Today, more and more schools find themselves turning towards virtual and online classes to satisfy their student’s foreign language needs. Virtual staffing provides schools with the flexibility to customize curriculum and keep students curious, educated and most of all, happy. Online courses provide the ability to quickly implement a program for a fraction of the price of finding, training and hiring an in-person educator, and gives these schools the opportunity to expand and diversify their foreign language program. However, online courses and virtual education are commonly facing scrutiny, with parents and administrators asking, “What makes this different from Rosetta Stone?”
There is some logic behind this comparison. On the surface a virtual educator may seem very similar to Rosetta Stone and other boxed, CD-based foreign language programs. They both rely on technology to share information. They are both cost efficient and easy to access. They both include human-to-human interaction (Rosetta Stone to limited extent). However, after these factors, the similarities between the two tend to run dry.
Language exists specifically for human interaction, and unlike Rosetta Stone, virtual learning companies like Proximity Learning understand and remember when learning a new language, the individual on the other side of the screen will be the one thing that makes the largest difference. As stated above, Rosetta Stone does include human interaction to a certain extent. After each major lesson plan in their program, the student or learner must schedule a date to Skype a native speaker to speak and interact for 30 minutes. This method, although interesting in theory, only creates issues with the individual trying to learn. First, scheduling a meeting can be a daunting task, especially in a school where students have a strict deadline to complete their assignments. The idea that a class of 20+ students would be able to schedule and complete their meetings within a 45 minute class period is completely unrealistic and nearly impossible. In addition to this, because these students have only been speaking the language to themselves, essentially acting as their own teacher, pressuring a novice to speak in a new dialect to a complete stranger for a relatively long period of time causes unnecessary stress to the student and may cause them to dread their lessons more than they enjoy them.
Alternatively, companies like Proximity Learning bring a live teacher straight to the students. Rather than forcing the class to teach themselves the course material, the educator takes them step by step through the entire process. Not only will students learn conversational vocabulary, detailed information on pronunciation, grammar lessons and sentence formation, the teacher will also take his or her class through the culture, art, architecture and lifestyles of the countries they are studying. These detailed lectures and lessons reduce repetition and boredom, fostering a student connection with their new language and the countries that speak it. With a live teacher, students will be able to interact, practice and ask questions in real time, eliminating the need to look up information online or contact a tutor like Rosetta Stone’s methods. One of the most important factors in the comparison between virtual education and Rosetta Stone is simply the fact that class will always consist of a familiar face. Online teachers will have a similar presence within their classrooms as an in-person instructor, allowing students to build relationships, trust and bonds with their educator, which in turn will help student’s willingness to try as well as prompting them speak up when they are unsure.
When comparing pre-recorded, automated foreign language programs like Rosetta Stone to virtual educators, the most important thing to remember is the purpose of language itself. Language allows you to visit new places. Language helps you find your way if you are lost. Language allows you to make new friends, to create inside jokes, to argue, to learn and to better yourself. Language is interaction with another human being. In the end, why would you choose to learn any other way?