Learning a New Language vs. Language Apps

In this day and age with the ubiquitous nature of apps being built to accommodate even the most bizarre of interests, it’s no surprise that there are countless language apps and digital services available dedicated to expand people’s linguistic proficiency. Sources like Dictionary.com, Google Translate and Rosetta Stone are just a few of the many options available as consumers and companies navigate becoming better linguists. But there is an enormous difference between the time and dedication it takes to learn the complexities of a language versus a tourist learning basic phrases. 

As we all know, some languages are more nuanced than others, thereby proving more challenging to learn and even harder to develop fluency. According to the US Foreign Service Institute there are four language groups listed by level of difficulty for English speakers to absorb and five levels of proficiency: elementary, limited working proficiency, minimum professional proficiency, full professional proficiency and native/bilingual proficiency. But how does that break down for someone trying to develop linguistic competency in these languages? The site goes on to explain that if you are able to put in 10 hours a day of practice, then basic fluency in the easy languages should take approximately 48 days and for difficult languages 72 days, a fairly substantial disparity. What this gap teaches us is that mastering a new language is ultimately about dedication and consistency.  

While apps may be somewhat useful when taking initial baby steps of learning a new language, they usually only aid in acquiring a few key words and phrases.  To acquire a new language the only answer is full immersion in the learning process and culture. Asking questions may seem scary and can, quite frankly, be embarrassing when there are major language barriers, but in the end it’s worth it for a lifelong skill set that can open you up to a whole new world. And ultimately that’s what the love of language is all about.

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