Updated: Oct 3
The key difference between a language app and a messaging app used within the context of language learning, is that with the latter, there is another human being – the teacher, i.e. yours truly – at the other end!
Not only is WhatsApp a very practical tool for scheduling lessons and a convenient plan B when Skype/Zoom/Google Meets don’t work, but crucially, it is a lifeline between my students and myself.
From the word go, they know they can send me any question they might have in-between lessons. I'd much rather they didn't wait, so that they can practise the language actively without me. And if the answer requires a lengthy explanation, I leave it for the following lesson.
PRACTISING THE LANGUAGE
From the very first time we meet, I encourage each and everyone of my students to use the language they're learning in their messages, even if it's just to say ''Coucou'' (''Hi there'') or ''Buona serata'' (''Have a good evening'') to begin with.
Gradually, they grow confident and get used to a different keyboard (and potentially accents as well). The more language points my students acquire, the more they introduce them in their messages (with helpful reminders from me, where necessary!), and the more confident they become.
HAVING FUN WHILE LEARNING
I regularly send my students links to a wide range of learning resources, from series, documentaries, and movies to reading recommendations, podcasts, radio shows, crosswords, blog posts, articles, etc.
Hardly a week passes by without my sending them a link, or without a student, in turn, sharing a new resource I immediately forward to those of my students who will enjoy, and benefit the most from it.
UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
I also share with students any article or picture which will help them get a better understanding of the culture and the country. Inevitably, and to my great delight, they send me pictures of their homes and families abroad, of the books they're reading in the original language or the latest programme they've been watching without subtitles for the first time in their life.
Many a language learning milestone is celebrated on WhatsApp, as well as personal ones. My phone is filled with pictures of newborn children and grandchildren, of wedding and birthday celebrations, of holidays and new pets, to name but a few examples.
This is the use of technology at its best: to communicate and bond over a shared goal and interest. For my students and I to get to know each other and for them to feel supported, as they should. For me to boost their spirit and introduce humour in the learning process and, from time to time - where relevant - to make a couple of corrections and remind them of key grammatical rules. Once a teacher...
Don't hesitate to send me your questions.