An undeniable fact in our current day and age is that the Internet has permeated and changed almost every fabric of our very existence. Language and language learning is no exception, whether this encompasses online translators or vocabulary learning tools.
Unfortunately, this has led to many people calling the learning of languages an obsolete pursuit. Cries of ‘Everyone speaks English online anyway!’ or ‘I can just Google translate it!’ are heard far and wide in our modern language classrooms and in wider society.
And it is naturally true, the internet age has revolutionised our language and teaching methods, however, what this does not mean is a complete loss of value in immersing yourself in the beautiful journey that is language learning.
What is even more astounding to take into account is in fact a startling ‘digital language divide’. Holly Young wrote a wonderfully enlightening article on the inequality of language on the internet and how the language that you speak affects your experience of the web more starkly than you might think.
This is something we should really take into account when considering the privilege that is knowing how to speak English on the internet and not ‘having’ to necessarily learn a second language. But is practicality the only reason to better your linguistic prowess? Now that’s a whole different ballgame!
So here are some top tips to navigate this new language landscape:
Just because it's quick does not mean that it will work.
The internet may have made language learning more convenient and accessible, but it will not be easy. Put in the hard work and it will pay off (Duolingo is not the be-all and end-all!)
English is not the only language out there!
Despite the overwhelming prevalence of English on the internet, that is a bubble! Not everyone speaks English, so learning another language is no pointless endeavour. You are not wasting your time, trust me :)
Multilingualism is enriching and not just ‘useful’.
Learning a language for practical reasons is wonderful, however, learning one just for fun or fulfillment can be just as rewarding. Remember this Czech proverb: ‘Those who know many languages live as many lives as the languages that they know.’ And the internet can help you with that! The resources are all at your fingertips, don’t get too bogged down in the practicalities.
Take advantage of what is out there!
Never has there been a more perfect time to pick up a new language! With resources like Netflix or even YouTube right on our proverbial front doorsteps, the Internet is the perfect place to access authentic language media such as TV shows and YouTube channels that have only really become available in the last decade.
Machines are not the be-all and end-all.
Do not let anyone tell you that one day computers will be able to do all the heavy lifting in language learning! Languages have souls that only the conscious mind can seem to capture. Even if they catch up one day, they have not yet so keep learning!
About The Author: Julia is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and an undergraduate student of BA Modern Languages (German and Spanish) at the University of Cambridge.