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On the Internet Where you Learn is as important as the What you Learn

In today’s post I would to draw some conclusions about language learning based on two studies that reached me recently.


The first study is a so-called Language Barometer language learning community busuu.com conducted amongst more than 45.000 of its users and held in March of this year. Participants could choose multiple answers and came from 230 countries.

The second one is a survey of digital publishing AG, a provider of language learning solutions based in Munich / Germany. The survey was held in February of 2012, 715 people participated in the the survey. Participants could choose one answer only and were all Germans.

Both studies cover several other points such as how people learn a foreign language, their favorite methods whether this might be online, offline or even using a mobile device and what the most requested languages are these days. However, I would like to concentrate on a point both the studies cover and which is therefore the most adequate to compare.

Both companies requested the motivation why to learn a new language with astonishingly different results. dp found out that 40% of participants made professional reasons their top priority and answered that they would most likely learn a new language for their job.

The busuu community members also see professional reasons as an important factor and thus 37% answered “for business”. Interestingly, it wasn’t their top answer nor the second choice, but a whopping 46% of busuu users answered “for traveling” followed by “for fun” scoring a strong 38% of the total of answers.

In dp’s survey the fun factor does not even appear, we can only assume that it can be found somewhere in the remaining 12% of other reasons. The top argument of traveling seems to be much less appealing to dp customers. Only a mere 22% answered with holidays.

How could one explain this big gap in motivation?

One answer can certainly be found in the positioning of both companies. Whereas busuu is an online community for learning languages, dp claims to be the perfect way to learn a language. Although dp also has private people as users of their software and online solutions, they go more after the corporate market. busuu also has a paid offer, one can for instance buy apps for mobile learning, they focus much more on the community element and social learning via language exchange with conversation partners.

What the results of both surveys show is that learning a foreign language for business is

  • a) highly motivational (it would be interesting to look deeper into the demographics here) and
  • b) not limited to “professional” solutions, but that a large number of learners in a language learning community also has a somewhat serious objective in mind.
  • The other answers seem to be much more in line of what one would expect: in a language learning community one learns for traveling, for fun and for meeting other people. The social interaction and peer learning are very strong. People tend to choose a professional platform for more serious reasons such as work, going abroad (for the job) or because they have a partner who speaks another language.

    Social interaction plays a much smaller role. In the end, the where you learn seems to be almost as important as the what you learn.

    Picture: Books/dictionaries of different languages via Shutterstock

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