Home schoolers: A computer-based program may not be enough
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Home schoolers: A computer-based program may not be enough

As a home school parent, how do you make sure your child has access to a foreign language curriculum, when you don’t speak a foreign language yourself?  Many parents have come to rely on Rosetta Stone and other software-based programs, but those may not truly replace a live teacher.  Language is about human interaction, so rehearsing words and phrases in front of a screen may not be the most effective way for your child to learn.

Consider the following findings from a recent study published in the journal Language Learning & Technology:

– There were problems, even with motivated adult learners, being able to complete the programs due to loss of interest and technological issues.

– The one study participant who was able to complete all the levels, who was an adult learner who already spoke 4 foreign languages fluently (not a child with no experience learning a language), was only able to attain an ACTFL level of novice-high, even though he scored well on all the program’s assessments (p. 123).

-“Companies like…Rosetta Stone continue to advertise themselves as complete solutions to language learning(… )The truth is that learning a language is far from simple(…) Research from self-access centers and online learners indicates that independent language learners require support, guidance, and access to a wide-range of materials and resources in order to benefit from self-study. While CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) products offer increasingly sophisticated graphics and interfaces, they are not yet able to offer an alternative to human support or interaction.

The participants in this study were adult learners eager for the opportunity to use these materials to study a second language. It is unlikely that any future study with these stand-alone products could find a more motivated group of people, and the results indicate that these resources are unlikely to work by themselves. Managers and learners alike should consider them as supplements to instructor-mediated training rather than stand-alone solutions(pp 125-126).”

For the best results, home school parents should turn to a live instructor who can provide the human interaction necessary to acquire a language.  At Language Learners, we provide this in a much smaller setting (2-5 students) that allows for the individualized attention you would give your student at home.

Nielson, K.  “Self-study with Language Learning Software in the Workplace: What Happens?”  Language Learning and Technology, vol. 15, num. 3.  October 2011. http://www.llt.msu.edu/issues/october2011/v15n3.pdf#page=115