The internet is full of ways to learn a language that are not live instruction with another human being. There are videos, apps, games, podcasts, and more, a lot of it for free. So it’s easy to think that there’s more than enough to learn any language under the sun on your own. Just repeat, right?
Not really. Self study is great, and if you’re serious about learning a language, your program will involve a lot of self study. But it lacks a few key ingredients to learning that only live instruction can deliver.
1. Human interaction can’t really be simulated
You learn a language to speak to people, not to machines. So learning a language by speaking to a machine (or worse, to no one), comes up very short.
We learn better from another person. There are emotional bonds that form, pleasant rewards, a drive to impress and show that we’re learning. We grow to like the teachers we learn best from. So with a live lesson, it’s personal. When the teacher listens to you, understands your goals, expresses sympathy for your difficulties, and encourages you, your learning comes to life because you feel the human connection.
2. Human instructors give better feedback
Any algorithm can give you limited feedback: yes, no, good, bad, 47. But with a human instructor, the feedback is much more sophisticated, and it’s delivered in a way that’s tailored to motivate you. A human teacher can be kind, or gently teasing, or funny, or serious in giving feedback. Not only can you ask any question when it comes up, but you will get a specific, personalized answer from a teacher that will stick.
3. Human instructors individualize their lessons
Every student has an individual learning style. This includes an individualized way of making certain errors that can become frustrating and lead to blocks over time. A teacher will detect and address these blocks on the spot and over time. He or she will give you a solution tailored to your learning style, your personality, and your specific needs. Not only will this work better for you, but it will also save you precious time.
4. Human instructors teach you authentic language
Think about real language compared to textbook language. The words and grammar may be the same, but real language involves a lot more. There’s intonation, missing words, filler words, varying speed and different levels of familiarity or idiomatic speech. Static dialogues can mimic all of this to a certain degree, but only interaction with a real person can deliver it all authentically.
5. You can only converse with a person
There will almost certainly come a day when AI is sophisticated enough to have a conversation with you. But let’s face it, we’re far from there now. AI is great for rough-and-ready language solutions like looking up a quick (and usually clunky) translation. But you can’t converse with an app or a language training program or a prerecorded video. You can’t speak off-script, and get an off-script answer that conveys humor or warmth or cultural nuances. Only a human instructor can share that experience with you.