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Learning a language in 2013

September 3rd, 2013 by Jean-Paul Setlak

I remember when learning a language meant studying a grammar book and working in the language lab. To practice Mandarin, which I was learning in 1993, I would literally go into Chinese markets and video stores all over Phoenix, Arizona, looking for willing Mandarin speakers. I actually made many new friends that way: “Hi, there! Would you like to practice speaking Chinese with me?”

Things have changed a lot. There are still  huge language materials companies guaranteeing that you will learn incredibly fast with their method. Come on Pimsleur! Learn Chinese in 1o days? Maybe it says in the small print that it only works if you are born in China of Chinese parents. But wait! it takes children 3 or 4 years to become fluent. Hmmm!

What has also been born in our world is a new set of language learning communities. (Check out Italki and Live Mocha.) People all over the world are exchanging practicing in various languages for fun. “We do 15 minutes English and then 15 minutes Russian. OK!” The purpose is creating community, sharing mutual help and celebrating our global instantaneous universe.

Many scholars and language experts are giving out their “secrets” for free.  (Check out Lingq.com) What a concept! Everybody in this new world has memberships available and sells some programs and enhanced versions etc.. So those who can afford it or who want a faster more targeted pace can do so. But everyone gets to learn. All these communities have great forums. It is like having an unlimited number of people who help you, truly, out of the goodness of their heart.

There is still a place for skilled teachers like me. ( It’s great fun  to be able to have students who live all over the world.)  A really good language instructor can help you move faster and can help you overcome obstacles and blocks. He or she can also help you understand how to organize yourself to learn enjoyably and effectively. But they are part of the process, not the whole process. So check out this new language universe!

Well, have fun learning; and if you want my help give me a shout. It will be my honor to help you!

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