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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

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Global Internet Friends: How To Practice Foreign Languages Online
By:Kate Thora

Technology has granted many of us more access to educational channels. Areas such as programming, graphic design, and foreign language are flourishing with the help of supplemental programs on the web. The latter is doing particularly well, as the web offers components that are rarely available in language-learning classrooms: native speaker conversational exchanges, translation tools, and cultural immersion opportunities in the form of media.

Spark a conversation

Most of the time, students are required to practice conversation with their native English-speaking peers. While this is a remarkably helpful way to learn a language, it is limited by the students’ skills. For students who aren’t doing well in class, it may mean that errors are perpetuated and spread to others in conversation. Websites like DuoLingo and Polyglot Club offer language learners the opportunity to chat with people who are fluent in the language in question (and who are often trying to learn the student’s native language). So it’s a win-win situation. Plus, it can familiarize students with cultural shifts in language, idioms, and the like.

Netflix and chill

Online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime offer a wide selection of foreign films (with optional subtitles!). Though these services offer little in the way of social integration, browser extension developers like Showgoers have found a way to make the experience more social. With such extensions, viewers have the option to sync their progress and to chat to friends about what they are watching.

Put a tune to it

One of the best ways to learn a language is through music. Learning a song can also do wonders for pronunciation. Luckily music of all kinds is more available to us these days through iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp. However, language learners may have more success with YouTube, as many videos also come with lyrics displayed. Of course, you can also look up the lyrics separately, but let’s not forget YouTube has a social component too. Students can read through comments and even post some in the language they are trying to learn!

Build vocabulary

Though translation tools may be discouraged when it comes to homework, they can still be highly valuable to students and teachers alike. Textbooks often come equipped with some degree of basic vocabulary, but not nearly enough to strive for fluency in a language. So web translators can be invaluable resources for quickly looking up a word and integrating it into the lesson.

Learn from behind-the-scenes of social media

Odds are that many students have, at some point, changed their user displays on channels like Facebook to communicate with them in ‘Pirate speak,’ ‘yarrs’ and ‘mateys’ aplenty. But this tool can be used for practice, too. Students can change their settings to the language they are trying to learn. The context and placement of words will help them determine what they mean.

As with all things social however, it must be stated that while many of the interpersonal exchanges of the web are innocuous, web safety must also be at the forefront of children’s and parents’ minds. As you engage yourself in using these helpful resources, be sure to incorporate skills such as personal safety, web savvy, and how to handle internet trolls. Learn how to spot suspicious characters, harmful spam emails and websites, and how to report inappropriate material to website moderators. Doing so will help to have a positive and effective experience with web-based education.

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