Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

3 Choices in “Disruptive” Language Learning

Disruption "Disruption" by Jean-Marie Dru was published in 1996 and is therefore not a new concept. In educational circles, however, it's a new trend and the education blogger Kirsten Winkler often writes about digital disruption in her blog. 

It's no surprise that language learners are also being impacted by - and by in large are benefiting from - the ever snowballing movement for "disruptive innovation in education." It affects even those of us who are no longer in school or college.

In order to engage with other cultures, to travel, to live or work abroad, many people are eagerly learning a second or third language. Until a few years ago, our options were mostly limited to slugging through a textbook on our own, attending Continuing Education evening classes, hiring a private tutor, or buying expensive language learning CDs and DVDs.

Now with the Internet as a disruptive force, our choices have mushroomed.


It means, that we can put the large cookie-cutter style language programs aside and have fun with an array of fresh products created by innovative language learning companies.

Anyone learning a new language has to make a start. One way is to learn a series of relevant words or phrases that will be useful forever. And if you want to stick with it, you have to find a way to really engage.


voxy Another approach is to practice with content that is time- and place relevant - such as daily news articles that interest you. For example, is a platform that uses daily news to create short lessons that you can access from mobile devices any time during the day. At the moment Voxy only offers English for Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese speakers, but more languages are in the works.


Because it provides easy access to native speakers, this approach has gained popularity quickly. Ideally, with such a program you can pace yourself, learn from live feed-back, and start creating social contacts in your new language.

For example, besides providing free language-learning, is also a crowd-sourced learning platform. At the moment Duolingo offers 5 languages: English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese.


Skype, and Apple's video chat app called "FaceTime" provide the tools to have live, face to face conversations with foreign friends and language exchange partners. Various companies provide language services using these technologies, but you can also set up conversations on your own!

Go for it!

Not everybody will feel comfortable with these new approaches. For others, these programs are great additions to more traditional learning materials. Users of Internet-based language programs seem to be mostly a younger crowd (which includes the thirty-somethings).

Is that because they have grown up using computers for learning and like trying out things on the Internet? Whatever the reason, new approaches can take the “chore” out of language learning. That’s a good thing. So go for it: Try one way of learning, or try them all. You can’t lose.