Improving accessibility for new age language learners
In today’s interconnected world, learning language skills has become a critical skill for all who aspire to breakout on the international stage. Learning a new language like English can be a daunting task, but new age language learners have technology to their rescue. Advancements in technology and adoption of inclusive approaches toward language acquisition have opened up new possibilities for improving accessibility in language learning.
Technology enabled society
With the advent of IOT, technology has revolutionized the landscape of educational experience. Language learning is no exception to this onslaught. The pandemic has only hastened the adoption of technology as an essential tool for learning. Learners now have the opportunity to learn languages at their own pace with a myriad of online platforms and apps. These platforms generally boast of interactive lessons and quizzes, and engaging exercises. They make use of a vast array of resources that include authentic audio-visuals that allow learners to experience language in actual use.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are also playing a significant role in affecting the learning experience. Using VR, learners can have a simulated role play experience to practice various language functions for e.g., ordering food in a restaurant or booking a ticket at the station or asking directions in a foreign land. With the help of AR, learners can have the approximate translation of texts that they read and other virtual elements super-imposed on the world they see through their phones. They also provide contextual information and interactive language exercises.
Moreover, the entry of Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots have gained immense popularity not only for their responses they offer, but also for their potential to be virtual language tutors. AI-powered language assistants are able to have practice conversations and have personalised feedback. It can additionally create tailored exercises based on the learners’ level of proficiency. AI has also been hailed to be non-judgmental and supportive to the learners.
Hiring private tutors or enrolling in premium courses might be challenging for financially disadvantaged learners. With an exponential increase in access to the internet, learners can access resource materials or language lessons from any part of the globe. YouTube, one of the largest educational content streaming platforms, is available freely to everyone. Individuals and organisations post a lot of content in a bid to attract more subscribers or enrolments to their courses. Some platforms are able to provide cost-effective courses compared to traditional learning avenues. Learners are no longer bound by geographical limitations to access expertise in language.
Contrary to previous assumptions that a boom in tech would make people freer, learners today have busier schedules and multiple commitments because of which adjusting their schedules for traditional learning courses becomes very difficult. Online platforms and courses are flexible enough to allow the learners to use them as per the learners’ convenience.
AI-powered language tutors are now slowly proving to be a solution to the lack of access to qualified teachers. These virtual tutors can provide learners with personalized instruction, adaptive feedback, and on-the-go practice opportunities. Learners are now able to receive immediate feedback on their pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, helping them improve their language skills efficiently.
Gamification of learning has enhanced the motivation levels of learners to complete language tasks and develop a consistency in their effort of learning a language. The learners now have very clear milestones in terms of vocabulary and grammar structure acquisition, for which they are either rewarded with e-certificates or unlocking advanced levels of language.
Making learning inclusive
Non-native learners now have a wealth of multilingual resources and translation tools to learn the target language. These resources go a long way in providing essential linguistic support to beginner learners. Captioning and transcriptions on AV materials ensures learners are able to follow along and understand the content well. They also aid those with hearing impairments to comprehend the language.
Voice recognition and speech-to-text tools are also able to benefit learners struggling with writing or have difficulty in expressing themselves through writing. These tools can also enable learners to practice their speaking skills by providing accurate transcriptions of their spoken language, thus allowing them to review and improve their oral skills.
We don’t learn a language by only acquiring the skills, we are exposed to its culture and appreciate its use in context. Technology plays a key role in promoting diversity and providing an immersive cultural experience of the language. The language learners become part of global online communities through forums or pages that help in language and cultural exchange. Learners are exposed to authentic language samples that will help them understand usage of collocation, fixed phrases and idioms in a better manner.
All in all, new age language learners are at the cusp of an educational revolution that promises to boost their learning experience. The role of technology will only gain significance as it improves accessibility to global learning resources and authentic language learning contexts.