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What is Language Education?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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Language education is the process of learning a language, as well as the teaching process of said language. It may refer to either learning a native language for the first time, or learning a second language. The term "language education" more commonly refers to learning a second or additional language beyond one's native language; for this reason, it is commonly used as an academic term. Language learning computer software is another type of language education that allows users to learn the language independently, on their own time.

The process of language education and language acquisition can differ greatly depending on the teaching style used, the age of the students learning the language, and whether the students are developing more in-depth skills with their first language or are attempting to learn a second language. It is common for language educators to begin with vocabulary words and verb conjugation principles, because these form the basis of most second language education practices. Some teachers will use an immersion style of teaching a language, where students are encouraged to speak the new language as much as possible; this can be quite challenging for introductory students, but for more advanced learners, it is a very effective method of language acquisition.

There are other methods used for language education, which is considered to be a form of applied linguistics. The most effective methods are generally considered to be those that use a combination of memorization and grammar studies with natural conversation and exploration of the language. Memorization may help one to learn a number of new words, or even develop the ability to read in the language, but it will generally not give students the ability to actually speak the language. A language "exchange" program, where two people who each speak a different language, but want to learn the other's language will communicate and practice with each other, is another method that is much simpler now with voice and video communication over the Internet.

Though classroom learning was once the most common form of language education, this is changing to some extent. There are now a number of different software programs available in virtually any language imaginable, and often these can provide a thorough language education up to near fluency in the chosen language. Some will even allow users to practice their pronunciation through the microphone on a computer, or through simulated conversations. Language programs that promise fluency tend to be fairly expensive, and not all deliver fully, but may still represent a bargain compared with the cost of a traditional university language program.

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Discussion Comments
By clintflint — On Aug 08, 2014

@pastanaga - I always thought that games were the best way of teaching and reinforcing a language. I remember loving the times we would play Pictionary in my French class in high school. And I took a Spanish class for a while as an adult which was even more fun. The teacher was always dividing us into teams and having us compete in different ways, or getting us to go on "scavenger hunts" where we had to find different people in the class with different qualities, by asking them about it in Spanish.

So, for example, when we were learning about food, we had to go around and ask everyone about their preferences, so we could tick off a list of people who liked coffee and didn't like it and liked rice and didn't like it and so forth.

The only problem was that we were a fairly homogeneous group, so it wasn't always possible to get the full range of replies, but that was OK. It was also good for getting to know each other, so we weren't too nervous about speaking Spanish in class.

By pastanaga — On Aug 07, 2014

@Fa5t3r - We did a segment on language when I was training to be a teacher and one of the things they told us was that language education needs to be put into context for children to remember it. You can't just give them a list of words and expect them to learn it. But if that same list is put in the form of a song, they will pick it up very quickly.

You probably got a chance to genuinely use your words with your friends in conversation and that helped them to stick in your mind more than just passively hearing or repeating the words in class would.

By Fa5t3r — On Aug 07, 2014

I've found that words tend to stick if I learn them through friends. I had a pen pal who lived in Romania when I was 14 and I can still remember a handful of words she taught me even over a decade later. And we often had Japanese exchange students stay with us while I was growing up as there was a program for it through my school and a sister school in Japan. So I know a handful of words from that as well.

If I just see a word on TV or something, though, even if it gets repeated quite often, it never seems to stick in my mind.

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