Does Learning Language Online Really Work?

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Living in a globalised  world, technology has made our lives  easier and connects us all around the world. We can do grocery shopping online and have them sent right in front of our door or stream movie and enjoy it at home on a cold Saturday night (I know, winter is coming!). At Chatterbox we are language learning service powered by refugees’ talent. Our classes and community are not limited only to those who are based in London, we also offer an online lesson.

The online language learning industry is rapidly growing, but to many people it is still a relatively new concept. Some learners are skeptical, does learning a language online really work?

As someone who is interested in education and educational technology, I set out to research why students choose this method and the benefits of learning a language online. Here is what I found out…

More flexibility in learning

First, you have more flexibility, you can choose where the lesson is and it’s easier to fit it in at a time that suits you. Learning a language is something that requires time and consistency. You need to invest your time at least once or twice a week to practice, and everybody knows that is not easy for people who have a full-time job and a tight schedule.

“The average commute time worldwide is 40 minutes while the average in London is as long as 74 minutes. The average UK employee spends £146 on their monthly commute. Time and money are saved when you take a lesson online.”

It is easier to squeeze a Skype lesson into your schedule than one that is in-person because you don’t have to travel there. The average commute time worldwide is 40 minutes while the average in London is as long as 74 minutes (source). The average UK employee spends £146 on their monthly commute (source). Time and money are saved when you take a lesson online! For example, with Chatterbox you’re able to practice a language with a native speaker without even having to leave your home. Plus, there are several time slots for you to choose allowing you to manage your own schedule.

What about the quality of the lesson? Is it comparable to a face-to-face lesson?

Skype lessons offer you exactly what a face-to-face lesson does - sight, audio and interaction. What’s more is that you will be studying in a less-distracting environment; studying in a café you might get distracted by all the noises and people around you. As long as you have a stable internet connection you’re ready to go. Earphones and a microphone are also useful for listening and pronunciation practice.

Some face-to-face tutoring is conducted with textbooks and worksheets, while a Skype lesson generally focuses mostly on verbal practice. This is often considered the fastest and  most effective way to learn a language. Benny Lewis, an author and a polyglot, suggests that having conversation practice with native speakers is a crucial step in language learning (source). If your primary goal in learning a new language is to be able to communicate in that language, then it is no doubt that a Skype lesson is a high-quality, effective option.

Connect with a tutor who shares your interests from anywhere in the world, and with Chatterbox change a refugee’s life at the same time

"The lessons with Hala have been great - she is an excellent teacher: patient, intelligent and pleasant to talk to. I have been very happy with the lessons so far and would enthusiastically recommend Chatterbox to others (in fact, I have done so on a number of occasions!). I like the convenience of Skype, as well as the opportunity to help people who are new arrivals to the UK." - Andrew, Arabic student

Above is feedback from a Chatterbox learner, Andrew, who had an Arabic conversation practice with our tutor, Hala. What the lesson has to offer is more than just a language session. By having a native-speaking conversation partner, learners get to learn language and culture, and at the same time be a part of supporting refugees who are newcomers to the society.

At Chatterbox we are on a mission to tap into the underutilised talent in the refugee community, at the same time addressing the shortage of language skills in the UK and around Europe. We match refugees’ talent, the skills they bring with them, with the demand for their language skills. Chatterbox tutors come from a variety of professional backgrounds, we match them to learners who work or are interested in the same space. It is easier to talk about things you are already interested in! Learning new words, exchanging cultures and stories.


"The lessons with Hala have been great - she is an excellent teacher: patient, intelligent and pleasant to talk to. I have been very happy with the lessons so far and would enthusiastically recommend Chatterbox to others (in fact, I have done so on a number of occasions!). I like the convenience of Skype, as well as the opportunity to help people who are new arrivals to the UK."

Online lessons allow us to connect with refugees around the world who are willing to share knowledge of their own languages with people who are interested in learning that skill. An online lesson takes out the geographical barrier. Right now Chatterbox has refugee tutors who are based in London, Paris, Turkey and the United States. We plan to continue expanding our reach and our ultimate goal is to provide career opportunities to refugees who reside in refugee camps where there is currently little to no opportunity to find employment.

By taking an online lesson with Chatterbox, you have the opportunity to learn a language with a native speaker whilst also being a part of the solution to the problem of underemployment among refugees.

Now that you are convinced that learning language online really does work! Here’s how to make the most of your experience...

Bonus: Top tips

Topic: When booking a lesson with tutors, list a topic you are especially interested in and want to talk about. That way your tutor can prepare beforehand what is to be included in the lesson.

Talk and Practice: Don’t be shy! To learn a language well you should practice, so open your mouth and don’t be afraid to get it wrong. The tutor is there to correct and help you. Some timid learners might find taking lessons through Skype is less intimidating than a face-to-face lesson. So, again, don’t be afraid to talk and practice. Casually try to converse in the language you’re learning and avoid English.

Review: Try not to shut down your laptop right away after the lesson ends. Review what you have learned today. Take note of what tutor wrote to you in the Skype chat box. A conversation lesson is surely effective but revising afterwards will prepare you even better for your next session!


Written by Natchaya Wechpanom, an enthusiast education developer. Originally from Thailand, she came to do a Master in Education in London and that was when she became an intern at Chatterbox. Find Nat on LinkedIn or contact her directly through her email; natchaya@wearechatterbox.org.