Ken make an insightful point about the autonomous learner.
…Real life learners almost certainly want efficiency and convenience. They also expect a learning service to reduce the learning curve for them and provide guidance — learning how to learn is valuable.
I’m inclined to think “effectiveness” rather than “efficiency,” but that may be a distinction without a difference here. In the language learning that tools like FrenchPod facilitate, what constitutes “effectiveness?” I see these elements:
- Helping people articulate their goals.
- Helping people choose how to work toward them.
- Helping people monitor their progress.
- Helping people decide on what (if anything) to change in that mix.
What’s impressive (or even disconcerting) about FrenchPod and the other Praxis Language sites is the way they center on the learner, rather than the content. If you want to learn one of these languages, you’ve got a database of lessons (learning objects) that you can explore via level of difficulty or by subject. (ChinesePod has nearly a thousand lessons; FrenchPod, being brand-new, is nearly at 50. New lessons appear daily.)
You also have ways to manage your own learning, from subscription levels (starting at “free”) to content options to various tools — including online pronunciation guides, essential for the newcomer.
That’s radically different from most people’s picture of how to learn a language — a series of instructional escalators, a linear progression, a tidy department store of content. “Second floor: pronouns, past tense, irregular verbs.”
When I first looked at ChinesePod, more than a year ago, I was impressed with the decision to have two hosts in the podcast, one a native speaker and one a skilled non-native. I think this is an effective way to help the learner experience high-quality use of the language and also to provide a variety of input — helping the learner make increasingly fine discriminations.
This isn’t the language learning of Paris est la capitale de la France, the first line in my French 1 book. With freedom comes responsibility: the independent learner needs to learn how to be independent, how to make her own judgments, how to move ahead.
The online community (which includes other learners and the staff of the FrenchPod site) contributes there, as does Praxis’s use of technology such as RSS and tagging.
Even if you’re not planning to learn a language, a visit to FrenchPod, SpanishPod, or ChinesePod will give a vivid example of, well, “efficiency and convenience” in learning.
Language-box photo by kiwanja / Ken Banks.