By Caroline Fernandez
Lead German Instructor, American Public University
I love hearing the question, “How in the world could anyone learn a foreign language online?” After 10 years in the online foreign language field, I have seen unparalleled access to learning and successful outcomes for students that may never have been possible for them in a brick and mortar classroom. Whether I encounter a student based in Kansas, or a military service member based in Germany who is trying to connect with the locals, I know they will experience interactive, modern, and diverse materials from a curriculum made possible only by huge advancements in technology.
Taking a foreign language online is more intuitive than you might think. Technological advances have transitioned static content into a program that offers the actual presence of the instructor in an online classroom, complete with microphones and webcams. You may not be in the same room as the instructor, but you can hear and even see your leader. Don’t think of it as a conference call–it’s more than that. Imagine an instructor presenting a PowerPoint presentation or podcast about an important foreign language topic that’s shared with a group of students over four continents at one time. Online learning is a wonderful and effective way to collaborate when studying a new language and culture.
When working independently, students also benefit from advanced programs which immerse them in the language in all areas. One day you are doing voice recordings, and the next day, you may be recording an original video or submitting a presentation in the target language. Even the feedback you get from your professor might be in the form of an audio recording or a video file attached to the grade book for review, so you can always access it in the future, play it back, and practice. External websites are always at your fingertips to give you live interaction with native speakers in almost any country. Is it just like a traditional classroom foreign language experience? No. I believe that it’s superior in that it brings far away countries that were unreachable in the past into your own living room and into your mind.
About the Author:
Caroline Fernandez is a native South Carolinian, but her current home is in sunny, beautiful Peoria, Arizona. Her professional background is primarily in the field of Business and German. She first studied German at the age of fifteen, became an exchange student, completed college internships in Germany and Austria, and received a B.A. from Clemson University in German and Marketing in 1992. She completed her M.A. degree in German from The University of Florida in 2000. After teaching German to K-12 students for ten years, she transitioned to the college level, teaching many community college German courses. Ms. Fernandez began working in the online foreign language field in 2004, joined APUS in 2006, and has been lead German instructor since 2010.
Additionally, she has taught English as a Second language teaching learners from K-12 face to face and online.