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Are you an adult who wants to learn a foreign language? Online courses may well be a better bet for adults than face-to-face. Here’s why.

Learning a foreign language as an adult is much more difficult than before puberty. This is ironic because as we get older, our brains become more sophisticated and we can learn about other subjects more easily. Think about this: there are no pre-pubescent engineers but there are countless bilingual children. No one really knows exactly why, but the human being’s capacity for learning foreign languages decreases with age.

Luckily for us, along came the internet and online language courses. I believe that learning a foreign language online brings many advantages that compensate for the fact that you are older. Here’s why:

1.      You are exposed to a large variety of speaking styles

Listening is one of the four skills needed when learning a language. We cannot speak without having heard the sounds, which is why most feral children can never learn to speak.So, the more exposure you get to listening, the better.

When you are taught a language online through a good course, you’re likely to be listening to not one, but many native speakers teaching you. Each speaker’s voice, tone, rhythm and pace is different. You will listen to men and women and children speaking, each with a different pitch. This will require you to use your listening skills to make sense of the sounds and from there, the meaning.

The variety of voices to which you can be exposed in an online course is much greater than if you attend a face-to-face lesson, where you typically have one teacher per group for the duration of the course.

2.      You will get lots of opportunity to practise through repetition

Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers: The Story of Success: “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” Getting good at something is not a matter of luck; it is sheer repetition and hard work. I also love this quote by golfer Jerry Barber (sometimes incorrectly attributed to Gary Player): “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”
Being able to listen to and repeat the same sound, word or phrase as many times as you want, in privacy and in your own time, can only make your learning better. In a class situation, you are limited by the other students, who also want to get some practice time. You may also find it embarrassing or intimidating to speak in a class situation. Online, there’s no one to hear you but you!

3.      You learn at your own pace

In a classroom situation, there are the quick learners, the average and the challenged. Whatever category you may fall into in class, when you are engaged in an online course, you are none of the above! You are just you, learning at your own pace.

There is no stress or impatience or pencil tapping from the teacher or your classmates as you stumble over your words, as there might be in the classroom. Nor do you have to count to ten under your breath while Juan says “I is” for the umpteenth time.

You decide how fast or slow you want to progress.

4.      There are no penalties for missed classes; learn anywhere, anytime

Taking a face-to-face course means you must be at a certain place at a given time for your lesson. If your child is sick or work detains you or you just can’t be fagged to go one day, there is likely some penalty. It may be financial, for example, you may not be able to make up the lessons for example. Or you may miss a chick of learning.

But if you’re doing your course online, you can learn any time, any place, and with an frequency, with no penalties!

5.      Get progress reports with immediate feedback from charming teachers

If like me, you crave immediate affirmation, online courses are great because the teacher is constantly praising you for something or other. What’s more, the teacher is never in a bad mood, or impatient, or has favourites (who are not you).In short, the teachers ae charming.

The courses offer a variety of teaching methods, including grammar exercises, quizzes, games and other interactive tools. Just do the activity and submit, and it will be returned to you “marked” by automated mechanisms in seconds. No waiting around. Most people find the speed of feedback and the ability to check progress very motivating.


Online courses for learning foreign languages play a useful role in kick starting the learning process, or polishing your foreign language skills. Shop around for one that suits you, and good luck.