Why you should embrace online lessons

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

When it comes to online teaching and learning, practicality is the first advantage that comes to mind - for both the teacher and the student. It is flexible and there is no travelling involved. The only requirement is an internet connection and a computer or mobile device. Recently, one of my students was in Turkey whilst I was spending some time in France. Changing countries did not affect our online lessons which we continued to have as usual.

However, there is much more to online lessons. If you learn with an experienced teacher ,who is computer literate, you will achieve the same goals as you would have done with face-to-face lessons and even more. In my opinion, online lessons can exceed face-to-face lessons when they are well planned and well delivered and when the students are willing to embrace the experience. As for the occasional technical problems such as a bad connection, a great teacher will find alternative solutions to keep teaching and learning going.

Online teachers have access to a wide variety of tools and up-to-date resources from the internet. So do classroom teachers, you may say. This is true but online teachers can use these tools simultaneously with their students which adds dynamic to their teaching. Conferencing softwares include powerful tools such as a screen sharing options and whiteboards. Lessons are more interactive than traditional ones and sustain the interest of the students without difficulty.

There are more advantages...Untidy folders disappear and are replaced by well organised paperless documents that are retrieved effortlessly - which avoids any waste of our precious teaching and learning time. Lesson objectives and lesson plans are shared in advance on a platform that can be accessed 24/7. Students can navigate in the virtual classroom whenever they need to. Feedback is more accurate and efficient as suggestions can be made on assignments in a very clear way. Students can also then accept these suggestions on their own or live with their teacher. This is a precious tool that allows the student to understand their mistakes rather than taking the corrections for granted. The teacher can have an insight that they could not have had before.

Accessibility and differentiation are areas that an online experience can seriously improve. Both teachers and students can work around any difficulties. For example, students with dyslexia can choose the best font for them and change the colour of their screen if they have visual stress. Voice-over also enables them to access written texts more easily.

Online teachers can also support their students easily via emails and can build vibrant learning communities where students can communicate and collaborate. I have created two Facebook groups for my students. One is exclusively for the students I teach. I post interesting and useful resources and they are also welcome to post any relevant articles and comments. I also have an online book club opened to any French learners.

The technological developments have made it possible to exceed face-to-face lessons both qualitatively and in terms of practicality.

The Power of Learning a Language

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You may wonder how you can improve your luck and keep your brain healthy and fit for the rest of your life or at least, most of it . Learning a foreign language can help. Multilingualism offers many personal and professional advantages but it also helps keep your mind sharp.

Several scientific studies have looked at the benefits of learning a language on the brain and have all succeeded in demonstrating, through scan and neurological sciences, that there is indeed a link between multilingualism and brain health. Better still, these benefits have been observed, not only on bilingual children, but also on adult learners.

Here is a list of the beneficial effects found in several studies:

  • Improvement of working memory (short-term memory);

  • Ability to concentrate more, filter information and easily ignore distractions;

  • Ease of switching from one task to another;

  • More rational decision-making, less dependent on emotions;

  • The first signs of dementia and Alzheimer's disease are delayed.

Are you convinced? So, let's get started! It's never too late to learn a language. The benefits are numerous and it will help you keep your brain active and healthy. 

The importance of languages

On the internet, numerous articles present us with the 5, 10, 20 reasons to learn a language. They mention economic power, education and jobs abroad, trips around the world. It is an undeniable fact that speaking several languages provides some opportunities, but it is a pity that the economic performance is the most sought-after benefit of foreign languages at the expense of essential and human benefits.

If one relies on economic reasons, then only the languages spoken in the business world deserve to be learned. This line of reasoning benefits the detractors of language learning in English schools. Liam Mullone, in an article for the Spectator, wrote: "It's just that I want my children to be successful, and learning French makes no business sense." Jeremy Paxman, in an article for the Financial Times, echoes this sentiment: "The outcome of the struggle is clear: English is the language of science, technology, travel, entertainment and sport. To be a citizen of the world it is the one language that you must have”. 

However, it seems that these two gentlemen have forgotten the essence of the languages. Languages cannot be reduced to a simple means to professional success. They express our thoughts, our ideas, our identity, our culture. 

Discovering one or several foreign cultures gives us a more open view to the world. Moreover, according to an American study conducted by Samantha Fan, and Zoe Lieberman of the University of Chicago, “ to understand a speaker’s intention, one must take the speaker’s perspective. Multilingual exposure may promote effective communication by enhancing perspective taking.” Learning a language, pushes us to acquire a profound knowledge of the other. It allows us to feel that we are integrating a culture.

In addition, and this is the greatest power of learning languages, it offers a more profound self-awareness. To learn a language is to discover who we are, it is to know our values, our passions, our struggles. It is to live new emotions and become better citizensof the world. 

Of course, languages help to succeed in one’s professional life, but what is essential, as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk said, is that “the more languages you know, the more you are human.”