It is undeniable that online language training has indeed influenced parents' perceptions of education. As an online education practitioner, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the experience of online language education for children.
Motivation for language learning
Parents in different countries and regions have varied reasons for letting their children learn languages online. Here, we will only discuss English learning in China and nonnative Mandarin learning.
1. The main reason for most Chinese parents to let their children learn a second language comes from their studies anxiety. Whether it is to take the college entrance exam, or to study abroad in an international school, spoken English is a skill that must be mastered.
2. Changes in learning philosophy. Over the years, under the influence of the publicity of language training institutions, more and more parents have a deeper understanding of language learning. It is true that children are more likely to acquire a language in the early years when they are between the ages of 0 and 12. The structuralist linguistic approach to reading and problem solving has been "proven" to be an inefficient method of language learning for young learners. I am not evaluating the merits of learning theories here. What I am trying to say is that parents have developed a conception that "listening" and "speaking" are essential in language learning.
3. Ethnic Chinese value the Chinese language and culture. The largest market for online Mandarin education is overseas ethnic Chinese. Parents' attachment to the Chinese language and culture and the idea of "keeping roots" are the main motivation for overseas ethnic Chinese youth to learn mandarin.
4. The increase in China's international influence these years is a major factor for some foreigners to raise their children to learn Chinese at an early age.
Effectiveness of online language learning
By understanding the motivation for learning, we can more specifically talk about the learning goals and the results parents expect. So, what kind of online children's education do parents want? These questions require a consensus between practitioners and parents.
1. Input or output?
Many people will say, without input, how can we talk about output? Absolutely, input is the foundation. Obtaining a language requires the accumulation of vocabulary and grammar knowledge. This process of language knowledge accumulation is done in daily life and in the school classroom. Online language learning as additional electives, with a frequency of about two or three lessons a week, should focus on getting children to express the words and sentences they already remembered from off-line.
2. Does the perfect teacher exist?
The “perfect teacher portrait” has always been a topic of exploration for language training institutions. As the most important part of the closed-loop of online education, the teacher plays a decisive role in the learning effect.
Currently, there are some AI courses and stream classes, which lack the "real interaction" compared to one-on-one teaching. Many children are initially attracted by the childlike user interface but lose interest quickly, due to the "feedback mechanism" missing.
Teachers have different personalities, accents, and teaching methods, so there is no absolute "perfect" teacher. I believe that the core value of online education is for the teacher to build an emotional connection with the students. When a child likes a teacher, he or she becomes enthusiastic about learning, thus the learning behavior will continue. However, what the teacher should do to establish and maintain this connection is another topic that can be dived into. I won't go into details here.
3. Content is king?
Content, teachers, and delivery platforms are the three main elements of online language training. In fact, most of the teaching materials on the market are similar. Commonly, the content is structured around scenarios and topics, with different levels of vocabulary, sentence, and grammar knowledge.
Whether it is Chinese or English, as long as the content is practical and error-free, it is a qualified textbook. Activities and exercises are designed to be useful only if the teacher incorporates them effectively in the classroom. As for some gamification features of the platform, just icing on the cake, should not be overemphasized. A stable connection, smooth video, and user-friendly interface are supposed to be all we need.
I have been working in the online education industry for more than 6 years, delving into the area of lesson quality control and academic training. Years of practice have proven that online class is an effective way for young learners to learn a second language. Whether English or mandarin, with persistence, you will see a significant outcome in children’s learning. The results are not simply a matter of remembering how many words and reciting how many sentences. It is the development of a genuine interest in learning a language that will support your child's continuous learning throughout the rest of their education.
Feel free to leave comments in the comments section to discuss related topics with me!