Janna and I have been professionally teaching American Sign Language — Hardcore ASL — online for over five years. We use video chat, movies, images and one-on-one interaction with our students to bring home the learning even though we’re far apart. In a similar want to teach and learn, the famous “Foreign Service Institute” series of language courses are now on the internet for download and you can learn a new language at your own speed and in your own space.
Here’s the PR blurp from the site that currently hosts the FSI learning modules:
Welcome to fsi-language-courses.org – the home for language courses developed by the Foreign Service Institute. These courses were developed by the United States government and are in the public domain.
This site is dedicated to making these language courses freely available in an electronic format. This site is not affiliated in any way with any government entity; it is an independent, non-profit effort to foster the learning of worldwide languages. Courses here are made available through the private efforts of individuals who are donating their time and resources to provide quality materials for language learning.
The site was overwhelmed with interested learners and has been pretty much offline for a week because too many people were trying to download the lessons.
The fact that the FSI language repository is down for the count should be an encouraging sign: People are ripe for learning online and they are incredibly interested in learning something new in their own time in a virtual ether of minds.
It can be difficult to find the right teacher online — you do need a live, human, resource to help perpetuate your learning — but these first baby steps into our shared, educational, future looks to be bright and delightful and promising in that we can become even more polymathic than we’d ever hoped to be in the dark ordinariness of our previous, real time, lives.