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Is learning a foreign language really expensive??

MoneyDanilo photoToday while I was reading the news I came across a headline that caught my attention, “Learning a second language can boost your career, but it’s costly.” In this article Ruth Mantell wrote that “you’ll have to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000”. I was quite intrigued by the “have to” written, like theres no other option.

Actually, I guess Ruth does have a point. Local foreign language schools in the US tend to charge a very high fee for group classes. The only option left would be to study online. However, online foreign language instruction will often focus on podcasts only, a cheap solution for students but not really a fun or truly effective way to learn.

Soon this will change and you will have a new great way to really learn foreign languages. By having live online classes you will easily be able to learn a foreign language with native speakers from the comfort of your own home, office, or wherever you like. All of this done through Myngle!

I’ll let Ruth know about Myngle and hopefully after our launch she’ll change her mind about her article. By the way, let your friends know about Myngle as well, click here to send them a note!

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8 Comments on “Is learning a foreign language really expensive??”

  1. MButler Says:

    Hmmm I am surprised you said that podcasts are not an effective way to learn。If used correctly podcasts can be quite effective。 What constitutes truely effective anyway? Is this to be contrasted with falsely effective?And fun。。。well that is something that is different for everyone。

    By the way the real cost of language learning cannot be calculated only in terms of the cost of classes but also in terms of the time put into the activity。 I once read that someone could save one million dollars by not watching T。V。 The kicker of course was that you would need to spend the hours not watching T。V。 in some money making pursuit。

    Oh I also thought the figure of 1。500。00 to learn a language was quite low。 Over a lifetime of language learning I have spent at least that on coffee fueled learning sessions。

    What am I missing here? You seem to be calling 1。500 a lot and claiming that podcasts are not effective。 And of course you seem to be ignoring one of the big costs of language learning the time it takes to succeed。

  2. danilo Says:

    Hello Mr Butler,

    Very interesting points you’ve raised.

    First, please don’t take me wrong, I enjoy podcasts and think they are quite resourceful. I’ve used audio to gain knowledge about foreign languages, grammar, business, management, and many other topics.

    But I feel something is missing if I have only the audio stimulus. For me only listening is not enough when I can also speak, read, and write. I also feel its beneficial when someone is listening to me, interacting with me and correcting me.

    So, planning for the best of all worlds, teachers on Myngle will be able to use podcasts with their lessons. Students will be able to enjoy listening activities whenever and wherever they want, as well as always interact with teachers on live lessons. Many tools for many types of learners and instructors.

    On your other question, what I actually wrote was “truly”, according to Webster: an adverb often used as an intensifier.

    Regarding the price of the lesson, I’ve seen many people spend over 1k for one week of lesson. Expensive or cheap is a relative concept, no doubt about it. As a marketplace for foreign language instruction, Myngle will allow teachers and students to choose how much to invest in their learning process.

    As I wrote, I was intrigued by the idea that students many times do not have a good range of options for their learning needs. The online world can broaden the availability and range of options for everyone. Myngle as a foreign language marketplace will help broaden this option for anyone, teachers and students.

  3. MButler Says:

    Well, then what you said earlier, and what I want to take you to task for is concerns what you said about podcasts not being an effective way to learn (I’ve accepted that truly is an intensifier by the way).

    I would debate this quite vociferously. Krashen argued that comprehensible input in written and spoken form are objects of extreme concern for the language teacher. As a language instructor I have come to see listening as the cornerstone of early language learning. And not just interactive listening (which comes along with communication) but also one-way listening that will bear REPEATED ATTEMPTS at trying to break the code. Beginners suffer when they place speaking ahead of listening. At best these are equally important, more realistically, again following Krashen, listening is more important, especially for beginners, and as such it is a HIGHLY effective way to learn.

    Podcasts, done well, embody this philosophy to the core.

  4. danilo Says:

    Greetings Mr. Butler,

    You are absolutely correct, listening is fundamental to foreign language learning. An input (through listening or reading) is needed to produce an output (speaking or writing).

    First, lets make a distinction, listening is not the same as podcasts. A podcast is generally considered as a recorded audio file that can be downloaded and organized through RSS feeds (no Webster quote here since it hasn’t reached the dictionaries yet). Listening is related to a human skill and the act of hearing attentively.

    In short, a podcast is an audio tool and listening is a human skill.

    Myngle will provide tools for foreign language teachers to use on their lessons. Thus, providing a rich environment for teachers and students to listen, speak, read, and write.

    Students will be able to listen to a teacher speaking with him/her and to recorded audio (podcasts). Again, at Myngle we truly believe podcast is a powerful tool and this is why we decided to include it on the set of tools we will offer to foreign language educators.

    Methodologies for foreign language learning is also distinct from podcasting. Podcasting is a medium to transmit knowledge that uses only one skill (listening). Whichever pedagogical theory is followed, podcasting will tend to leave behind speaking, reading and writing.

    With Myngle teachers will be able to create podcasts according to their own methodology. Educators will be free to use this tool to give the best learning content to students.

    So, with podcast the student only has input (listening). There is no output with speaking and writing and no other way for input of knowledge such as reading. All of the four skills can be used by learning or teaching with Myngle.

  5. marina Says:

    Hi Michael and Danilo
    I find this a very interesting discussion, so I’d like to add my 2 cents here…
    I definitely do not want to come in as ‘expert’, as I am not an educator, but only as a ‘language passionate’ myself, after having learned 5 languages (and having attempted my sixth)
    Therefore my answer might not make sense from an education theory point of view, but reflects my personal experience.
    Here is what I think:
    One of the main advantages I see in using a real live lesson compared to ONLY podcasts is the possibility for the student to be corrected by the teacher. This supports the learning in two ways
    First, if no one corrects you, you are never sure you are getting it right. This is particularly important for a language as Mandarin, where tones for a western student are- at least in the first few months- a ‘difficult animal’ to grasp.
    I had started studying Mandarin last year using Pimsleur, and did all the 3 courses, 90 lessons in total. Although as a first approach I loved Pimsleur – I really like their principles of Anticipation and Graduated Interval Recall (according to their education theory more effective than the normal recordings – but here I do not want to debate the merit of these), when I travelled to China I found out that many words I had learned were simply not pronounced correctly. And in Mandain it is critical, as a change in tone means a totally different word.
    Correcting them took quite some effort, as, after so many times of listening and repeating them from my CDs at home, they were quite engraved in my brain.
    Second, learning by mistake: a mistake that is properly corrected gets remembered often better than what has been learned correctly right from the start. I don’t know if this is a right theory, but it works for me.
    One more thing that is coming into my mind is that some (or many?) students feel that not being given the chance to exercise the language in an interactive way is a disadvantage, as answered in one of our surveys. Here again, I am not attempting to discuss education theories, but looking at the user perception of it (I know: it is the marketer in me talking now). If the user thinks something is not fully fulfilling his/her needs, then this perception becomes for him a reality, and it influences the way the learning is perceived.
    I’d like to add that we have a lot of admiration for Chinesepod, especially the way it has been able to involve and listen to its community. But operating from Shanghai as base means that there is – at least for the first customers who tried it- a wide pool of native locals available to exercise the language. Therefore, once listened to a podcast, the student can just go and try it out with the taxi driver or a friend or the colleague in the office. This is not always (or better said: often not) the case in western Countries, especially if you move away from the heart of the main international cities (including that in The Netherlands, where I leave, the vast majority of Chinese overseas are Cantonese, so even going to a Chinese restaurant would not really help).
    So, these were my thoughts as a student (the user).
    Thank you for the discussion, very interesting! 🙂
    Any more thoughts from other people, teachers or students on this?

  6. MButler Says:

    Some linguists talk about a natural order to learning a language。 This order is relatively fixed and mostly focuses on grammar。 I am in partial agreement with this thinking。 The implications of this for me is that while correction is important it must be done with care and with the understanding that some correction will never be available to the student as input。The correction is simply beyond his or her level of understanding。Correction must be tied to what the student is able to understand and absorb。

    I also feel that the more languages you study that the easier it is to accept a broader range of correction at ever earlier stages。 Multiple-language learners seem to better be able to accept and absorb a wider and more diverse range of corrections。

    So, in part I agree that corrections are important but I also acknowledge that they must be pitched at a level the student can absorb。 This is much easier said than done。

    All in all I would say that language learning overall is not a single process。 At times tailored feedback is very important and at times intensive listening can do wonders。I would say if pressed however that time spent alone in listening is more valuable in the beginning stages than time spent talking with others。

  7. marina Says:

    Probably it all boils down to the quality of the teacher at the end.
    A good teacher will be able to streer the learning and ‘dose’ the input and corrections in a way that is adapted to the individual characteristics. That is influenced by the personality of the student as well as its native culture, and, as you mentined, previous exposure to foreign languages.
    It is true that the more foreign languages I’ve been exposed to, the easier it become to try a new one.

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