I work mainly with teaching Swedish online. Some learners can feel a little bit sceptical to the idea of learning a language through Skype, and feel more comfortable with the idea of sitting face-to-face with their language teacher. I totally understand this, this kind of communication is still quite new – at least in relative terms.
But like it or not, access to internet, headsets and online telephone software (e.g. Skype) has meant that more people than ever before can engage in distance studies and receive tutoring online. And there are actually some real benefits with the idea to learn Swedish online. Some which you may not even have thought about.
To learn Swedish online means you can learn even though there are no Swedish teachers available locally where you live. Generally speaking, it can be quite difficult to find a language teacher, unless you live in a major city that has language schools with Swedish available. The other option is to travel Sweden and do an intensive course, which is highly effective but may be on the expensive side for many learners. Therefore, to learn Swedish online means you can still go ahead and learn, regardless of where you live. This is particularly important for those learning less common languages, which can be hard to come by even in major cities.
A third option is to invest in a self-study language course. This can be great to start with, but one major issue is that they do not teach grammar, so you end up knowing a lot of words but have no idea how to put them together. Also, it is very difficult to get proper feedback on your pronunciation through these courses, and pronunciation is both difficult and important when it comes to Swedish, so you may be wasting your money on an expensive course.
2. Listening and speaking skills
Whereas some may see the lack of face-to-face tuition as something negative, my experience is that it can actually be beneficial for the learner. The learner automatically focuses more on listening to ‘the music of the language’, and the experience will be mainly auditory. This builds confidence for both speaking and listening, and it stops the learner relying on body language – which often happens when trying to communicating face-to-face. Of course, webcam can be used too (I probably use webcams with about 40% of my students).
3. Using the chat box
In Skype, there are other features that can be used during a language lesson. Both learner and tutor can use the chat box in Skype in real-time, to check spelling and to emphasize other aspects. I often use the chat box to illustrate emphasis in words (only last week, I wrote to one learner to visually illustrate the emphasis of the word ‘studerar’ in Swedish, which is ‘stu-dEEEEEErar’). A few times I have had completely text-based sessions, where the learner and I have practiced writing to each other. I also use it every time I run conversational practice sessions with more fluent students, as I can type out new words as we go along and the learner can save the chat record to their computer after the session.
4. File transfers, sharing links and giving examples
Sitting in front of your computer means more flexibility. The tutor can instantly transfer files or documents that can be useful in addition to the lesson material. Both learner and tutor can share links and use images to exemplify meanings and concepts. A picture says more than 1,000 words, the saying goes, and I find it highly effective to sometimes be able to quickly find a picture on the internet that illustrate exactly what I mean. It also provides the learner with a more varied learning experience. This level of flexibility is not possible in face-to-face tuition.
5. Saving time
Learning online saves time and money. Travelling cost is none. Travelling time is, if not completely eliminated, minimized to however long it takes to turn the computer on, or walk down the stairs to the office/kitchen/lounge, or wherever the computer is located.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to physically sit in front of a teacher in the same room (and not just in front of a webcam), but unless there is a perfect language school or language tutor in the immediate neighbourhood, I would recommend giving online lessons a go and try to learn Swedish online.