How The Internet Can Hinder Learning a New Language


Daniel Harris

From merely exchanging information from one computer to another, the internet has evolved into a tool by which almost every task can be undertaken at the touch of a button. That’s all well and good for a culture such as ours where the easy route is the only route, but what if you actually want to learn through using the internet?

At the present time, I myself am looking to learn a new Language. I would like to say it’s for a specific reason, but seeing as I like to be honest it’s simply to test myself and see how quickly I can pick up an entire pool of new information and put it into practice, a self exploring experiment if you will.

Naturally growing up in the digital age, you can imagine my first port of call was to turn on my computer and hunt through the cyberspace forest to find tools to help me learn (no one picks up a book these days)

But what information did the internet give me? A list of Translation Agencies and self proclaimed magnificent Translation Services. That’s fine if I’m doing French or Spanish homework at school but I would like to think my mind is slightly more advanced and ready to learn for my actual self rather than a Translation Agency telling me the answers. It doesn’t feel like a special achievement to say I learnt how to say ‘Hi, How are you?’ in French when all I’ve done is write the phrase into an English to French Translator, even if it was for free, even though we all love our freebies.

That being said, it began to make me think whether this was where learning a new language was emigrating to, and if it is, is that really the right way to do it?

There’s a major lazy part of me that wants to say yes, but my brain prevails and I have to say no. Learning a new language is a complex activity and one that requires a lot of time and the want to learn. I feel too many people these days can simply listen to a tape or go on the internet to learn how to speak another language. For me however, I want to learn by immersing myself in that language, learn about the culture in which it was conceived and maybe even grow as an individual.

The internet can help you; do your shopping, banking, paying your bills, in some cases can even help find you a life partner, but can it help you truly learn something as complex and time consuming as learning a language? Can it convey an entire culture and history to you in the form of a page on a screen?

Unless I can travel through the internet (who knows maybe long after I am gone this may be possible) I don’t think so.

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Posted on June 18, 2012, in About Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. What about learning vocabulary and grammar through internet? Listening to your target language media? Speaking with a Spaniard without catching a plane?
    I´m sorry but I have to disagree ^^

  2. I use the internet to learn languages–but not exclusively.

    1) I find podcasts in Farsi to listen to. (Internet)
    2) Then I write down new vocabulary words, which I look up in a (paper) dictionary. (No Internet)
    3) If I can’t find the word, I try Google translate or even a Google image search. Sometimes I’ve asked an on-line Farsi community. (Internet)
    4) Then I write it on my notecard (paper), and learn the word. (No Internet)
    5) Repeat

    I remember when I started learning Russian in the late ’80s, I had access to Russian when I went to a specialty bookstore to buy a week-old Russian newspaper for $4-5. The Internet has been a boon!

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