The challenges and opportunities for autodidacts under lockdown 

Under the coronavirus pandemic there are various things we are not able to do. In addition to the day-to-day stress, the students or self learners who are learning foreign languages are facing challenges in which they cannot directly communicate with their teachers and friends as much as they used to. What are the challenges for autodidacts under lockdown?


When you are not surrounded by other people, it is hard to maintain your motivation without visual cues. 

“Visual cues are like signals from other people that we are coming together, and all go to be there at the same time, says Carmel O’Reilly, lecturer of French and English studies at Technological University Dublin. 

When students do not have to attend classes, they are missing the visual cues to raise their motivation levels up; they do not see their friends going to their class, opening their books, and putting away their mobile phones. 

However, there are some positive aspects for all autodidacts who would like to improve their second or third languages.

Learning without communication 

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“The first thing is that we learn a foreign language because ultimately our own goal is to interact with people who are native speakers of that language or we want to interact with other foreign people in the medium of that foreign language,” O’Reilly said. 

In the first place, language is for communication, and interaction with people. But like many language leaners might be aware of, it requires time, engagement and courage to admit your mistakes. In the pilgrimage of your learning process, people often set their highest goal in natural conversation with native speakers. And of course, there is a long way to reach that revel. 

“A learner needs to have some basic language — they need to have some basic vocabulary, basic grammar, how to use verbs in general, in the past, in the present, how to ask questions, they need to know some basic pronunciation,” she said. 

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Learning from scratch is always tough. You need time. But under a lockdown in which there is supposed to be a little bit more flexibility, why not try? 

“Assuming people are at home with little else to do, there are lots of occasions and opportunities for them to practice their inchoate or for that matter practiced skills,” says Marc Gallagher, lecturer in Irish Cultural Studies at Technological University Dublin. 

Our language skills can also be improved without communicating with people. 

“Interacting with other people to practice your oral skills combines your listening, your pronunciation, and a little bit of grammar, and a little bit of reading — it combines all of those things,” O’Reilly said. Hence, the way of learning can also be changed flexibly no matter what situation we are in. 

“Well, speaking is central to the process, but I learned German by studying grammar, learning vocabulary items, reading everything I could get my hands on and finally attempting to utter some words on the occasions that presented themselves,” Gallagher said. 

Creative ways 

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Then, what is the homework for autodidacts under lockdown? First, there is no need to be afraid not to interact with native speakers. 

“It’s very useful to practice reading along with the listening because sometimes words are not pronounced the way they are spelled. So you need to combine a little bit of listening with a reading. But I think the good way to practice is using something that you can listen to that’s available online, something that allows you to pronounce. But you have to do that yourself, you have to practice speaking out loud even if nobody can hear you,” O’Reilly said. 

In this digital media age, technology is always with you. Duolingo, Busuu, Babbel and other apps will support you to enhance your foreign languages. They will keep you busy by sending a reminder everyday — unless you turn off notifications. 

Paper lovers can also “write letters to themselves and post them”, said Gallagher. 

“It was thrilling to await the arrival of a letter to oneself,” Gallagher added. 

There are many positive aspects for autodidacts under lockdown. After the period of lockdown ends, it will be the time for them to test their skills by interacting with native speakers. Until then, do you have any additional tips for solo language learning? Let us know!


Callie Hardy
Callie Hardy

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