Are you tech-saavy? The great importance of knowing how to use computers and the Internet to learn English

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Well, if you are reading this chances are that you know how to use computers and how to browse the Internet really well. I imagine using Facebook, Twitter and your email account is second nature to you. You know how to register on websites, how to search for information and content on Google, and how to write messages on forums.

I also imagine that if you ever find a website you've never seen before, or if you download a program you've never used before, then you have the will to learn, explore, and try different things there (to "tinker" with the thing, as some would say) to learn to use that new resource you've found. I suppose that if you don't find how to do something on that website or program, you have the will and tenacity to search for solutions in Google, or writing a couple of forum messages as a last resource.

If all that is true, this article is not for you. But I WILL give you some homework with this article, so don't think you will get away so easily!!

Uhm... what are you doing with that mouse? Hey, no! No, get the mouse from the search bar this instant! No, why are you writing "cute xxx chicks" there?! No, what are you doing?! No, don't press Enter, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!11

... oh hai, you still here. Excellent mwahahahaha.

Look, this is your homework slave... err, I mean, dear reader:

If you know somebody (specially a senior person) who has mentioned interest in learning English (or another language), but you know that person can't use technology to save her/his life, I encourage you to open up this article on your computer or on her/his computer and show it to that person. Or you could also show her/him how to use an Internet browser to reach this article and read it. Or you can print it and give it to her/him on paper, if that's what it takes.

You could also search a couple of videotutorials in your native language on YouTube: One about computer basics, and one about how to browse and use the Internet. If you are going to share a translation of this article on a website, include those tutorials on the "How to learn to master your computer and browse the Internet" section. Or if you are going to sit down with the person and show them this article, search and open the videotutorials yourself so s/he can watch.

And that's all you gotta do. Now, I leave you with the article dedicated to those who get beaten up by Windows and Firefox :D



Hey, hello! An acquaintance of yours told me you want to learn English (or another language) really well. But also told me that you are not that good using computers or the Internet. S/he told me that you barely know how to use email, Word, Excel, and that's it.

Well, I've asked this person to give you this article because I want to tell you this: If what you want is to learn English really well and become able to understand it and speak it very, very well... it IS possible to learn it without having to use computers or the Internet... but I wouldn't recommend it.

Look, just like in the times before the computer revolution, you could learn to read in English by getting lots of printed books in English and a few paper dictionaries. Nowadays you could buy music CDs in English and DVDs with movies and TV shows in English, and you could write in English using pen and paper. You could also join an English conversation group in the area you live in, or you could hire a tutor to practice your English speaking face to face.

Yes, it's possible to learn English with tools like that... but I don't recommend it, because it will be way more limiting to you and will take you a lot more time to progress. Nowadays, learning English with paper dictionaries is the equivalent to writing documents on a typewriter. You can do it, but... hey, writing on a computer is way faster and less limiting.


Why it's better to learn English using technology and the Internet


First, because the amount of content in English (and English learning resources) that you have access to through the Internet is massive compared with the few books, newspapers, CDs and DVDs in English that you could get in your local library... unless you live in an English-speaking country.

If you know how to browse the Internet you will be able to access a wider range of content in English: You can find articles, videos, pre-recorded radio shows (these are called "podcasts"), music, all that about almost any topic and genre that you can imagine. And the best thing is, most of all that content can be obtained for free (you do have to pay for some things, like Kindle digital books).

Another thing is that using digital content like articles and videos don't occupy space in your shelves and drawers. A printed English dictionary like the Oxford Ninth Edition weights 3.1 pounds and occupies space in your table or bag. In contrast, the digital version of the same dictionary doesn't weight anything, and doesn't occupy any physical space – only space in your hard drive. And if you use a laptop computer (or another portable device, like a tablet), you can carry your content and digital dictionaries to learn English almost wherever you need to be.

By the way, looking up words you don't know in a digital dictionary is way faster than doing it on a paper dictionary. In a dictionary program you can just input the word you want to search using your keyboard, and voilá, the translation, pronunciation (with audio files and everything), and examples of how to use that word will appear in less than half a second.

Depending on your dictionary it could also show you images and written definitions in English for that word. In contrast, searching on a printed dictionary is more time-consuming, and for space reasons you will not find as much information there as you could find in a digital dicitonary.

Moreover, through the Internet you can join websites like Lang-8 and iTalki to easily find natives who can correct your writings in English, and people with whom you can do language exchanges to practice your spoken English. If your computer has a microphone and webcam you can learn to use Skype to communicate with people you find on websites like those.


Do you have the will to learn how to better use the Internet, and learn more about your computer?


Maybe what I've just shared with you about using the Internet to learn English has caught your interest. But the world wide web isn't just useful for learning English, of course. If you learned how the Internet and got used to it, you could do many practical and interesting things like:
  • Paying almost all of your bills through the Internet. No more waiting in line!
  • Selling things you don't use on websites like Ebay or Craigslist.
  • Learning about almost any topic you want.
  • Watch a lot of informative and/or entertaining content on YouTube.
  • Write and share your ideas on your own Facebook page or your own blog.
  • ...among many others.
Knowing how to browse the Internet really well can improve your life in several aspects, and even more if you get to master the English language. If you master written and spoken English you will be able to understand most of the content and resources that exist on the Internet (55.5% of all content on the Internet is in English).

All that sounds awesome... but the thing is that if you are reading this, it means you don't know how to browse the Internet very well. Sometimes you check your email or search for songs on YouTube, but nothing more. And I bet you ask a relative for help when something you don't understand happens on your email or computer, or if you need to do something on the Internet but you don't know how.

Well... I'm here to remind you that it's never too late to learn. Not even if you are 100 years old. You, whoever you are, whatever your age may be, you can learn to use the Internet and your computer as well as your experienced relatives. All you need is to have access to a computer you can practice with, and an Internet browser installed on said computer (I suppose you are reading this article on said computer, unless you are reading a printed version). And the most important thing you need to have if you want to learn to use computers and the Internet is... to have the will to learn.

Look, I know that not knowing how to do something well is intimidating. It's scary. It's way easier to ask a relative experienced with computers to solve any computer problem we might have and be done with it. But tell me, don't you think it would be better to develop the ability to search for solutions on your own? Just for simple stuff that doesn't require a computer specialist, like changing your email password or registering in a website?

Wouldn't that be better instead of always relying on someone else to help you with that kind of computer problems? Wouldn't it make you proud to be able to say to yourself, "Ha! I found a solution on my own!" or "Yes! I managed to learn what I needed searching on the Internet and tinkering with this program!"

Don't you think it would feel great to have such "computational independence"? Even if it's just for simple things like learning to use a new program or changing your printer cartridge?

If the idea of developing this "computational independence" sounds good, and you have within you the will to learn new things, then keep reading! But if you prefer to keep relying on other people to solve your day-to-day technological problems... then I don't think I can help you. I respect your decision, but I don't share it. Try learning English with physical materials like printed dictionaries and CDs and see how it goes.


How to learn to master your computer and browse the Internet


Awesome, you decided to keep going! Excellent. Now, I'm going to share with you a not so secret secret:

When we people experienced with computers need to do something but we don't know how, the first thing we do is to search for tutorials using Google. A tutorial is basically a guide that teaches you (usually step by step) how to do something new. You can find tutorials about many different topics, not only about computer stuff. A tutorial can be a written article, a series of videos, pre-recorded audio or a series of PowerPoint slides (a program you might be familiar with).

Therefore, the best way to start learning about computers and the Internet is using tutorials. If your native language is English, I will share a couple of video tutorial series right up.

If your native language is different from English, then ask a relative to show you some tutorials on YouTube about computer basics, and how to browse the Internet so you can watch them. Or, if you know how to use Google, search for "computer basics tutorial" in your native language, and see what resources you can find to learn more about computers. Also search for "how to browse the Internet" in your native language, and see what resources you can find to learn more about the Internet.

Ok, these videotutorial series in English are hosted on YouTube.com. The first series of videos are about computers in general. The second is a long video about Internet basics.

To watch these videotutorials just "click" on the links you will find bellow – that is, move your mouse on the gray text that says "Computer basics", or on the text that says "Internet basics", and press the left button of your mouse. Once you click any of these two links, the YouTube page for the video will open, and the video will play automatically.

On the computer basics series, subsequent videos in the series will play automatically when each video ends. You don't have to watch all the videos in one sitting, of course. Watch as many videos as you want, and click again on the "Computer basics" link the next day. Then, search for the next video to watch on the list with black background and white letters that you will find at the right of the video player.

If all of this sounds a bit confusing, I still encourage you to click on the links below as I explained, and to tinker with the YouTube interface so you learn how it works. If you really don't understand how to do any of this, then ask for somebody else for help, and ask them to teach you how to do these things.

Here are the links:

1. Computer basics

2. Internet basics

If you are reading a printed version of this article and you have your computer at hand, input one of the following web addresses on the navigation bar of your Internet browser and press Enter. That way you will be access to the previously mentioned tutorials (careful with lowercase and uppercase letters):

1. http://bit.ly/1bKGotM

2. http://bit.ly/1bKGyBi

I suggest you watch both tutorials completely. Pay attention to them, and if you want, write on a notebook things that you think are important.

Once you've finished watching these tutorials you will have much more knowledge about what composes your computer, how does your operative system work, and how to use the Internet. But those videos are only the beginning. The second step to learn to use your computer and the Internet really, really well is to develop the courage to tinker.

Watching tutorials is useful, but what will really make you learn to use the Internet and your computer like an expert is being willing to try things out, to scrutinize as much as you can until you achieve what you need. In other words, to "tinker" with the page or program you are using.

For instance, if you want to learn how to change your email password, don't ask a relative to do it for you. Instead get in your email account and start scrutinizing carefully each button and each menu to see how to achieve what you want.

Look at the interface of your email page and read what each button says. Maybe the menu that says "Appearance" will do what you need? Do you see anything there to help you change your password? No? Maybe a button that says "Options" or "Configuration" can take you to the option to change your password? If you click there, what do you see? Under the sub-menu that appears could you find what you are looking for? Maybe on that tab that says "Security and privacy"? Etc.

Click on buttons and icons and see what happens. Search, try things out. Read carefully any message that appears, analyze what it says and keep searching. If you want to learn to use a webpage you don't know, or a computer program you've never used before, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty (virtually :P), to scrutinize, to analyze, to search and try out any option you see. You will likely find out how to do what you needed, and you would've also learned something new about that page or program.

If after searching and tinkering and trying everything out you can't do what you need, then you can summon the help of the all-powerful Google. Just open your Internet browser (like Firefox), go to Google.com, and on the search bar type the name of the program or page you are using, and what you want to do. Example: "outlook.com how to add attachment file", or "how to install driver printer HP T105". Maybe you could find a tutorial, or comments on a forum about how to do what you need.

If you don't find answers through Google, try asking questions on a forum related to the page/program you are using, or see if it's possible to contact the creator(s) of the page/program (or its customer service team), and ask him/them for help. If after some days nobody gives you an answer and nobody offers you a solution, then I would try using a different program to do what I need, or I would then call a specialist (somebody who repairs computers professionally, for instance).



And that's it! If you keep that will to learn and the courage to tinker to find the solutions you need, then with practice you will get used to using your computer and the Internet for whatever you need to do. Once you feel comfortable visiting new websites and learning to use them, you can start using the Internet to learn English (or another language). Here at Inglesk I teach you how :D

More information:


Summary


Learning English (or another language) using computers and the Internet is better than using physical materials like CDs, books and paper dictionaries, because it's faster, there is access to many more resources, carrying a laptop is lighter than carrying a bunch of books, and you can find people to practice more easily.

If you don't know how to use your computer or the Internet very well, you can learn to use them well if you really have the will to learn and the courage to tinker (scrutinize, search, try out, analyze things). Watch basic tutorials about computers and the Internet. Then, tinker with your computer and Internet browser until you become very comfortable using both.

Once you get used to using your computer and the Internet, you can use them to learn English (or other languages).


Last updated: May 22 of 2015

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