It’s been exactly a decade since the last foreign language class I took. I was a student on a study abroad in Berlin taking German courses at the Goethe Institut on Neue Schönhauser Strasse. My time in Berlin was unique. I ended up getting sick, being hospitalized, and missing most of my coursework. I had to make up one of my classes and withdraw from another. But I still got to live in a different place where people spoke a language different from my own. And that was a very valuable experience for me.
Because of my lack of classtime—and because my time as a foreign language student was so long ago—I haven’t been exposed to many technologies foreign-language teachers use these days. When I was in my language courses, we were still largely relying on printed pieces of paper with cartoon dialogues. Sometimes we’d have to go to a computer lab and use one of the old colorful iMacs to work through a multimedia module. I’m sure these would seem pretty primitive by today’s standards. Most of the time, we’d just practice speaking to each other and to our teacher.
When I was in Berlin, I tried to use my German to get around, but I never felt confident in it. I wonder if I were to study German now if things would be any different. I wonder if I were to use some of the technologies we’ve discussed in class if it would help me feel like I could communicate better or give me more authentic practice. I have to think it would.