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E learning and it’s role in English Language Teaching

With predictions of growth to a total spend of $250bn by 2020, EdTech is clearly a global phenomenon and has growing implications for the future of English Language Teaching

(ELT)

But what is E Learning and Ed Tech?

EdTech stands for Educational Technology. Sometimes referred to as EduTech or e learning. In general terms it covers any form of teaching or learning that embraces technology

At its heart, the aim of EdTech is to improve the student’s learning experience by making the learning processes more efficient and/or effective. And by integrating technology into education a much more diverse learning environment can be created. This may also result in quite fundamental changes in approaches to pedagogy.

The Advantages of E Learning

Apart from learning a subject through technology and potentially improving a student’s tech skills at the same time, it is argued that EdTech allows for more individualised learning as students work at their own pace

Potentially, it also ‘democratises’ education by allowing more students, more access to more educational content, and potentially from almost anywhere. This can then also result in benefits of time, cost and convenience.

Studies also show that there is an increasing acceptance of online educational qualifications in the workplace even if in reality this is still relatively low in comparison to more traditional qualifications, especially when those qualifications may be potentially career changing.

In addition, research shows that educational apps generally have a positive impact on learning and interestingly apps that encourage feedback and collaboration can help improve group work and it is argued that in fact a blended approach can result in students learning more than with traditional approaches and in less time.

In the world of ELT It is perhaps no surprise then that language learning apps like babbel, busuu and especially duolingo with its almost addictive elements of gamification have become so popular

The Disadvantages of E Learning

One of the major drawbacks can be unrealistic expectations in terms of what the service can actually deliver and how dramatic those changes and improvements will actually prove to be to the learner. Perhaps this is why there are calls for more of the focus of the results to be centred on the learner’s interaction with the technology … not the technology itself. Technology is wonderful, it is a facilitator by which content, and in this case educational content can be delivered to a learner. But in the end, it is the content that is inseparable from the learning outcome

Then there are ‘sociocultural’ questions around the impact on students of working individually rather than socially or collaboratively and being more easily distracted. While students and teachers alike appreciate the convenience of Edtech many prefer and benefit from greater engagement in face to face learning environments

E Learning and Cheating

And of course, there is the potential for taking short cuts or even cheating. This can happen in terms of the learning process itself (fast forward to the next task, this one is boring) However the equivalent can happen in any learning process and it’s really the learner who is cheating himself.

Testing and Accreditation

More significantly is the important question of testing and assessing accurately; the results of which can be career-defining for the learner and so critical to the reputation of the awarding body. Online providers can currently provide self-certification (like with continuing professional development programmes where the user attests to have completed a course of studies) and technologies are being developed to ensure that a candidate is actually who she claims to be. For the moment at least, in the context of English Language learning, Cambridge Assessment English, the providers of the world’s leading range of qualifications and tests for learners of English (including the prestigious IELTS and Cambridge exams) insist that these exams can be prepared for online, but must be taken offline.

The Future

Despite the drawbacks it’s clear that Edtech is here to stay: technology is disrupting industries everywhere and clear the education sector in general and ELT in particular, are no exceptions.

 

 

Why It’s OK to Ask People to Speak Slowly or Repeat Something in a Business Meeting

When you are learning English for business there will come a time where you are using you new skill in a business meeting. The meeting could be online via Skype, on the phone or in person, it could be a presentation and it can be tough! But do not worry, the challenges are something a lot of people go through and they are not something to be embarrassed about. In this blog we look at some of the issues around asking people to slow down and help you understand.

The Same Thing Twice

What a lot of people do when asked to repeat something because someone doesn’t understand is say the same thing again. This is really no help at all. They think you simply may not have heard them properly but the real reason to ask them to repeat is that you didn’t understand the terms or vocab they used. It is important to state this when asking them to repeat. It is perfectly OK to say “sorry, I don’t understand that phrase, can you explain” rather than saying “sorry, I didn’t get that”

Accents

People from different parts of any country will speak differently. But people learning English who live in different countries will also speak differently. So how someone speaks can be a really big challenge in a business meeting. It may be you are talking to a English company but you find the accent very hard to understand. It is not offensive to politely say “I am very sorry, I find your lovely accent hard to understand”. You can complement them on it and ask where they are from and most people will be happy to talk about their home town and help you understand them. It may be useful to ask any colleagues before the meeting about any strong accents so you can prepare a little or have them be ready to help you if you get stuck.

Details and Notes

There are certain points that come up in meetings that are important. it might be an e mail address or a website, it could be a phone number or some important meeting points. It is really important you are confident you have the correct details in this situation. Do not be afraid to ask the person to slow down while you write it all down and then confirm the details. On online meetings you can ask someone to simply write these details in the chat window to make sure they are correct. But getting it wrong because you didn’t ask to clarify could cause problems later on. Be confident and make sure you have the right details.

Slow Down

Most business meetings would benefit from everyone slowing down and making sure all the point are covered properly. It is important you are feel confident to ask other team members or clients to slow down so you can understand them properly. You are learning a new language and it is something to be proud of, but you cannot learn it all from the beginning. Most people will be happy to go over anything and help support you, and that bit of extra time is far better than a list of confused notes and mistakes because you chose not to say say you didn’t understand.

 

Sing Your Way to Better English

It may seem silly but music can help when learning English just as much as movies can. Singing can also help make you happy and singing is very healthy even if you don’t think you are very good at it.

Singing and Vocab

Most popular songs are sung with a wide range of both good and bad pronunciation. You can listen to one song and understand what they are singing about then another song comes on and it makes no sense at all. This is why it can be so helpful, well partly. By listening to vocab sung in songs by all sorts of different voices and styles you will build up your experience with those words. The great thing with the internet is that you can look up the words any time. So sing along, learn the words if you can but check online so you know what the words are and what they mean. It can be a great way to not only learn new words but learn new slang and regional words too.

Happy Learning

Singing and music can really help with happiness and even during a learning period a music break can help you study a lot better. Obviously playing really loud music while trying to follow one of our online English lessons isn’t going to work but you can pause the lesson if you need a rest and sing a long to a song with English lyrics as a break. Singing is also proven to be very good for your health, so having a good sing can have many benefits.

Sings to Help You Remember

Another great way to use singing is to help you remember vocabulary and other parts of the English language. You may find it hard to remember a set of verbs or just a few new words. If you put them to the tune of your favourite song and sing it all day you will find it far easier to remember them for your next lesson.

Watching movies in English is certainly very helpful and should be something you do as often a you can but why not mix things up a bit and bring some English speaking music into your learning. There are lots of places to hear music but YouTube may be a good free place to start. Also apps like Spotify work very well. You can also make playlists for friends who are learning English too and challenge each other to work out what the words all mean.

Learning English can be tough but it can also be fun and adding music, movies, games and more will really help you learn more and learn faster.

 

Are your Children Better at Learning Languages than You?

It has long been held that children are much better at learning languages than adults – after all, it is children who are able to learn and master their mother-tongue so capably, while many adults struggle pick up a few basic words when they go on holiday. This is why it is often encouraged for children to start language lessons as early as possible, to take advantage of their natural learning gifts.

However, in actuality, children are not better at learning languages than adults – it is just that children and adults learn languages in different ways.

A Simpler Vocabulary

One reason that children can appear to be better language learners than adults is because their lives are inherently simpler and they require a much smaller vocabulary and arsenal of tenses in order to communicate. Adults are able to communicate in far more complicated ways, and as such they require a much broader understanding of a language in order to appear fluent.

It isn’t quite right to assume that just because children are more quickly able to get their point across in a foreign language, that means that they are learning the language. Rather that it is simpler for them to make their points.

Doesn’t Age Affect Learning Skills?

It is another misconception to think that as we age, our powers of learning naturally diminish. In fact, this is not the case at all, and people are able to pick up new skills at any time in their life. The only reason that children appear to have better learning skills is that the simply have more to learn, and childhood is a time of intense learning.

The only issues that typically affect someone’s ability to learn a language as they get older are their hearing and their vision – both of which are typically perfect in children.

Different Ways to Learn

One of the major issues surrounding adults learning languages is that they often try to learn in the same way as children. However, this is typically less effective. Children benefit enormously from classroom sessions as well as lots of repetition and reading. However, it is more valuable for adults to learn in a way that establishes meaning they can associate with real life.

This is why it is generally preferable for adults to learn in less formal group setting, where there is less of an intensive student-teacher relationship, but rather a chance to all learn together. Adults also learn better using online learning where children would not have the discipline to take all the lessons and practice.

Spring in the UK

As many of you will know, the British love talking about the weather. not only do they love talking about it, they also like moaning about it when it isn’t very good. Winter in Britain can be very rainy, cold and dark and, for a lot of British people, it is not a season they enjoy. While some areas do get snow and this can be fun as well as disruptive to work and school most places just get a lot of rain. So it is around this time every year when the British start seeing the signs of spring and begin looking forward to the summer!

Signs of Spring

Signs of spring int he UK are important for a lot of people. One of the first signs that spring is coming is that some flowers start to grow. Small white flowers called snow drops are often the first and these often flower in late winter. Also Daffodils and Crocuses are sure signs that spring is on the way. You will see yellow Daffodils on the sides of roads, in parks and many other places as spring starts. Other signs that spring is on the way include sunshine! There really isn’t very much sun in the winter in the UK so bright sunny and cold mornings and days are enjoyed by everyone. One of the nicest signs of spring is the birds singing. From mid February the song birds like Thrushes will start to sing in the morning and during the day and it is a wonderful sound. Another favourite in the UK is the first lambs of the season. As you drive past a field full of sheep you begin to see more and more babies as Spring starts to arrive.

Winter Still Holds On

February and March are certainly months where the UK sees some signs of Spring but they are also months that can be very cold and snowy in some places. Winter still hangs on throughout these months and seems to battle with Spring – one day it can be sunny the next cold, wet and windy again. It is a time of change and one that British people get quite excited about.

Thinking of Summer

Summer is a very important season in the UK. It certainly does not get as hot as many other countries and it can often rain but it is the warmest season the UK has so it is one that people get very excited about. As Spring arrives everyone begins thinking of days by the beach, swimming, warm sunny picnics and treats like ice cream! As this blog is being written in mid February, Summer is still a few months away and while the weather is bright and sunny the British winter may not be over yet and if it comes back again for a few more days the British people will take great pleasure in grumbling about it.

If you are planning to work, study or simply visit the UK the weather will play a big part in your stay. It can rain all day in the middle of summer, it can be bright and sunny in late winter or be dark wet and cold! Learning English and visiting Britain always involves lots of words about weather!

 

3 Foods That British People Love and American People Don’t

When you are learning English you will probably being watching a lot of movies with American actors and listening to a lot of American music. It is very common for people learning English to actually learn American English rather than the more traditional BBC style British English. English people certainly have a lot in common with Americans and share many of the same traditions, music, books, movies and more. But one thing that is often very different is the food. While everyone loves a Pizza or a Burger there are some very British foods that American people don’t like or even understand.

Beans on Toast

While Americans certainly like eating beans of all varieties the traditional British canned baked beans are not as popular. Americans do eat what the British would call baked beans but they do not have them served on toast and find the concept very strange. Beans on toast is a very traditional, simple and low cost meal in the UK, it is eaten right across the social classes from low income families to wealthy people. it is often thought of as a childhood meal and something people think of with happy comforting memories. The idea is simple; heat up some baked beans in a saucepan or in the microwave, toast one or two slices of bread and then pour the beans over the toast. Some people like some cheese on top of this and putting butter on the toast first in optional. In the USA this meal is never eaten and is considered quite unusual if not totally strange.

Marmite

Marmite is a yeast extract used for spreading on toast or to make sandwiches. Even in the UK it is something that some people love and others hate. It has a very strong taste but in terms of British foods Marmite is something no other country seems to like. Australia has it’s own version called Vegemite which is very similar in flavour. In America Marmite is very hard to buy and most people have never even heard of it. You can find YouTube videos of people from America tasting it which can be very funny!

Scotch Egg

While the name suggests the Scotch Egg is Scottish it is eaten right across the UK. If you have not heard of this snack it is a cooked egg wrapped in minced sausage meat, covered in bread crumbs and then fried in oil. The result is a round ball that can be eaten as a snack, part of a light meal or part of a picnic. Once again, the Scotch egg is not something anyone in America understands. While people in the US like sausage and eggs and they certainly like deep frying food they don’t seem to understand why British people would create this snack as a ball.

If you are learning English and planning to live, work or study in Britain or America you may find it useful to understand some of the big differences in language and lifestyle.

3 Easy Ways to Make Friends in the UK

If you are planning on coming the UK to work or to study then making friends is going to be really important. Being away from your friends at home and your family can be tough and building a range of new people to speak to and hang out with is really good for your happiness as well as your English learning.

Work vs School

If you are coming to the UK to study you may find you make friends very easily in class, you may find there are people from your country or even town studying too. If you are coming to the UK to work it can be a little harder to make friends so it is important to make an effort to create relationships.

Just Say Yes!

A great way to start making friends is to be confident and say yes if you are invited out. If someone at work asks you to come out with the team for a drink, just say yes. It is important to be safe and tell someone if you are going out alone with someone you do not know very well. But being brave and going out with new people at work is a great way to start making friends. They may not all be people you become close with but it is a great start point.

Join Groups and Classes

You may already have a hobby like Yoga, or Cycling so have a look on Facebook or ask the local bike shop or gym if there are any groups locally. By joining groups of people who enjoy the same things you can very easily start making friends. Shared interests are the best way to get talking.

Do Things

While joining a group can be a great way to meet people so is simply getting out there and doing things you enjoy. If you like jogging…go jogging and you may find you can say hello to some people who run in the same place as you. Go to the gym and get talking to people. If you do not have any hobbies then try going to a comedy club or a wine tasting event, take a cooking class or something similar. By being active and around other people you will naturally start forming conversations and these can lead to friendships. Why not check out our Facebook page and see if there are any people local to you that you can meet up with and talk about learning English?

By making new friends you will find your English learning will improve. Even speaking with other people who are learning can be really useful. Making friends can be hard but it is worth the effort.

A Guide to Speaking Like a Geek..or a Nerd

The terms Geek and Nerd have been around for a very long time but it is only in the last 10 years or so that they have really become popular and used as a positive way to describe yourself. Once being called a geek or a nerd was a serious insult. It normally described people who found it very hard to speak to people in a social situation, could not talk to the opposite sex and spend a lot of time studying and learning. 20 years ago playing video games was not very cool and the term nerd and geek was also associated with that movement, now video games are very popular and played by all sorts of people.

The TV show “the Big Bang Theory” also helped make geeks and nerds popular and cool and it is a very funny and useful show to watch if you want to learn more terms around this subject.

Slang

The terms used in this guide are all slang and many are only rally used online or on messaging services like whatsapp as well as online gaming platforms. These terms are fun to use and very useful to understand if you are learning English and you are a bit of a geek or nerd yourself.

Geek Terms

Pwned – This word is a misspelling of the word “powned” which originally comes from the word “owned. It means to be beaten and dominated. The original term came from World of War Craft when a player was beaten the computer game said “you have been owned” but there was a spelling error and it said “pwned”. This can be used if you have in any way been beaten in a game or by a task.

Noob – This is a derivation of the word “newbie” which means someone new and someone who doesn’t know very much. Again, this comes from video game culture but is used in other ways. If you were new to a workplace someone might call you a noob but it would be quite a geeky thing to say.

Woot – This is a very interesting word that came from role playing board game culture. It was once used when the characters int he game found some treasure or “loot” and they said “wow, loot”. This was shortened to woot. but since then it has simply become a word to describe excitement in the geek and online world.  “I have a day off work woot!” would be a good example of how to use it.

Fanboy – This word is used to describe someone who is an extreme fan or follower of a certain game, TV show, comic or any kind of medium. The term refers to someone who likes something so much they are not able to hear any negative comments about it. Many people like Apple products a lot and often these people are called “apple fanboys” because they will not consider using any other type of phone.

Easter Egg – While you may know this term and think it describes chocolate eggs given out around Easter time there is another meaning. In the geek world Easter eggs are hidden items or moments placed in a movie, TV show or video game. These items, mentions, references or secret things are things geeks love. It is assumed only true fans of a movie or game would see and find the easter egg. In gaming terms easter eggs are often hidden in very hard parts of the game. The term actually came from the 1975 movie “the Rocky Horror Picture Show” where the cast had a traditional easter egg hunt but most of the eggs were never found. However they could be seen in the movie in silly places throughout the duration.

 

These are just a few terms you might come across when speaking to people online playing games or just speaking to people who enjoy the geeky nerd culture. While these terms do not really make up part of learning English they are words that are used and therefore can be helpful to understand.

 

Top 5 Christmas TV Shows to Help You Learn English

If you are living in the UK and learning English or if you have access to UK TV online then these Christmas TV shows are great for learning English. TV and Movies are a brilliant way to help support your online English lessons and this Christmas there are some really useful ones.

Strictly Come Dancing

This classic British TV show is on Christmas day. It may not be something everyone likes but it is very popular in Britain. The reason it is good for learning English is because the judging panel all have different accents but there is also some very traditional English spoken throughout too. It uses a range of different voices and it great for picking up general spoken English.

Michael McIntyre Christmas Special

This comedian does speak very fast during his show and this can be a really good test of your English skills. He also uses a lot of modern vocabulary but not slang. If you can understand what he is saying when he is speaking quickly then you are doing very well.

Call The Midwife

This is a very old fashioned TV show set in the past. It can be very good to learn formal English and a much more traditional way of speaking. There is almost no slang on it and the grammar is very good. Not many people speak like this anymore but it is still very good to learn from.

Eastenders

This is a soap opera that is set in East London. It is full of slang and strong London accents. Words like “water” are pronounced without the “t” sound for example. It is a very useful show to learn how to understand people from London but it is important you do not copy it all when trying to learn how to say things properly.

The Great British Bake Off

This is very much like Strictly Come Dancing in that it’s a very popular British competition based TV show. It is good for learning English because, once again, there different presenters and contestants all have different accents and use different dialects. By watching the show you can get some feel for how different people speak English from different parts of the UK. This can be very useful if you are planning on working in the UK.

If you cannot watch these shows over Christmas don’t worry. Most of them are available online and there are lots of seasons of most of these. Have fun!

How to Say Happy Christmas in the UK

Christmas is coming and for people in the UK and other English speaking countries it is a very important festival or holiday. It is worth noting that for a lot of people it is less about the religious significance and often more about seeing family and friends, taking time off work and sharing presents. There is still a strong Christian theme for some people but not everyone will consider it like that. It is a month away but many people in the UK will be putting up decorations on the 1st of December and the shopping and planning has certainly started.

We thought it might be useful to look at some key phrases that are useful to know around this time of year.

How to Say Happy Christmas

First of all, just saying Happy Christmas is a very common phrase and a very simple and easy way to be polite and to give someone your best wishes. But there are other ways to express this.

Season’s Greetings – This is a simple phrase and is often used as a welcoming phrase. You will see it written on signs above shops or as you enter a restaurant or bar. It is not something you would say while saying goodbye to someone, but it could work well if you are welcoming someone to your home or place of work. It is often used in greetings cards too.

Merry Christmas – This is a very common and very friendly things to say. It is simply saying “I hope you have a happy Christmas”. Merry is another word for happy.

Happy Holidays – This is a very American term and really not used in the UK at all. You may hear it on movies and TV shows, but it is worth remembering it is a very American phrase. It still means happy Christmas but in America they say Holidays.

…and a Happy New year

It is very common for people to say Happy Christmas and also Happy New Year at the same time. This becomes more common as Christmas gets closer. It is not very common to say earlier in the month. New Year’s Eve is a very important parts of the Christmas season and it is polite to say “Happy New Year” to people around that time.

There are a number of other ways to say happy Christmas as you may be saying good bye to people as you leave work.

Enjoy Your Christmas – this is a good example of how to express good wishes for Christmas as you may be leaving work or someone else is leaving. You can also say Enjoy Your Christmas Break. The word break is used to describe a period of not working over Christmas which can be very important.

It is very polite to say Happy Christmas in whatever way you prefer and can be a very positive and happy way to greet or to say goodbye to someone in the UK.