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I was recently reading the Wikipedia article on Self access language learning centers, which describes them as

...educational facilities designed for student learning that is at least partially, if not fully self-directed. Students have access to resources ranging from photocopied exercises with answer keys to computer software for language learning. These centers are an outgrowth of a style of learning that can go by several names: learner-centered approach, learner autonomy or self-directed learning. These centers exist primarily in Asia, Europe and North America....

Self-access language learning is closely related to learner-centered approach, learner autonomy and self-directed learning as all focus on student responsibility and active participation for his/her own learning.[2] This style of instruction is most often done in the setting of a self-contained learning environment or self-access center. Self-access centers can be as simple as a classroom set aside with dictionaries and shelves of paper-based exercises to state-of-the-art digital centers with various types of computer- and Internet-based resources.

The concept seems to represent sort of a "half way" point between totally independent, self-directed language learning (e.g. choosing one's own books, tapes, apps, etc. and acquiring or assembling them from various disparate sources) and taking formal language classes at an organized language school or university.

I do realize that the proliferation of Internet access around the world may make the access to materials benefit somewhat obsolete, but there still could be benefits from having so much material in one location, as well as the possibility of social networking with other learners, forming impromptu study groups, or getting referrals to local tutors.

I'm primarily interested in improving my Modern Hebrew at the moment, but I'm really interested in knowing if these sort of centers exist at all in my area for any language other than English/ESL (which is in such high demand here that practically any organization with any possible connection to education has done something). I've already identified that there are several different organizations that offer formalized Hebrew coursework (universities and religious groups), but not anywhere that I can find where I can get access to a self-directed lab environment or similar - they want me to more or less either enroll for an instructor-led course (with weekly homework, etc.) or look elsewhere.

I am open to a place that charges fees, whether a subscription fee ("Pay $X a month for unlimited access as long as you go home at closing time and don't deface materials") or a per-service fee (e.g. "Pay $Y per hour to get access to the building and its basic resources, pay an additional $Z per hour for on-site, on-demand individual private tutoring"), but not looking for a place that is only available to "regular" students (e.g. "Take Advanced Introduction to Intermediate Conversational Hebrew here at our synagogue, it comes with access to an exclusive lab not available to anyone else!").

  • Based on some web searches I've done since asking this question, it seems that "self-access language learning center" may actually be a euphemism for ESL tutoring centers at universities (e.g. see here), not accessible to the general public and definitely not a neighborhood destination for learning whatever language one wishes. If this is the case, that counts as an answer. – Robert Columbia Mar 11 at 20:12
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Public libraries are free (for residents, at least in USA), staffed with librarians who can help you select reading materials, and (at least in mine) offer also free group subscription to access online resources (a website which also provides paid subscription) for learning dozens of other languages.

Also, EdX.org provides (free or cheap) online courses for several languages (I know of English, Chinese, Spanish on top of my head, there likely are more). All you need is to bring your own computer and internet connection :-)

  • No, I'm specifically looking for language learning-specific centers as mentioned in the article. I know about public libraries, and I use them. The problem is that the resources there as well as the librarians must cater to a wide population of which only a small fraction is seeking language-learning materials at a specific moment. A self-access language learning center would presumably have staff that are specifically educated in language learning techniques and resources, rather than a broad library education. – Robert Columbia Mar 15 at 16:15

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