Why We Need Accessible Foreign Language Learning?

A girl with brown hair on a laptop with white scribbled speech bubbles in the background around her, saying:
[ Image Description: A girl with brown hair on a laptop with white scribbled speech bubbles in the background around her, saying: ” Hello”, “Hallo”, “Hola”, ” Bonjour”,  and “Ola”. ]
In seventh grade, I took a Spanish class because it was suggested for me to learn the language for future job prospects. My family members always told me how important it was to learn Spanish since America has a huge amount of Spanish speakers. As I started to take the class, everything was fine when I did the reading and writing portion. It was the speaking portion that was a challenge! I could not pronounce a single Spanish word correctly as it frustrated me that I wasn’t getting the language quicker, like my hearing peers. Being a Hard-Of-Hearing student taking Spanish was tough! I dropped out of the class due to getting bad marks. Since then, I never bothered to take Spanish again. I opted for Latin when I got to high school when I needed to fulfil the language requirement. Fast forward to today, I felt mature and ready to try Spanish again.
It didn’t occur to me that what I really needed was a different way for me to learn the language. So I searched one day to find a language app that would fit my needs. As I searched on the internet, I encountered an app called “Duolingo”, which is a very popular language learning app. I was at first, going to dismiss this app if the app emphasises on listening and speaking exercises. However, I found out a lot of D/deaf and HOH people adore this app for one reason: The option to skip listening and speaking exercises. In the end, I ended up giving this app a shot which put me back on the road to learning an additional language.
What I learned from all this is that access to learning to foreign languages are important. A good advantage about Duolingo is that it gives options to learn the language differently. However, this is not about just Duolingo. Turning away D/deaf and HOH people from learning a language is wrong. I realise that there is a need for foreign language learning to be accessible.
While there are many resources out there to learn foreign languages, there are things that mobile language learning apps can do to make foreign language learning accessible to the D/deaf and HOH.
  1.  Make sure there are visual aids to guide learning.
Much like in a classroom setting, D/deaf and HOH people may need visual aids to help them with language learning. Closed Captioning or Subtitles can be helpful. Sometimes they need a sign language interpreter if they are signers.
  1. Don’t put emphasis on speaking and listening.
As said before, Duolingo makes speaking and listening exercises optional. This is great if you still want to continue the learning a language if you are in a quiet place. Some people cannot learn auditory, which it can be helpful for them to process and retain information better.
  1. Ask for feedback.
In my previous post about captioning, try to get feedback from the community to improve learning. Improvements and adjustments can make your mobile apps better.
As I will continue my journey to learn Spanish, I am more confident learning the language now compared to when I was in seventh grade. Language learning apps are rise and business are finding the value of learning a second language. It would be a shame if D/deaf and HOH miss out on these opportunities if there aren’t more accessible language apps, like Duolingo.

5 thoughts on “Why We Need Accessible Foreign Language Learning?

  1. /* Slightly edited from the original: */
    My high school foreign language instruction left a lot of room for improvement. I took several years of German from several different teachers of varying quality: one of those teachers had an obsession with sentence structure and kept the classroom speaking portion to a minimum – not good. I don't regret taking German but if I could do it all over again I would have taken Spanish instead. I hope Duolingo works out for you; you've piqued my interest in it and I may check it out myself.


  2. Very good point. Between 3 years of Spanish classes, spending a lot of time South of the border I managed to speak pretty good Spanish when I was younger. Then we moved to Hawaii and I began learning Hawaiian, and when I was promoted to international sales, Japanese. Regardless of the system or tools, what I found to be the fastest way to learn was to use it. For example, my business trips to Japan always latest at least 3 weeks and during that time I'd spend as much time practicing with the “locals” as I could.


  3. This is so important, the world is getting smaller and smaller, and more people are immigrating form on area to another. Eventually, we must communicate with each other.
    With communication, comes understand.


  4. Speaking two or more languages should be encouraged in schools. It is a shame you had a negative early experience studying Spanish. We cannot have a “One size fits all” approach as we all learn so differently. What works for one does not necessarily work for another.


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