Fans of language software always cite its flexibility as one of its main advantages over other learning materials. With language software, you can, literally, break up and schedule your lessons in whatever way fits your busy life. If you only have 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night available, you can tailor your lessons to accommodate that. Same if your only available time is during the one-hour lunch break at work. Simply put, you’ll be hard pressed to find other learning resources that can accommodate you this well, while providing the same amount of effectiveness and efficiency.
On the flipside, detractors of the medium as a primary learning material cite the lack of personal feedback. As in, you can literally play through an entire language course without actually learning anything, same with books, audio and video instruction. Contrast to a personal tutor or a class where the instructor can regularly test you to track your progress.
The good news is, most modern language software have taken heed of this frequent criticism. As a result, a lot of the top language software currently in the market integrate some form of interactivity. Fact is, that criticism really isn’t valid anymore for a lot of the titles you can find today.
Unlike traditional software instruction where you sit through a lesson the same way you listen to a classroom instructor, some of the modern titles actually structure the lessons as interactive practice. As in, you are taught a phrase and you get drilled on it. Then, onto another phrase. And another and so on.
Other implementations of this use the practice as a separate item from the lessons, so you can sit through your lessons like a regular class (if you prefer learning that way). At the end of each module, you can then proceed to the practice, where the software will interactively drill you with the previous module’s content.
Both of the above implementations work much the same way, simulating work with an actual speaker and forcing you to use what’s been learned in an interactive setting. Based on feedback from many students, this approach is one of the most effective, especially for students who prefer workshop-style teaching methods, compared to lecture-type ones.
Modern software is heavy on engaging the senses. Most of the successful titles I’ve seen these days integrate audio, video, text and interactive exercises, encouraging users to be more immersed in the lessons, compared with more traditional types of approaches.
This type of instruction doesn’t work for everyone, of course. Some people prefer a minimal amount of input, compared to the multiple layers this approach brings, which could prove overwhelming. If you prefer learning using a setup like this, though, the heavy engagement provided by some software titles could prove to be particularly effective for your language learning efforts.
Word of warning: heavy engagement will usually demand your full attention, apart requiring from a good chunk of time. Chances are, you’ll need to sit through it in straight chunks of time. So far, most of the modules I’ve seen range from 15 to 30 minutes, so you’ll need to devote your time sequentially.
Not a lot of language programs use games as a primary mode of instruction, although I’ve seen plenty that integrate them as accessory learning tools. Language learning games are particularly useful as a tool for practice, allowing you to review your lessons using a dynamic, interactive module.
Games can be especially useful for non-linear thinkers, who should be able to appreciate the entertaining and unorthodox nature of this type of learning material. If you get bored with traditional lessons easily, this is definitely one type of interactive technique that could prove a lot less prone to doldrums.
Do note that most game-based language software we’ve seen are aimed at kids. There are some for adults, but you’ll probably have to seek them out. Difficulty will usually depend on the specific language you’re looking to learn. Naturally, it will prove a bit easier if you’re studying popular languages, like Spanish and French. For the most part, you’ll find plenty of software that integrate more adult games, like crossword puzzles, word association and phrase-to-picture matching.
Some of the newer software titles integrate software recognition, allowing the program to evaluate your speaking and offer feedback in areas where you can improve. I’m especially impressed with this feature, as it really goes a long way towards pointing learners the right way, especially with regards to tone, pace and pronunciation. As you probably know, it’s easy to incur speaking errors early in the learning process that could end up being ingrained in your skillset. An interactive feature like this helps you avoid it.
Many language learning software that tout “dynamic language immersion” or “simulated immersion” will use this feature extensively. That’s how they engage in conversations that feel like a real tutoring exchange, instead of feeling like you’re just talking to a microphone with nobody sitting on the other end.
Advantages of Interactivity
Why opt for interactive language learning software? Truth be told, they’re just more effective than a lot of traditional language programs. That’s especially true for students who find the old approaches dull and uninteresting.
Interactive tools are usually more engaging, allowing you to sink your teeth deeper into each lesson. If you have problems focusing and fixing your attention on the lessons, you’ll probably find an interactive program’s heavier dose of stimulation a lot more useful to your language learning efforts.
Learn Your Language Software
Always put in the time to learn about a language software before putting down money for it. Find out about the different features and how much interactivity is built into it. That way, you can gauge whether it’s something that will work to your advantage or whether it’s something that could end up making your language learning efforts just a little bit harder.
Remember: even if two language software titles are both billed as “interactive,” they could be approaching it in two ways that are extremely different. And what works for another user may not necessarily prove to be what’s also best for you.