In today’s business world, it’s more important than ever to know more than one language. Luckily, though, you also have more options than ever for improving your employees’ 2nd language fluency.

With those options, however, come choices — choices that aren’t always easy to make. We want to help you select the right language training option for you or for your employees. So today we’re going to take a closer look at self-paced language learning options vs. learning from an instructor.

Self-Paced Language Learning

Language training software and other self-paced programs are well-publicized. In fact, they might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about options for learning another language. Think DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone, and many others.

We love any steps that people take to become multilingual, and self-paced programs do have some advantages. If you, or the language learners in your company, have some serious schedule constraints, self-paced programs allow language study to happen any time and anywhere. They can be a good way to acquire new vocabulary, and they can give language students a chance to hear people speaking (even if their workplace is mostly monolingual).

However, self-paced programs do have limitations. First, they don’t give you conversational practice. We believe that the best way to learn a language is by talking with native speakers, and self-paced programs just can’t offer that. And while you may be able to memorize some new vocabulary words through using a self-paced program, you won’t necessarily be ready to use what you’ve learned in real-life situations, and it is usually a struggle to keep up with native speakers in real life, if you haven’t had that experience before.

Finally, self-paced language programs fall short when it comes to helping you perfect your accent in a new language. Unless you have a musical background, it’s hard to self-correct something that your ears aren’t picking up in the first place. You can be extremely proficient with your new vocabulary, but still have trouble being understood because of your non-native accent. Most adults apply the rules of their first language onto their second language, which is only human. You work with what you know, which are the sounds of your first language. For example, when Japanese is written using the Latin ABCs, they use R’s where English speakers put an L, but as we all know, R and L are not the same sounds, but how would they know that? This sound is heard as the same in Japanese, which is why it is so challenging for Japanese speakers to pronounce – they simply can’t hear the difference.

Language Training from an Instructor

If it’s at all possible with your schedule and budget, we recommend opting for customized language training from an instructor you work with either in person or online. As a language training provider for companies such as Google and Samsung, we’ve seen the powerful advantages that come from working with an instructor:

  • Students are more accountable. If you’re learning a language on your own, you could skip a lesson and no one would be the wiser. And it’s easier to spin your wheels without making real progress. (Think buying a gym membership and how often you use it, as opposed to hiring a personal trainer, and making sure you’re there for your appointment private trainer session). When you learn from an instructor, you’re less likely to bail on your lesson since it involves a commitment to another person. Additionally, your instructor knows your goals and will help you stay on track toward them.
  • Conversational practice just works better. You didn’t learn your first language by studying it in a book, listening to recordings and conjugating verbs. Instead, you just got in there and tried it in conversations with your parents and other caregivers. People corrected you when you messed up. When you didn’t know the word for something, they told you. They taught you the vocabulary you needed for all the activities of your life. Learning from an instructor works the same way. Through conversation, you acquire the real-life language skills you need for the relevant conversations you’ll be having the next day or next week.
  • Accent training is easier. You could practice endlessly with a self-paced program without ever finding out that your pronunciation of certain words is just a little bit off. When you work with an instructor, you can improve your accent by watching their mouth and mimicking what they do. And did you know the SCHWA sound is the most common sound in the English language? You’re probably saying to yourself, ‘What the heck is a SCHWA?” This is what your language instructor knows.
  • Lessons include culture, too. Learning a language from a native speaker doesn’t just teach you vocabulary. Your language teacher can also become a cultural guide. They can let you in on the etiquette of doing business in your new language. And if you’re relocating, they can teach you about daily life in your new culture. I know your employees will have a million questions, and it’s not always easy to ask coworkers. The relationship and comfort that forms with your language instructor will break down those barriers and allow your employees to learn and ask uncomfortable questions with ease.
  • Friendship enhances learning. Language instructors spend two to five hours per week with their students, either in one-on-one or small-group classes. So it’s only natural that they become friends. Building a relationship also builds students’ fluency. The most fluent people we’ve encountered say they ‘made a great friendship’ with someone who spoke the language they were wanting to improve. This led to countless hours of discovery, dinners, conversations and in-depth relationship-building time needed for fluency to flourish.

For all of these reasons, we’d especially encourage language learners (or the colleagues who are coordinating training for them) in situations like these to choose classes with an instructor over self-paced programs:

· You’re in a high-stakes position.
· Collaboration across cultures or in your non-native language is a major part of your job.
· You’re relocating to a new country that speaks a different language and want to be able to at least say the basics.
· You already have a high level in your new language, but your accent keeps you from being understood.

At Fluency Corp, we offer in-person and online corporate language training taught by native speakers. We’re always happy to talk with you more about how an investment in language training pays off many times over. Contact us for a free consultation: [email protected] or (800) 401-3159.