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Has technology revolutionized language learning?

The days of using DVDs, VHS tapes and BlueRay discs to watch our favorite movies are now largely over. Thanks to platforms like Hulu and Netflix, watching movies is now a seamless experience that doesn’t even require us to leave the couch. With services like Uber and Lyft, anyone can order a private car right from their phone. Thanks to Amazon, we no longer have to go to multiple stores to find our everyday goods. We can order it all on one site, have it delivered and even get it at a discount.

Technology has fundamentally altered and enhanced the way we live every day—and the way we learn. The edtech market is projected to grow 17% every year, reaching $252 billion by 2020.

Language learning has gotten in on the action too. You’ve probably seen a lot of new apps available to learn a new language, but even though new education technology is available, it hasn’t exactly revolutionized language learning the way we might expect.

If you open Apple’s App Store, dozens of apps claim to teach you any language you want. But what if you’re you about to have a high-stakes job interview in another language? Maybe you just want to be able to participate in political debate at a dinner party. Either way, if you need to use a new language to accomplish specific goals in the real world, new apps may not be your best bet.

And what about traditional in-person classroom settings? While many language programs have invested in technology, many of them are still relying on outdated methods of instruction. The problem isn’t that language programs aren’t using technology, it’s that they’re not using it effectively.

Technology needs to help, not hinder, those that are trying to learn a new language. Digital platforms allow us to bring a much wider variety of content to a much wider global audience than ever before. While technology cannot totally replace the human aspect of language instruction—input like real-world conversations cannot be created by technology, for example—it can dramatically change when and where that input is received.

Technology is most effective for language instruction when it allows learners to meet the unique everyday challenges of their lives. Language instruction platforms need to take a lesson from today’s big tech companies to provide learners with what they need at any time, wherever in the world they may be.

Post by Tyler Andersen. Check out more of Tyler’s work on his website by clicking here.