few modules of my e-learning. The experience was so engaging that it felt like I was playing a game. The app allowed me to travel and explore different Spanish-speaking countries, and as I completed each exercise, I earned a stamp in my virtual passport, which added to the fun of the learning process.
E-learning opens up a world of possibilities for language learners.
Third stop: Bogotá.
Fun fact: Colombia’s capital lies at an altitude of 2,500 meters. It is often cold and rainy. Luckily, my e-learning offers me endless practice options, from interactive flashcards to memorise words to engaging texts and useful audio fragments at my level.
The limits of e-learning: Why it’s not enough to be fluent in Spanish
A language is alive.
The bustling metropolis of Bogotá is home to 12 million people. Today, I am visiting a local market and I suddenly realize that I am experiencing the language with all my senses. I feel it, see it, hear it, and even smell it – an explosion of colour from exotic fruits, the strange crowd, and the aroma of unfamiliar spices and lukewarm coffee. This is where culture lives, and language thrives. I am in the heart of Latin America, and this feeling is crucial to learning the language. I am forced to open my eyes, adapt and use the language. An e-learning platform cannot replicate this experience.
Language is a social phenomenon that binds people together.
Fourth stop: Medellín.
Medellín is a beautiful city built in a valley where the metro and the cable car, known locally as ‘El Metrocable’, connect the centre with the poorer parts of the city.
I am increasingly aware of how speaking a language brings people together. It helps me to better understand their perspectives, feelings, and thoughts. Colombians are a curious and emotionally expressive people, always ready to share their stories and surprise you. However, in order to have a seamless conversation with them, I need to be able to respond quickly and effectively. Unfortunately, e-learnings do not allow me to improve my speaking skills, which is a crucial aspect of language learning.
Experiencing a culture is a powerful motivator for language learning.
Fifth stop: El Eje Cafetero.
This stunning region, high and warm with a humid climate, is perfect for coffee production. Here, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I meet people with different customs. I immerse myself in their norms and values by using their language. The experience of direct contact stimulates my curiosity and motivation in a way that e-learning cannot fully replicate.
A teacher helps me improve my Spanish.
Sixth stop: Back to Medellín.
The lively and hospitable city left a deep impression on me. So I decide to stay a little longer. I notice that my speaking skills are not improving as much as I had hoped. An e-learning program cannot detect and correct my speaking mistakes in real-life situations. It cannot hear me speak, so it cannot correct me. Nor would the locals do so as a courtesy.
Determined to improve, I found an attractive and knowledgeable language teacher. He quickly identified my mistakes and guided me through exercises. He challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and practice the correct conjugations until they became second nature. Thanks to his guidance, I finally made the breakthrough I had been looking for in my speaking skills.
The never-ending journey of language learning.
Last stop: Belgium.
Five years have passed since I met my teacher in Medellin, and we are now happily married. Although I speak Spanish every day, I have come to realise that my knowledge of Spanish will never surpass that of my mother tongue, Dutch. The complexity of a language is immense! You have to take into account the huge vocabulary, the complicated grammar rules, the countless dialects, and the nuances of local expressions. It’s impossible to cover the entire spectrum of a language from A1 to C2 through e-learning alone.
So … Can you learn a language through e-learning?
While well-designed e-learning can be a great tool for language learning, it is not enough on its own. E-learning allows you to learn vocabulary, grammar, and expressions in an interactive and enjoyable way, but it lacks the immediacy and authenticity of real-life situations. If you really want to master a language, you need to immerse yourself in the culture. Travel or work abroad, listen to podcasts, watch TV shows, and practice speaking with native speakers.
However, teachers still play a crucial role in language learning. They can provide feedback, challenge and guidance. A combination of e-learning, cultural immersion, and teacher support (known as blended learning) is the best way to become fluent.
Are you interested in implementing blended learning in your company? Want to create a great online language course? Then contact The Learning Hub for a coffee and a chat!