To sync or be async — language learning secrets

An illustration of a student learning online with two computers in front of him

There are two main ways to increase language skills through practical conversations. These are synchronous and asynchronous language learning. One ain’t better than the other, but they sure are different. It’s a lot to navigate in, so let’s take a closer look at them and understand the advantages and disadvantages.

Synchronous learning

Synchronous learning requires simultaneous attendance at scheduled meetings or classes. While this could be in person in a traditional classroom, the term is most often applied to online courses. Here’s where synchronous learning may happen:

  • Video conferencing (think Microsoft Teams or Zoom)
  • Live chatting (for example LMS chat rooms) 
  • Live-streamed videos
  • Even demonstrations that take place in real life, like with Joey here…
Language learning with Joey from Friends

The good it does for language learning

Briefly, some of the pros of taking a synchronous language learning class:

  • Quick responses from instructors
  • Structured classroom experience

The bad and the ugly, oh yeah!

And what are pros without cons, right? So, here are the shortcomings of real-time language learning class:

  • Scheduling meeting times
  • Needs strong internet connection
  • Can be hard to speak up
  • Needs a quiet place for the entire meeting

Asynchronous language learning

If synchronous language learning takes place at the same time, asynchronous learning refers to the opposite. Teachers and students are not engaged in the learning process at the same time.

In fact, asynchronous learning uses other tools and systems to allow instructors and students to interact on their own schedules. These may include:

  • Recorded presentations, such as slideshows and videos
  • Video messaging tools like VideoBit or Flipgrid
  • Email exchanges 
  • Discussion boards (often embedded within the learning management systems like Google Classroom) 
  • Social media groups
  • Cloud-based collaborative documents

The good

Next, let’s go over some of the pros when learning languages asynchronously:

  • Schedule flexibility
  • Individually dictated pace
  • More democratic
  • More accessible
  • And more time with the material

The bad, but not so ugly when it comes to language learning

Of course, nothing good is without some of the bad. So, here are some of the cons when it comes to learning languages without being in sync:

  • Independent learning difficulties
  • More distractions (of course not you, Netflix)
  • And even challenges with procrastination

Let’s wrap it up, kids

A woman closing laptop lid in the middle of a live language learning sessionn

In conclusion, if you can motivate yourself to learn languages, then asynchronous learning beats being in sync. A good async video communication tool for language learning is VideoBit. And it’s also for language exchange and free for students. Furthermore, we recommend learners to combine it with Duolingo challenges. Because let’s be honest — this app is awesome. And we don’t even get paid to say that.

Happy learning!