While social distancing and COVID-19 health and safety measures are undoubtedly helping to curb the spread of the virus, it also means there are far fewer opportunities to speak with friends, family, co-workers and regularly interact with fellow human beings. Without that friendly handshake between colleagues, or a coffee break with friends, it’s understandable that many may be left feeling lonely, isolated, and even just bored out of their minds. As we start a second year of this global health crisis, it’s easier to reflect on the importance of human connection with clarity like never before. Language learning may well be one of the best uses of this time. From public health announcements, international vaccine research collaboration, to remote medical interpreting, this last year has highlighted the necessity for greater multilingual communication more than ever before. Not to mention, in perhaps a macabre twist of irony, the pandemic has shown us how interconnected we all truly are in today’s world.
Why Language Learning?
Why now? Particularly during the pandemic (when social distancing and increased levels of remote working are leaving many people at home), it has never been a better time to learn a new language or improve your existing skills. Millions of people around the globe potentially have more time to undertake language learning during this pandemic. Yet at the same time, access to in-person language training options are extremely limited. Beyond that, traveling for the sake of immersive language experiences is also on hold, for now. So, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best language learning options available (free and paid), so that you too may reap the rewards of multilingualism.
Finding things to keep yourself busy during times of unprecedented social isolation may seem challenging. Let’s face it, cat videos may be adorable but there are only so many one can watch. We’ve already touted some of the incredible benefits that learning a second (or even third!) language can have on your career prospects, brain function, and even your health! Check out our blog ‘Language Learning: The Benefits of Multilingualism at Home and at Work’: both bilingualism and multilingualism have been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive ability, as well as protecting against age-related decline.
Improving Language Skills from Home
It may be true that many work meetings and family game nights have made the move to online platforms like Skype and Zoom, but this means that the average person might be speaking less often than they would if their life weren’t as virtual. To use your voice throughout the day, language learning from videos, private tutors, games, and apps, might be the perfect solution Not only will this help you learn an invaluable new skill, but utilizing language skills often will help you when the day comes for us to reconnect in person with those around us.
An innovative tool for connecting language learners with tutors, Italki is an online language learning platform that brings an immersive learning environment to you. Using a service like Italki offers a one-to-one experience with native speakers from the comfort of your own sofa. This approach allows you to practice your pronunciation in private and learn in real time with real tutors from all over the world.
Duolingo boasts a simple premise but it is surprisingly addictive. This mobile app is a great place to start for those who want to dip their toes into language learning, or for those who don’t know where to begin. By turning language learning into a game, this option can be particularly helpful for younger or more unsure learners. The user is guided through levels from simple word matches to full grammatical rules, graduating into conversational language tasks. As your language skills improve through repeated words and gradually building more complex phrases, you will be amazed at how quickly you can expand your language awareness.
Coursera is the place to find recognized course programs from high-quality educational institutions around the world. This platform is aimed at those who are ready to take more serious steps toward multilingual proficiency. This platform can help dedicated learners learn to speak in Russian, write in Chinese, or teach English as a second language. With all courses being provided online, this option provides a productive way to invest in your language skills.
DIY: Friends, Neighbors & Pen Pals!
If you have multilingual friends, now may be your chance to ask them about their mother tongue, or even play a card game or two through a new language. Get creative! If you’re homeschooling your children or just trying to connect more with your local community, another great (and free!) way to improve language skills could be to recruit the help of neighbors. Why not trade skills, lessons, or even baked goods for outdoor, socially-distanced language learning opportunities? Better yet, find a native speaking family of a different language and set up pen pals for your children so they can practice their language skills while learning about new cultures and perspectives. For more ideas, check out mylanguageexchange.com or international pen friends for student letter exchange opportunities.
PGLS Language Learning
While there are seemingly unlimited language learning options to be found,, it’s never too late to broaden your horizons, whether through free courses or advanced, professional programs. Language opens the door to human connection, and if there are any lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, one of them is that communication is invaluable. PGLS provides unique language learning courses for businesses, groups, and individuals, as well as specialized language testing services for organizations and government agencies alike, giving you ultimate peace of mind in your hiring practices. Our signature PGLS approach can help you to gain confidence spreading your multilingual wings and taking advantage of the benefits for yourself and/or your team.