Technology has changed the way people learn languages nowadays. But can you successfully master a language only doing language lessons via Skype? Three UK-based journalists tried to learn new languages with online tutors. Just consider their experience!
‘Learning Russian via Skype is click easy’
Anna Parkin ‘The Guardian’
Anna Parkin is a freelance journalist based in London. She had been learning Russian via Skype for six weeks as part of the Guardian online language learning challenge. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/24/russian-language-of-love-online-challenge
After meeting her French fiance during her degree year abroad, Anna Parkin decided to learn Russian for their honeymoon in St Petersburg.
‘For my next language learning adventure, I’ll attempt to learn as much Russian as possible.
So how should I go about mastering this new Slavic vernacular? A few years ago, I bought myself a teach-yourself-Russian textbook. I lasted about two weeks. And even then I embarrassingly found myself copying the correct answers from the back of the book. As if there was a teacher who was going to come and check.
In fact, that’s just what I need: a teacher who can motivate me. I learn best via conversational methods – speaking and listening – but since a Russian boyfriend is off the cards, I’ve decided to find a tutor. The Skype option particularly appealed to me for its ease and wider range of teachers. Most offered good value rates and flexibility when it came to lesson times. Some also offered free trial lessons.’
After trawling the online ‘wanted’ ads for a tutor to teach her Russian, Anna Parkin settled on Skype specialist Olga.
‘She offers a free 30-minute trial lesson, which seems like a good way to ease myself in. Because I have a short amount of time and I’m only seeking to learn the tourist essentials, Olga and I agree to begin by learning vocabulary without concentrating on grammar or the Cyrillic alphabet.
Olga is encouraged that I already speak a second language, so begins by pointing out the similarities between French and Russian words. She also tells me to make connections with how words sound to an English ear. So after my first half hour of learning Russian, I could go to an informal cafe and demand a sandwich – no small talk.
Having reached the midpoint of my challenge to learn Russia just using Skype, it was time to tackle the Cyrillic alphabet. My lessons had been only spoken at first, but at the end of Skype class this week Olga emailed a guide to get me started.
I listened to the recordings of my Skype classes with Olga on the way to and from work. While this is a great method for absorbing vocabulary and retaining correct pronunciation. But it looks as if the swotting up has proven worthwhile and I can tell by her smile that Olga has noticed the difference, as we finally begin to engage in proper conversations, albeit very short ones about the whereabouts of the bank, bar or railway station.’
‘No group classes, no journey time, just a patient polyglot in my pocket.’
Duncan Craig ‘The Sunday Times’
Duncan Craig wrote an article on sharing economy for ‘The Sunday Times’. On the French Riviera, he attempted to live the high life for less. Before going to France, Duncan was looking for a cost-effective way to refresh his language skills. He decided to try out French language lessons via Skype.
‘Friends generously describe my French as rusty, but on this trip there’s a linguistic spring in my step, thanks to the one-to-one lessons I’ve been taking with Maria Romanoff. I found Maria after the quickest of googles. She’s an interpreter who now offers language lessons over Skype. No group classes, no journey time, just a patient polyglot in my pocket. The 30-minute taster session is free — so it wouldn’t have mattered too much if she weren’t any good. Thereafter, it’s £17 an hour. As a learning experience, it wasn’t exactly Dead Poets Society, but I found it stretching and absorbing. My French improved rapidement.’
In Duncan’s bill we can read his summary about language lessons:
‘Skype lessons with Maria Romanoff start at €19 an hour after a free 30-minute taster session (okallcorrect.co.uk).’ https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/putting-the-sharing-economy-to-the-test-on-the-french-riviera-9gx6xpwms
‘I found Russian language lessons via Skype incredibly useful’
Jack Losh ‘The Times’, ‘The Guardian’, ‘Vice News’
Jack Losh, a freelance journalist based in London, did Russian lessons via Skype with ‘OK!’ Online Language School. He told about his experience in a short video review about learning the language through Skype.
‘I work as a journalist in Ukraine, mainly in the East. I did Russian lessons before I came here to help me work and speak with local people. I found the service online. I had a dozen of lessons before I came up here and I continued with them while I was here. And I found them incredibly useful. It really boosted my understanding the language, and how to maintain conversations with local people. I now work for ‘The Times’, for ‘The Guardian’, for ‘Vice News’ and other publications. I found people to be very-very helpful, very-very professional. Nothing is too much trouble for them. They boosted my language skills in very quick time. I recommend them very highly.’
To sum up, the Internet helps to get access to a wide range of learning programmes and mobile apps. However, the vast majority of the population don’t have the self-discipline or necessary motivation to stick to a mobile programme. Even if they did, they wouldn’t finish it with the ability to speak fluently. The ability to read and write it — maybe. To learn properly, there has to be something forcing you to immerse yourself in the language. You need educational content, social interaction and most crucially — a teacher. All of those things are possible to get online now. Choose a language you would like to learn and book a free trial lesson today!