Because you can't just rely on digital tools to learn a language
By Hebe Adventures

Through the pandemic and lockdowns, digital language learning tools have continued to see increasing use, with apps alone generating nearly $3 billion in sales in 2021. But digital learning is not a born reality in these last years. At the beginning of the new millennium, the first software that provided courses, exercises and even tests to prepare for more complex exams such as the TOEFL began to circulate. From courses installed locally to those connected to the web, the step was short, up to the diffusion of smartphones. Thanks to them, this way of learning has taken the form of the app, complete with rewards, challenges and other features to give a more playful character to the study.

This last aspect has especially helped students with concentration difficulties, who find the app a fun situation to learn new words or grammar rules.

However, the main reason for their diffusion lies in the convenience of use, and the pandemic has done nothing but make this aspect more evident. Today, more and more young people are using these apps, despite the fact that there is no longer a state of emergency and you can go to school without problems. Many students think that these tools are meant for comprehensive English learning. But, although they are useful in the early stages of study, to achieve a professional level of English you cannot rely on them alone, and below we explain why.

The apps are devoid of human interaction

An app is full of resources for learning a language, including exercises, a vocabulary and an audio database to hear the pronunciation of each word. One might think that software has replaced the role of the teacher, but is that really the case?

Reflecting on the possibilities offered by real lessons, even online ones, one realizes how learning a language cannot do without human interaction. A teacher confronts the students in real time, explains the concepts, answers the questions, corrects the exercises and, above all, can have conversations in the language.

The students also interact with each other, ask questions and the answers obtained make the explanation of the topics more in-depth.

In summary, the human presence creates a learning environment particularly rich in exchanges, stimuli and constructive activities, unlike the sterile user-software interaction offered by apps.

The apps have limited customization

Digital tools have pre-set structures and limitations, since their aim is to be as general as possible to meet the needs of millions of users. We can't talk to an app asking for more exercises or explanations on a topic we don't understand, we have to get by with what it offers. Any student of English may be better at some subjects and poorer at others, or be thorough and have perfect vocabulary and grammar, but rather poor at understanding spoken English. Personalization is a crucial aspect in language learning, which cannot be ignored in order to obtain excellent results. The teachers know this very well, so at the beginning of the courses they test the level of the students and, based on the results, they offer lessons aimed at developing all the qualities necessary to be competent in using the language. They can also recommend enrolling in a summer English course or going on a study abroad period, such as an English stay.

Added to this is the fact that learning style is an individual factor. For example, if some people get bored studying alone and get more results when they do it in a group, others find it difficult to concentrate and prefer individual lessons.

Partial learning of the language

Digital tools are limited representations of language. That is, they teach standard English, which is a good starting point, but it is not enough to become fluent and able to speak in any context. Databases of words and phrases are used to build a basic knowledge, but they are not able to capture the nuances and colloquialisms typical of the spoken language.

It should not be forgotten that one of the main purposes of learning English is to communicate easily. And to achieve this goal you need to train yourself to listen to more native speakers, with different accents and pronunciations. This is the only way to become good at understanding and knowing how to speak with a certain fluency. This is not possible through an app, but only by living in a real context where this possibility exists, such as an English holiday. This limitation of digital tools demonstrates once again that human interaction is a fundamental component of teaching.

Apps cannot recreate a culture and context

Not only pronunciation and idiomatic expressions, but also context and culture are essential factors in learning a language. There are many situations in which you can test your English and an app, no matter how well done, is not able to offer exercises designed for every circumstance. The best way to practice is therefore to immerse yourself in these real situations and gain experience in the field, for example by going abroad for a period of time. That's why a study trip is the solution that offers the best results for those who want to learn or perfect their English.

Gain live experience thanks to a stay in English

We have seen how human interaction is an indispensable component for learning a language and by leaving for a stay in English you will have continuous opportunities to interact with local people, from morning to night. This is particularly evident if hosted by a local family, with whom there will be situations to talk, before and after the summer English courses.

Furthermore, during the day, you can practice listening and speaking English in different contexts, with other fellow students and friends, for example looking for directions for public transport, or ordering food if you stop for a bite to eat. Situations arise spontaneously and you have to rely only on your level of English to understand and be understood. You will always have your app on your smartphone, perhaps useful for some doubts. But you will soon forget about it and you will realize that nothing can replace the satisfaction of being able to speak English and get by on your own in any situation.

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