Ways to engage foreign language learners using tech tools
Keeping your students engaged in their language lessons can be challenging – we get it.
They need to work toward fluency in their new language, so they can take advantage of the benefits of multilingualism. But students aren’t always as interested in their education as we’d like them to be.
If your language students are paying attention to anything but your language lessons, keep reading.
Foreign language learners often get frustrated if they’re struggling to progress. Low engagement can also result from sheer boredom or communication barriers that come with remote learning.
In fact, overcoming those barriers and forming a stronger student-teacher relationship is the number one strategy teachers of all grade levels can focus on to improve student engagement.
Easier said than done though, right?
No matter why you’re looking for new ways to engage foreign language learners, we have a few ideas that might help.
Technology can enhance the language learning experience for students and teachers in several meaningful ways.
This article outlines multiple ways you can use tech tools in your world language classroom to engage students more and improve their language education. These tips work for native English speakers learning a second language, as well as English language learners (ELLs) starting with a different home language.
With these free and paid tech options, you can fill gaps in your lesson plans and engage your students in immersive, enjoyable language-learning activities.
3 tech-based strategies to engage language students
We want to help you encourage your language learners to connect on a deeper level with their target language – whether it’s their second language or their fourth – so they can succeed in class, and you can get your job done without going bananas.
Here are three key ways to meet foreign language students where they’re at, and coax them into actively learning new language skills without having to drag them along.
1. Use gamification to make language learning more fun and creative
When language lessons feel more like games than study hall, students naturally have more fun with their language education and engage more easily. Allowing creativity also helps big time.
You can use free EdTech tools to gamify your language class more often. Try these out:
DuoLingo: Students can earn points and level up in the game by completing language exercises at their own pace.
Virtual Pictionary: Remote learners can practice their new language vocabulary by playing Pictionary with a virtual whiteboard.
Influent: This online virtual world lets you explore different countries and click around on objects to discover new words in your target language.
Words With Friends: This isn’t just for English learners! The popular word game lets you choose which language you want to play in, so your students can use the app to play with native speakers playing in their same target language.
Interactive Storytelling: Partner students together and have them write a story in the target language. They can take turns writing sentences, making for a fun, creative learning game. You could do this in-person with paper, or virtually with a shared Google doc or an online learning platform like HiLink.
2. Add social-emotional learning activities to language lessons
Students who don't engage enough with your foreign language class might need encouragement on a more personal level.
Low confidence, for example, can cause a student to feel uncomfortable speaking out loud just in their native language, not to mention the target language.
Or if you're teaching remotely on a regular basis, students might have a hard time engaging because they feel isolated at home alone.
Luckily, recent research shows that when teachers bring basic social-emotional learning (SEL) activities into their lesson plans, student engagement improves.
We've gone into detail about how virtual educators can teach SEL in a previous post, but here are a few language-specific SEL activities to help you engage foreign language learners:
Personal language goals: You can help boost student motivation and their language acquisition by allowing them to set specific goals for their language education. For example, while your standard lesson plan for one week might focus on phrases to express basic needs, you can have each student come up with their own list of phrases they would like to nail down for themselves.
Icebreaker activities: Encouraging students to feel comfortable with one another can be a great way to incorporate SEL into your language class and improve students’ engagement. Because interaction is particularly important in language learning, playing simple, silly icebreaker games as a class can encourage your students to get more familiar with their peers and loosen up to the idea of participating in language practice as a group. Icebreaker activities you could do in class, either virtually or in-person, include asking easy questions like “what's your favorite word in the new language?,” or partnering students up to have a quick icebreaker chat at the beginning of class.
Virtual room tours: Help your remote students feel valued as individuals by letting them share their home learning space with the class. Depending on their language skills, you can encourage them to describe their room using vocabulary from the target language.
3. Make conversation practice easier with online communities
As a language teacher, you already know that encouraging your students to practice their new language skills in real-world situations is essential. But of course, students aren’t always up to the task.
Let’s fix that.
Whether you have a shy high schooler who doesn’t feel comfortable with their peers, or you’re teaching a college language course with students who are eager to fit in extra practice time, technology has made it a lot easier for foreign language classroom teachers to overcome these challenges.
Language learners can use tech to find practice methods that fit their personal learning styles, become immersed in real conversations, and improve student understanding of the language.
Your shy student, for example, might feel more comfortable doing virtual “language exchange” exercises with an international language partner rather than a native English-speaking peer from their class.
Several websites are available to help you find native speakers throughout the world to connect with as volunteer language partners. Here are the top options for finding online pen pals who participate in language exchange partnerships:
Engage foreign language learners virtually with HiLink
Technologies like the DuoLingo app and the Conversation Exchange website are wonderful language-learning supplements that can help you engage your students in real ways.
And when you need a learning platform to bring it all together, try HiLink. It gives you the virtual teaching tools you need to bring foreign language lessons to remote students without losing their interest. From virtual whiteboards to group breakout rooms, HiLink has it all for virtual language classrooms.
If tech-based teaching is your game, HiLink is the name to remember. English speakers and ELL students alike will thank you for it.
Contact us for a free demo today!