As many will tell you, there still isn't a best language learning program out there, but more and more programs are coming close. Instead of focusing on the best language learning software, it's better to take a look at what would make for the ideal language learning software.
By considering everything that is needed to learn a language quickly and effectively, it's possible to develop a list of the characteristics needed for the ideal language learning software program. This list can help to be your "checklist" when it comes to finding the perfect language learning software. Let's take a look at them.
The ideal language learning software should be:
1. StructuredNo great achievement ever happens over night, and learning a language is no different. In order to learn a language fast, you first need to make smart, realistic goals to help yourself organize your time and plan your studies. Your language learning software should help you do this by allowing you to set measureable daily goals and track your progress. It should provide an easy-to-use structure that helps you to achieve SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals.
2. MotivationalThe more motivated you are to learn a language, the easier, more fun and faster it will be to learn that language. Your language learning software should help you to stay motivated. The best language learning software should be interactive, fun, engaging, and maybe even a little competitive to help keep you motivated. Ideally, it should include a way to connect with other learners (like a forum) to share in your language learning adventure. Connecting and communicating with others is a great way to keep us motivated and accountable for our language learning progress. It's also very important that your software tracks your progress so you can see your progress and feel good about yourself, which will help to keep you motivated, dedicated and on the right track.
3. InteractiveIt's nearly impossible to learn about science without entering a lab or learn math without solving any problems, and language learning is no different. In order to successfully learn a language, you have to roll up your sleeves and dig into all of the many aspects of a language, from reading and writing to speaking and listening. The ideal language learning software should help you to do this by providing a variety of interactive, engaging activities.
4. PersonalizedNo two language learners are alike, and the best language learning software recognizes this. Ideally, a language learning program should identify your native language and use this knowledge to help personalize your learning program. A native English speaker learning Spanish doesn't make the same mistakes and need the same lessons as a native Chinese speaker learning Spanish, and the best language learning software would identify this and personalize its approach. It should allow you to create your own personalized flash cards to learn vocabulary and grammar through repetition and ideally would also be able to identify and pinpoint your weak areas and make you repeat them until they are memorized.
5. Well-RoundedThe best language learning software should help you to learn vocabulary, grammar, and culture while listening, speaking, reading and writing. None of these elements should be neglected, and there should be a balanced amount of each in your study program. Ideally, there should be voice recognition technology to help you practice speaking and your program should include interactive listening, reading, and writing lessons. Vocabulary should be presented in context and you should be able to study it with tools that allow for its repetition such as flash cards or your own personalized online notebook.
It's amazing how many language learning programs avoid explaining grammar topics and neglect teaching culture, and I can't emphasize the importance of these two topics enough. The majority of language learners don't just want to memorize words and sentences, but want (and need) to know the grammatical rules to be able to form their own sentences. Similarly, culture and language go hand-in-hand, and understanding the culture of a people can help you to better understand and appreciate their language. Make sure that your language learning software explains grammar and teaches culture.
6. PracticalThe best language learning software should teach the most practical words and structures first. A common problem with many language learning programs is the vocabulary and grammar itself, which is often impractical for beginners. Instead of being presented with the words and structures beginners need to survive, they're often taken through a series of themes and forced to memorize dozen of impractical words and phrases. Many studies have proven that we only need
about 5% of the words present in a language to be able to interact in 95% of all situations, and the ideal language learning software would take advantage of this by helping you to reach fluency the practical way by learning the most practical and frequently used words, phrases and grammar first.
7. Easy to UseIt's tough to find time to study a language, and that's one of the many reasons why more people are increasingly turning to language learning software. It's very important, however, that this software is easy to use so that you don't need to waste much time learning how to take advantage of it. The software should provide you with help and advice, be easy to download, and provide free upgrades whenever the software is improved.
8. All-InclusiveYou won't be a beginner forever, and the ideal language learning software should include all levels according to a measureable scale, from beginner to advanced. It should also keep in mind that we all learn differently, and should cater to as many different learning styles as possible in order to accommodate every learning style. That means that lessons in all topics should include a variety of visual, audio, verbal, logical and even physical activities to help everyone to learn.
9. PortableFinally, if you've decided to ditch the traditional classroom and turn to language learning software, you're going to want something that you can use as much as possible. You should be able to access your program anywhere, not just on a single computer, and your software should be available as both an app and a computer program so it can follow you wherever you go. That way, it won't be difficult to find even just a little bit of time to improve your language skills.
If you're hoping to learn a language online in the fastest, easiest and most enjoyable way, this is your software checklist. While the perfect language learning software may not exist yet, there are one or two programs (like my favorite: Rocket Languages) that come close by offering almost all of the items on this checklist and providing a structured, motivational and engaging way to learn a language online.
Choose your language learning software wisely, and you'll be one the right track to learning a foreign language.
This is a guest post by Andrea Reisenauer!