Learn Languages in the Classroom, at Home or on the Go

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By Dominique McIndoe

“To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world,” the ancient Chinese proverb proclaims.

Expanding knowledge through learning languages can undoubtedly broaden intellect and cultural and social worldviews. Learning a foreign language doesn’t have to be confined to a grade school or high school classroom, and it’s never too late in life to seek knowledge. Increasing linguistic skills, even during this period of limited travel, is a valuable investment for people of all ages and life situations. Following is a list of language learning opportunities curated especially for residents of Prince William.

Northern Virginia Community College

NOVA is a hub for those who seek the structured classroom route. The Manassas, Woodbridge and Annandale campuses offer prospective students eight languages and cultures to study: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. The Annandale campus has a dedicated World Languages program where students can take classes in person, online or both. Level placement in a language class depends on the students’ proficiency and prior knowledge of the language, which is assessed through a placement test. Whether working toward an associate’s degree or seeking professional or personal development, NOVA seeks to immerse current and prospective students in worldwide cultures and critical language skills. To learn more about enrolling at one of NOVA’s campuses, visit nvcc.edu.

Prince William Public Library

The PWPL Digital Library provides free access to thousands of online and digital resources including the language-learning databases Pronunciator and Rocket Languages. To access these portals, Prince William residents can use their Digital Library Card (or sign up for one at pwcgov.org). This all can be done from
the comfort of a remote location, and the process of registration is free.

Pronunciator is an online language-learning resource that’s fun and free to try. Learn any of 163 languages — both common and uncommon — through personalized courses, movies and music. Languages like Romanian, Mexican Sign Language, Afrikaans and Urdu are at your fingertips with the click of computer keyboard or the swipe of a mobile device. Pronunciator includes new, self-directed COVID-19 language courses in 101 languages, designed to assist the general public and health-care providers in communicating relevant vocabulary and phrases in multiple languages.

Rocket Languages is also a helpful language-learning product that has been going strong since 2004. Though not free, the program offers 14 languages courses, as well as an ESL (English as a second language) component, that use real-world conversations to teach the important grammar, vocabulary and  pronunciation of a chosen language. Rocket Languages also reinforces how to speak, read and write in a target language through engaging lessons. The online program offers in-depth tools and 120 hours of focused lessons per level that keep users motivated and on track with studies at their own pace. Access this program and pricing through the PWPL Digital Library.


For those who are on the go or who want their language learning in bite-sized pieces, the free Duolingo app is the way to go. Created in 2012 and available on Apple, Android and computers, Duolingo offers 35+ languages in mini lesson plans based on individualized learning and personalized linguistic education. Italian, Navajo, Hebrew, Swahili, Irish, Greek, Korean and the ancient language of Latin, are among the course options that users can navigate. Though users can certainly get the most out of the free application, there is the option to upgrade to Duolingo Plus that provides a few extra perks like an ad-free experience and offline courses for a small fee.

Duolingo’s mission is to give users of all ages access to a private tutor experience through technology, provide an enjoyable experience through the game-like features and foster long-term retention in learners through written and oral comprehension lessons. Users have the chance to study multiple languages at once and all progress is tracked with points, plaques, crowns and “lingots” (virtual currency).

In addition to the quizzes and assessments that earn you points as you go, Duolingo provides other award-based methods to engross you in your chosen language. Interactive stories and prompts, as well as podcasts and competitions, further develop conversational language skills. The progression is rewarding and the interface is enjoyable enough to distract you from the reality that you are, indeed, learning.

Dominique McIndoe (mcindoe@princewilliamliving.com) is an assistant production editor at Rowman & Littlefield and a longtime writer.


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