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How The Internet Has Revolutionized Language Learning
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The Internet has changed the way we do a lot of things, making them easier, yet a bit more complicated.  We can now shop from our own homes without waiting for catalogues, talk to our friends and family without waiting for the post, and do research without a lengthy trip to the library.  We can meet people near and far, and we can learn to communicate in their language much, much easier now than at any point in history.   Teaching ourselves new languages is more feasible than ever before, whereas you used to have to live in an area where the language was accessible to you if you didn’t want to put up the time and money for a class or language school that might get to you to a decent level of communication and reading after several years of work.  With the Internet we can drastically cut down on the time and money needed to learn a language, and since language is the most natural thing a person possesses, anyone (I mean anyone) can learn a language if only you know the way that’s right for you.  The Internet makes it all possible, allowing us to find websites that help us learn, shop online for the things we need to make it happen, find software, and even speak with native speakers, not matter how remote the language is.  It’s a journey whose path is now more accessible than ever in history.

Let’s say you want to learn Japanese, which is a popular language right now for a variety of reasons.  The best thing to do is search out websites that will either help you learn the language or purport to teach it themselves.  You usually can’t get very far with free websites, although they’re good for getting a feel for the language, and also are excellent supplements and references, but there are some amazingly cheap alternatives that do a very good job of teaching you the language.

Some of them are audio-based and have thriving communities, whereas other websites function as online textbooks, giving you a great way to learn and study at your own pace.  It’s very possible to get a good working knowledge (or better) of Japanese using such websites alone, so you can kiss university prices goodbye.

You can find hundreds of software as well, although if you want my personal recommendation, most of them are rip-offs and you should stick to websites and tangible goods.  I’m sure there’s a few gems out there, but many of them are over-priced and don’t do much, but if that’s the way you learn, there’s a lot to choose from. They can run on virtually any computer, and if you get a good one, it will probably have some one-on-one support as well.  The one big plus they have is their level of interactivity.

A very good way to learn is through shopping online.  I don’t necessarily mean for physical textbooks, although they’re a nice thing to have, but for books and movies and such.  Just listening to a foreign language is enough to physically change your brain, allowing it accept the sounds as being familiar instead of foreign, and understanding how people really speak and write is a huge step in learning, as textbooks tend to skip over slang and the way people speak face-to-face.

If not for the Internet, it would be very difficult to get native material.  As far as Japanese goes, you would have had to find someone who had the tapes from Japan, and there was kind of an underground subculture surrounding it back in the day.  Now you can find them easily and quickly without searching for a second-hand copy.

Finally, the Internet has linked us together in ways we could never have imagined.  Forums, social networking, and language exchange websites have made it more than possible to interact with native speakers of virtually any tongue.  You used to have to pay a native speaker to “teach” you by conversing, but you can easily do it for free by now just by posting messages on forums and websites and asking for corrections.  It’s never been easier to find a native to talk to.

I, for one, am very happy to be seeing people eager and ready to learn languages without feeling the need to spend tons of money.  Now, if only we could dispel the myth that languages are difficult or only easy for certain kinds of people, everyone could be learning new languages!  This was just my thoughts on the Internet, and how it makes everything easier and more accessible, and I hope it enlightened you.  

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