Use Tech to Teach Languages

Every year, the world grows smaller, making the importance of language learning greater. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Roman Zhidkov, has interesting ideas on easy ways to learn a new language using already-available online technology:

How to Use Tech for Language Learning

As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to facilitate learning through technology. In the language learning field, tech has been transformative in enabling learners to master languages from home, particularly in recent years with the pandemic. In this article, we will explore some of the most effective ways to use technology for learning languages.

Learning a new language can be a challenging and time-consuming task, but technology can make it more accessible, easier and more efficient. There are many tools available that can help educators and students alike to make the most of their language-learning experience.

Flashcards are a tool used by many language learners. There are dozens of apps available that allow you to create and use flashcards to learn new words and phrases. They apply a concept called spaced repetition: an algorithm recognises how well you know each word/flashcard, then prioritizes them so that you study the things you don’t know, without wasting precious time on the things you already do. These apps often allow you to create your own flashcards or use pre-made ones, and they also typically have a feature that allows you to track your progress. One popular and free flashcard app worth trying is Quizlet.

Another learning method that has exploded in popularity since 2020 is online language classes. These are made possible by video calling tools, which are either embedded in the learning platforms, or linked to from those platforms (e.g. Zoom, Skype etc.) These tools allow you to have live, interactive lessons that are just as effective as in-person classes. They also provide the added benefit of being able to schedule lessons at any time and from any location. This reduces costs as the tutor doesn’t need to travel. In my experience, the quality of online language tutors varies considerably, so look for a platform that has a rigorous application process.

Another great way to use technology, particularly if your budget is limited, is through apps. My advice here is to try a number of different apps, as they all have different approaches and features. Duolingo is a good option if you enjoy a gamified learning experience and are looking for something free.

Duolingo applies AI algorithms to provide personalized instruction. It uses data on the student’s performance to adjust the content and difficulty level of lessons, and provides immediate feedback on errors. The app has been shown to be highly effective in helping users learn a new language, and its success has led to the development of similar AI-powered language learning apps.

Other apps may focus more on role play situations or learning the most commonly used words first (this is effective because in most languages, a minority of words make up the majority of the spoken language).

Lastly, some argue that listening regularly to the language you’re learning is the most effective way to learn. Listening helps you train your ear to new sounds, and you’ll pick up thousands of new words, as well as subconsciously learn some grammar rules. If you’re an educator, remember the most important thing is finding material that is at the right level for your students.  I also recommend encouraging students to note down new vocab as they listen, as well as to ‘shadow listen’. This means sometimes repeating what you hear, which improves your pronunciation as well as recall of new vocabulary. There are dozens of free and paid options available for practicing listening skills, including audio books, YouTube channels, and TV streaming services (which often have foreign language content and/or subtitles). For me, podcasts are often the best solution, as they tend to be tailored for specific levels, and you can listen whilst washing the dishes or exercising.

Technology provides an abundance of resources for educators and students to improve their language learning experience. With the use of video-calling tools, apps, flashcards, videos and more, students can become more fluent in their target language. Educators can make the most of these tools to provide interactive and engaging lessons, making language learning more engaging and effective. However, choosing the right tools is the tricky part and requires an intelligent approach on the part of educators to ensure that the content is at the right level, and that each aspect of the language is covered.


Roman Zhidkov is a trainer at DDI development and a practicing lecturer with 10 year of experience in various courses. His teaching expertise and innovative approach became a jumping-off place for many talented IT professionals. His main mission is to make the classroom innovative and students motivated.

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Author: Jacqui
Welcome to my virtual classroom. I've been a tech teacher for 15 years, but modern technology offers more to get my ideas across to students than at any time in my career. Drop in to my class wikis, classroom blog, our internet start pages. I'll answer your questions about how to teach tech, what to teach when, where the best virtual sites are. Need more--let's chat about issues of importance in tech ed. Want to see what I'm doing today? Click the gravatar and select the grade.

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