There's a reason people say, "It's like learning a new language!" when learning something that's difficult—it takes practice, diligence and off-hours studying to become fluent in a new language. What's more, middle school students may struggle to become fluent in a new language with classroom instruction alone.
Yet, with 1.2 million native Chinese speakers and nearly half a million native Spanish speakers in the world, it's more important than ever that young students learn new languages, allowing them to be more valuable to potential employers and colleges.
Luckily, technology offers a variety of opportunities for students to dive deeper into language learning. There are now many websites and apps you can use with students, encouraging them to use them at home or as homework to become fluent in the language.
Consider how the following websites and apps can be used in your language classroom.
This website is ideal for beginners and those who are looking to master the basics of a language. With a mixture of flashcards, written phrases, and audible sentences, learners have a variety of ways to access the information depending on how they learn best.
The most valuable part of this platform is that students are able to interface with native speakers. While all connections students make through the site need to be pre-approved by both the teacher and the parent, working with other people who speak the language fluently allows them to get tangible feedback on their progress, while also getting a feel for the native inflections.
One of the drawbacks of this website is that the free version is very basic. A paid option is available, and you can test it for the first week, so there is a short window in which you can see if premium is worth purchasing. You may also get a discount as an educator.
Bonus: Download the app for young students to use on their devices at home or tablets in the classroom.
Language learning with Babbel is based on the traditional classroom format, with progression through courses and lessons. Each lesson includes some dialogue, vocabulary, grammar, and a review stage, taking less than 20 minutes to complete.
With a corresponding app, this website can help students learn both at home and on the go, especially when used in a flipped or blended classroom.
Most of the valuable content in this tool is only accessible after subscribing, which costs $13.00/month.
Duolingo is one of the most popular online language learning websites, and for good reason. Not only is it free to use, unlike many other similar websites and apps, but it's the most entertaining and informative language tool available. It uses game-based learning, complete with XP, level-ups and unlock tokens.
The lessons integrate conjugation and vocabulary, and reinforce previous courses with every progression.
Duolingo allows the user to set the amount of time they want to learn each day, and holds them accountable by recording the consecutive days of use. If a student is more advanced, they can take a test to place out of the basics, allowing those who are closer to fluency to skip unnecessary lessons.
Memrise: Free, adaptive learning technology, more than 200 languages available.
Fluencia: Great for visual learners, $14.99/month.
Mind Snacks: Language learning games for all ages.
Learning a new language is an invaluable life experience, but helping students become fluent in the language—rather than forgetting it within the first six months of completing the course—is a difficult task. With websites like Duolingo and Mind Snacks, students are not only motivated to learn more, but they're excited to speak and learn the language with their peers and even people who are already fluent in the language.
Jessica Thiefels is an education blogger and has been featured in publications such as EdTech Digest and Daily Genius. Her favorite books growing up were
My Side of the Mountain and The Giver, and she hopes to inspire a similar love of reading in students and educators. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Cantyoucook