You can go live in a country where the language is spoken, attend a formal language course, get a private language tutor or use books and written materials. Other ways to learn a foreign language are to listen to CDs or audiocassette tapes, watch TV, movies and video programs, memorize phrase books, use the Internet or employ a combination of all the above.
But not everyone can arrange to live in a foreign country. Native speakers of the language may not be available. Written or recorded commercial materials may not be available in the language you’re interested in (Cochimi, Cibemba or Kukapa, anyone?) True, many major languages like Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese broadcast TV programs via cable. Even Korean, Catalan, Arabic and Japanese have venues available in cosmopolitan areas worldwide; but the vast majority of the world’s thousands of spoken tongues are simply not at large outside of their local areas. So what’s a prospective polyglot to do?
One answer of course, is the internet. Plug “foreign language courses” into an internet search engine like Google, Yahoo or MSN and more than 70 million hits instantly come up. From Afrikaans to Punjabi, and Hebrew to Zulu, thousands of listings lay before you only a mouse click away. How exactly then, can the internet be used to tackle learning a foreign language? Start off effectively by using these six ways:
1. Do an initial evaluation
The first thing you may want to know is where you are in the scheme of learning the language. An initial language skills evaluation is in order; are you a raw beginner? False beginner? Intermediate level? Higher? Let’s take English as a second or foreign language as an example. English proficiency diagnostics tests are free online at:
• General English Test with instant results http://nll.co.uk/test/english.shtml
• Parlo http://parlo.com/ (diagnostic tests in English, Spanish, and French)
• Upper Intermediate Test
If you score above 80% in this test, you should take the next one and also show your teacher or tutor a copy of the results.
We’ll continue with additional ways to effectively use the internet for English or foreign language teaching and learning in parts 2 and 3 of this article posting.
Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in