10 challenges expatriates face when trying to learn a language online
For many years, expatriates have been using online tools to increase their language proficiency as a way to connect to teachers in other parts of the world. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has expanded the amount of people looking for online solutions for their language learning needs. Here, we’ve made a list of the top ten challenges expats face when looking online for language learning.
One of the main challenges that expatriates face when learning languages online is the potential for variation between the capabilities of different technologies. Many families don’t have access to the latest equipment with high-performance cameras, microphones, processing power and high-speed internet access that the latest video conferencing apps require. Some students may need to use phones and tablets instead of computers, resulting in further compatibility problems. Moreover, communication between teacher and student can suffer in the virtual classroom if either has a technological failure. Another issue that students often face is not being able to see what the teacher is trying to show them through screen share as a result of non-standardised platform interfaces.
Another issue expatriates face, particularly those who have been relocated or now work from home due to the 2020 pandemic, is the potential disruption of the home environment. Adult learners who hold full-time jobs can easily have their attention diverted to a pressing email instead of a complicated grammar lesson. Adult learners who have young children understand all too well how easy it is for their kids to barge in and take over at any moment. Young learners can also be easily distracted by things in their home environment like toys, siblings and the internet.
As a teacher myself, one of the main challenges can be finding a suitable time to meet with your student. For instance, an expatriate from Spain, living in China that needs English lessons may face problems organising class times that aren’t at 4 am. Good communication tools and a clear calendar system helps make this easier.
Speaking of calendar syncing, another major problem is the non-standardisation of class time management and booking. There are several calendar programmes out there and the functionality varies depending on your platform of choice. An expatriate booking their virtual training through video conferencing software such as Zoom or Skype can encounter many issues due to incompatible calendars. Eszett has a virtual platform that incorporates calendar capabilities, showing the student and the teacher exactly when to connect to each other. Opening the class through the integrated calendar app is simple and there is no need to trawl through your emails or calendar app.
One of the best ways to learn a language, as well as through English classes is through constant varied conversation in society. Integrating with local society helps to consolidate language learned in the classroom contextually. One problem learners are facing, particularly in the current pandemic, is the lack of opportunity to get outside and practice.
Age of student
Students of all ages face new challenges with distance learning. Many teachers are finding that young students often lack the reading and writing skills that in-person classes provide. Young children can lose concentration when looking at screens for long periods of time and teachers find it hard to verify that work is being done properly through just a screen. Eszett’s platform provides an opportunity for working collaboratively and offers teachers and parents greater oversight and control.
Older students can also face the same issues, especially with overcomplicated and varied programmes and methods of content delivery. Here, a single platform that offers everything fills the gap.
People learn in different ways. Many adults and children require a hands-on approach that can be difficult in the online lessons environment. These tactical learners often need content to be delivered physically and visually. The challenge now is for educators to find ways to effectively reach these students in a manner resembling physical learning, from wherever they are in the world.
Expatriates who take up online language classes will often be required to install different applications, depending on their teacher’s preference. The technological know-how of installing different programmes or using them correctly if they’re a child can provide limitations for students. These same applications often run into security issues with programmes such as Zoom being widely criticised for its various privacy concerns. The virtual language classroom offered by Eszett eliminates the need to make complicated decisions and removes the threat of privacy violations.
Parents of young language learners can find it particularly hard to keep an eye on the progress their student is making. Business-focused video conferencing platforms do not provide the tools to keep track of a child’s progress for parents, nor for adult learners to see their own improvement. In traditional learning environments, progressing through a textbook would often fill this need. However, education led platforms are today developing ways to monitor progress.
Every student hopes to develop a great working relationship with their teacher. The same can be said for expatriates no matter how far away they are. Gestures, pronunciation and word-forming exercises are an essential part of a language learner’s progress. Teaching methods and education platforms need to begin developing new ways of delivering the warmth of the classroom. This would result in not missing the important opportunity to tailor lessons to every student’s needs.
A new age of living requires new tech solutions
Traditional and virtual classrooms are two different methods designed to give a similar outcome. While the need for expatriates to use virtual learning is nothing new, the events of 2020 have created a need for the widespread deployment of technology that connects teachers and students in ways not seen before. There are still questions hanging over these technologies while it also raises further training challenges. However, these are challenges for teachers and developers alike to overcome, together.