By Paula Fallas Sanchez - President of GOES Education
“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” (Steenburgen, para. 2, 2014). Such were the words of renowned psycholinguist Frank Smith. Smith believed that the incredible opportunities that came with learning a language were worth all the struggles that a language learner might face. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of challenges to the entire world, whether financial, emotional, or physical. However, it has also brought a wave of people willing to use this time to learn a language. The conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the population’s disposition to online language learning, especially learning English, due to time acquired from reduced hours, and the increase of online teaching availability.
When the seriousness of the virus was made clear, Costa Rica instantly began a lockdown where schools, public centers, and even workplaces closed. While many people lost their jobs, companies tried to find an alternative that could be cost and health beneficent. For this matter, many workers saw that their hours of work were reduced (BLP, 2020). This meant that while the people got to maintain their out of house jobs, they were no longer working as much as they once did. It is this free time that most of the general public got that has been a leading factor in the rise of online language learning during this pandemic. Many want to be productive with their time and do something that could not only be beneficial to their careers, but also to their personal life in general.
Although learning centers had to close their buildings, learning did not stop. Many language learning businesses, as well as independent language teachers, turned to advertising their skills in a safe online way (Business Wire, 2020). The availability of language teachers in this current time is not the only plus side to this ordeal. Since almost everything is currently online, this means that people do not have to limit themselves to teachers that are near them (Business Wire, 2020). Distance is no longer an issue with virtual learning. In fact, one could get a language teacher from another country in order to ensure a more authentic learning experience (Business Wire, 2020). This factor has greatly increased the language learning market due to its flexibility not only in distance, but also in time.
Some might look at the previously mentioned facts and believe that since there has been a decrease in working hours then surely there is also a decrease in income, and, therefore, spending money on online language learning classes is not a logical outcome. Unfortunately, it is true that there has been a drastic decrease in income. While there are some free language learning platforms, most are not. Over 20% of the Costa Rican population has claimed to having lost their jobs because of the pandemic (Presidencia, 2020). While this is true, there is also another variable that should be taken into consideration. The fact of the matter is that knowing more than one language increases chances of employment (New American Economy, 2017). Many companies have affirmed that a resume that claims to know more than one language is often severely more attractive than one that is monolingual (New American Economy, 2017). This is due to how globalized our world has become which then increases the necessity for multilingual workers.
Even though the world has been going through a tough time, the human thirst for knowledge is still very present. This can be seen through the increase of online language learning that the population has taken up during this time. The time availability that the virus has brought to many people, as well as the rise in online teachers, has made online language learning more popular in the last months. This is certainly something that should be taken advantage of. Like Frank Smith once said, “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” (Steenburgen, para. 2, 2014). Let us open those doors with the power languages give us.