Your e-Learning App Can't Really Teach You a Language

We love the Duolingo Owl, though!

Someone using a cellphone to take a language training lessons on an app

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As globalization continues to reshape the business landscape, the demand for bilingual employees is growing. The ability to speak a second language is a competitive advantage and a necessity for many companies looking to expand their operations globally. In fact, it’s been proven that bilingual employees are better at multitasking, have better interpersonal relationships, and are even better creative thinkers. 

E-learning apps like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone have become increasingly popular as a means of learning a second language. We get it. They’re convenient and rewarding (who wouldn’t want to earn gems while learning a language?). Still, while these apps can be helpful as supplementary tools, they are not a substitute for human tutoring when learning a language. 

Here are a few reasons why:

1.    Lack of personalized instruction. One of the most significant drawbacks of e-learning apps is that they provide a one-size-fits-all approach to language learning. While they may offer a variety of exercises and activities, they cannot tailor the content to each student's individual needs and learning style. This can lead to frustration and a lack of progress as learners may need help to focus on the areas where they need the most improvement. Language is personal, and it is invaluable to learn it from a teacher who dedicates their life to making students successful. 

2.    Limited opportunities for conversation practice. Language learning is about more than memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. It also involves developing the ability to communicate effectively in real-world situations. E-learning apps can provide some opportunities for conversation practice but are limited compared to the benefits of conversing with a native speaker. Human tutors can give personalized feedback on pronunciation, intonation, and fluency, as well as help learners navigate the cultural nuances of the language. Global LT teachers often role-play with their students to mimic situations in which they’d find themselves in real life. The Duolingo owl can’t do that. 

3.    Lack of cultural immersion. Language learning is closely tied to culture, and learners need to be exposed to the customs, traditions, and history of the language they are studying. E-learning apps may provide some cultural context but can’t possibly replicate the experience of being fully immersed in the language and culture. Spanish spoken in Mexico differs from Spanish spoken in Spain, for example. Cultural contextual knowledge is just as necessary as learning to conjugate a verb. Human tutors can offer insights and anecdotes from their language journey and cultural knowledge that bring the language to life, making it more engaging and memorable. Most Global LT teachers are ex-pats and show their students a unique perspective on learning a new culture. 

4.    Motivation and accountability. Learning a language requires dedication and consistency, and it can be easy to lose motivation when studying alone. E-learning apps may offer gamification and other motivational tools but cannot provide the same level of encouragement and accountability as a human tutor. A tutor can give regular feedback, set goals, reconfigure their students’ learning path based on progress, and offer guidance, helping learners stay on track and motivated to continue their language learning journey.

While e-learning apps like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone can be valuable tools for language learning, they cannot replace the benefits of working with a human tutor. For companies looking to develop their employees' language skills, investing in human tutoring is essential for achieving fluency, cultural understanding, and effective communication in a global business environment.

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