Information for Learners
What is Autonomous Language Learning?
Learning a foreign language through autonomous language study differs significantly from learning a foreign language in a traditional classroom setting -- you are your own teacher. Your success depends on how motivated and committed you remain throughout the study process. Your progress in the language is determined by the number of hours you are willing to spend daily on the learning materials and your participation in the sessions with the tutor. Throughout your foreign language study, the ALLNet staff will support you in developing the skills necessary for autonomous language learning, such as
- understanding the purpose of your learning program
- accepting responsibility for your learning
- defining your language learning goals
- planning and executing learning activities
- regularly reviewing your progress
Upon admission into the program, the ALLNet director will help you develop an individualized language study plan. You will be provided with two types of learning resources: learning materials and a tutor to practice speaking and listening skills in the language you are studying.
Who is eligible?
- Applicants must be affiliated with the University of Iowa (student, faculty, and staff). They must have a clearly defined plan for using the language in their academic work or future career;
- They must be committed to self-directed language study;
- All languages are eligible for study except those currently offered through regular or distance-education courses at the University of Iowa;
- Only those applications for which adequate learning materials and tutors are available will be approved.
How to apply
The application process has three stages:
- Learners wishing to participate in ALLNet should complete an application form. Applications will be evaluated according to learners' interests and qualifications.
- The ALLNet director will determine the availability of appropriate learning materials and tutors for your proposed language.
- Learners will be informed of the status of their application in 2 – 3 weeks, and at that time they will be invited for an interview. Their final acceptance into the program will depend on the availability of learning materials and tutors.
Tutors are recruited from the international student population and trained by the ALLNet director. Students meet with their tutor for two hours a week. The purpose of the session with the tutor is to review and practice materials students have studied on their own. In general, the tutors check students' pronunciation, provide cultural information, and practice in conversation what the students have already learned from the learning materials.
Tutors try to avoid using English during tutorial sessions to increase students' exposure to target languages. The students are expected to attend all tutoring sessions and to be properly prepared for each session.
If, for any reason, the students have to miss the practice sessions, they need to contact the tutors in advance.
Please note that the tutorial sessions emphasize the development of speaking and listening skills. This focus may be reduced if the student's interest is primarily in learning to write and read the target language.
ALLNet staff will make every possible effort to locate suitable learning materials for the foreign language and your level of proficiency. Depending on the language that you wish to study, your choice of materials might be limited and restricted to certain instructional types (textbooks, for example, might not be available for a particular language).
Since the ALLNet language service promotes learner autonomy in all aspects of language learning, we expect you to be actively involved in the search for appropriate learning materials. You will find additional instructional materials (grammars, dictionaries, phrase books) in the University of Iowa Main Library and the Iowa City public library. Authentic materials, i.e., resources produced for native speakers of the language such as radio broadcasts, newspapers, and maps, are often available online. There is also a language resource page with online resources for all of the languages currently offered by ALLNet.
Evaluating your own progress is an essential part of autonomous language learning. Your comments are important for identifying potential problems in the future. Please be frank and honest in your responses and comments.
You will be asked to complete and submit a weekly evaluation to ALLNet . Completing the evaluation will help you to reflect on and assess your progress. In the evaluation you will collect information about what you did, how it relates to the goals of your study, what new vocabulary and grammar you learned, and what questions you still have. At the end of the semester you may meet with the ALLNet director and discuss your progress based on your evaluations.
In addition, the ALLNet director will keep records of your performance. You may ask the ALLNet director at any time to see your record.
- Active participation in your language study: be prepared to locate additional language materials, draft your own syllabus, and be the one in charge of your own learning;
- Weekly preparation for tutorial sessions before attending a session with your tutor: you must have thoroughly prepared all learning materials relevant for the meeting;
- Regular attendance of tutorial sessions;
- Weekly completion of an online evaluation;
- Final evaluation report at the end of the semester.
Keys to Success
Practice the language
The number of hours per week devoted to language practice will determine your success. Proficiency is directly dependent on regular and frequent use of the language. You must devote time to your language practice on a daily basis. Be sure to master all materials in the lesson before your session with the tutor. Merely reading over the dialogues, exercises, and grammar explanations will not accomplish this. In order for the language to become entirely assimilated, you must repeat the audio material very frequently, until listening to the language and speaking has become natural to you. When you can understand and respond properly to all text/audio materials without hesitation, error, or prompting, you have begun to internalize the material.
Explore language and culture
You have many options to learn about the language and its culture: newspapers, radio broadcasts, and music CDs are just a few examples of how you can maximize your exposure to the language. Web based materials often provide good resources to study the geographical and cultural context in which the language is used. Practice the language not only with your tutor but also when you meet or correspond with other native speakers. Find other learners of the language in your community and start a conversation group. Be creative!
Evaluate your progress
You are the one in charge of your learning. Evaluating your progress will emphasize your achievements and motivate you to continue studying.
Ways to help you decide how you are doing include:
- Your weekly reflections on when and how you study your target language: your comments are an important part of your self-evaluation and will help us identify and address problems or concerns;
- Feedback from your tutor during practice sessions;
- Feedback from the ALLNet director based on your final evaluation.