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Our First Award!

Everyone here at Perfectly Spoken are extremely happy to share the news with you all that we were invited to submit an entry to the inaugural Digital Education Awards in the Language Learning Product of the Year category and last night we received news that we had won!

The Digital Education Awards

The Digital Education Awards is an organisation that was created to recognise “the best digital people, products and platforms” when it comes to delivering quality education and a lifetimes worth of learning that is available across the world. It creates the opportunity for those of us in the digital education market to highlight the value of what we offer to customers, students, and partners with formal recognition from a board of experts. The awards organisation themselves have an audience that is global and their approach is to embrace the future and digital learning by using online platforms rather than traditional ceremonies and methods.

There were hundreds of entries from more than 20 countries around the world, entries started in June and a huge range of applications were submitted for the potential awards. An esteemed panel of judges from Tech, Education, Finance and Consulting sectors were responsible for making the decision for all the awards. In 2020 more people than ever relied on learning online and therefore it was even more important that we provide an excellent online language learning platform. Our entry was in good company in one of the most popular categories and it highlights both the brilliant work our team has done in providing for our learners and of course, our proud we are of the learners themselves for supporting our platform and finding success with us.

Thank You

So, congratulations to us all and many thanks to you for your contributions and support in getting us to this stage! We look forward to what the future will bring for us all and we are hopeful for the 2021 Digital Education Awards.

David and the Perfectly Spoken team.

It’s All About Online

For a company that offers online English courses, it won’t be a surprise we are very much behind the move to online services but Covid-19 has pushed this trend even faster than anyone predicted. There are lots of new ways people interact, new software tools, and even new vocabulary around the new online world so we thought we would look at it in a little more detail.

More Online Than Ever Before

We have been offering high-quality online English courses for a few years now and we know how popular they are. So learning online is certainly not a new thing. However, as we saw schools shut across Europe and many parts of the world people turned to online learning like never before. In many cases, it was school-age children trying to keep up with lessons they were missing. But many people stuck indoors during lockdown also had free time and wanted to do something constructive. So they turned to online learning, whether it was learning to sing, write, play an instrument or cook, for example, people starting to find online courses for everything. We saw a large increase in the number of people signing up to learn English online from all over the world as they decided to take the time to learn for work, family, or other reasons. But it’s not just learning, there has been a huge increase in the number of people shopping online, ordering food online, using streaming services, as well as subscription models for anything from beer to male grooming products and even gardening supplies. Online was big before…it’s even bigger now.

Common Online Tools

For many people, the idea of a video chat was not something they would normally think of before the pandemic. Now, chatting online to family and friends is normal. Programmes like Zoom have become totally normal. Skype is still very popular too. If you were not using WhatsApp before the pandemic then you probably are now and not just or chat, video too! Whatsapp groups have now become very popular. TikTok also seems to be a great way to communicate online by making fun videos, it certainly helped a lot of bored people during the lockdowns in various countries.

How We Communicate

It may seem like we talk in exactly the same way on a video call as we do in person but it really can be quite different. If you use Zoom calls for business meetings, for example, you may notice that it is harder to see if people are listening to you. What people now do is nod their head a lot more. When you are in a meeting with someone face to face you can see if they are engaged with you. On a screen with perhaps 6 faces, it is much harder. So we are all using exaggerated movements like waving and nodding to communicate. We are also not talking over each other as much, video calls do not work very well if everyone talks so people are becoming much more polite and waiting for others to finish speaking. Smiling, shaking our heads, and using our hands are all becoming more important as a way of showing we are involved in the conversation online.

Will we continue using online services as we are now? perhaps, with more and more people working from home and not wanting to use trains and buses online shopping, meetings and learning is certainly likely to stay popular well after Covid-19 is gone.

 

 

 

 

British Storms and their Names

It’s storm season in the UK and after an already very wet winter, Storm Ciara and Dennis have brought record rain levels and heavy flooding across the country. The British are well-known for talking about the weather and this year with such fierce storms already, there’s plenty to talk about.

And with the storms having human names, it sounds like we are talking about someone we know. The Met Office is the national meteorological service for the UK that provides weather services including short and longer term forecasts. Each year around September, it reveals a list of Christian or first names for the upcoming storms. There is one for most letters of the alphabet, with Q, U, X, Y and Z being excluded as it is hard to find names for these.

How are the storms named?

As the British love to think about the weather, the Met Office has invited people to suggest potential storms names – around 10,000 names were submitted last year. The Met Office puts together a final list and releases this in September ahead of the winter storm season. This year’s list started with Atiyah and Gerda, Piet and Willow could be ahead.

Why are the storms named?

It’s not just to help us talk about them. It is believed that naming the storms helps to make people more aware that severe weather could be coming and therefore more likely to be prepared.

When is a storm named?

The Met Office has a warning system to predict when a storm is likely to have an impact on the public. A storm is only given a name when the Met Office believes that it has potential for an amber or red warning.

What are the levels of storms?

The storms levels are represented by a traffic light system based on the likelihood of impact and disruption.

  • Yellow – low impact – daily life will mostly be able to continue as normal.
  • Amber – potential disruption to daily routines. You may need to consider your travel plans and protect yourself and your property.
  • Red – the highest warning level, and fortunately the rarest, but we’ve already had a red warning this year with storm Dennis. It means dangerous weather could lead to major disruption and damage, and even loss of life. This could include widespread flooding, ice and snow that can cut off areas or high winds that can damage property.

How do you know when there’s a weather warning?

The Met Office tries to give 5-7 days notice and have full details on their website. However, weather and particularly imminent storms are reported across all media channels – and of course by talking to each other.

 

 

News Flash for English Learners

We are very proud to have launched a brand new service for our Student Plan and Pro Plan subscribers. News Flash is an amazing new learning aid that makes news for English learners even more useful and effective.

If you are learning English then you will know how useful news articles can be. They are an interesting way to learn new phrases and vocabulary, they are a great talking point around which you can practice your English with other students, friends and family, and they can be very useful for people learning English for business.

However, no matter how useful news articles can be it is often hard to find news specifically written for people learning English. Often news for English learners can be out of date and not very useful as news. Not with Perfectly Spoken! News Flash is a news service for English learners that is powered by news coming directly from Reuters so you know it is accurate, unbiased and up to date!

Real and Authentic

News is not only topical and a good learning aid it also helps English learners understand and use real and authentic phrases and words. Real news uses real words and the vocabulary people use in it are up to date and real. Real language is so important when learning English, it helps students understand the English native speakers use and good quality English news is a great place to get this kind of content. Not only is our news real it is also high quality from one of the best news agencies in the world.

So Much More than Just News!

Of course, you can expect the latest news articles, video and audio stories, but we are offering more than just a chance to learn about what is happening in the world. Our News Flash service also has special tasks carefully created for Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced English students. These tasks help you understand more, learn and comprehend new vocabulary and phrases and test yourself to see how well you did. We carefully select news stories and then create tasks for each learning level; this means no matter what English level you are you can understand and learn using our News Flash service.

A Few Minutes

We know most people do not have hours to read the news. We know that most people learning English online are doing so alongside working or studying. So our News Flash stories and short and direct. They only take a few minutes to read or watch and then you can take the test to see how much you have learned.

Find Out More

If you would like to find out more about News Flash – Powered by Reuters then please Click Here. This amazing new service is available to Student Plan and Pro Plan Subscribers along with hours of the best quality online English lessons available, tests, useful additional content and more.

 

 

E learning and its 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 shortcuts 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.

 

 

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 as 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 to 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 that 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.

A Simple Guide to Brexit Vocabulary

Whatever country you are in you have probably heard about Britain leaving the EU. It is a very complex situation and people learning English with a view to working or studying in the UK or with people from the UK may find it useful to understand a bit more about it. Some people are very passionate about this subject and can get angry about different sides of the argument. It is really important to be careful about discussing this topic with people from the UK at work or other places. However, understanding some of the key terms used can be very useful!

Here is a shortlist of the main vocabulary and terms used when talking about Brexit. Understanding and being able to use these terms will make understanding Brexit a lot easier.

Article 50

When the UK joined the EU it agreed to all the rules and Article 50 is part of the agreement that allows any country to leave the EU. An article is simply part of an agreement like a chapter of a book.

No Deal

This simply means that the UK will leave the European Union with no agreement relating to trade or anything else. This is an extreme situation and one that many people fear while others feel it would be OK.

WTO Rules

The WTO is the World Trade Organisation. This organisation sets trade fees that countries who do not have a trade agreement use. It is a baseline way of doing business with any country when no discussions and agreements are made. Often WTO rules are more expensive than trade deals agreed between countries so buying and selling with countries under the WTO rules costs more.

Transition Period

Transition means change and this period of time after the UK leaves the EU was agreed to help both sides plan how their relationship would work. For the transition period to be started the UK would need to agree on the plan Theresa May had negotiated with the EU. During this period the UK could not have any kind of say in any EU laws but would still have to abide by the existing rules.

Backstop

This is one a lot of people have heard of but most people do not understand. At the moment Ireland is split into two countries; Northern Ireland which is part of the UK and The Republic of Ireland which is a separate country. At the moment there is no border between the two countries so goods and people can move freely. Because the Republic of Ireland is in the EU and wants to stay there is a lot of confusion about if there should be a border once the UK leaves the EU. The backstop is an agreement between the UK and EU that there will be no Irish border during the transition period while a solution is found. It is a very contentious issue and one that it is best to avoid talking about.

Brexit is very complex but it will be an important part of UK history and whatever happens, will affect living and working in the UK for millions of people for many years to come. Learning about it while learning English may be useful.

Why is learning English through a course is so beneficial?

As the world becomes more and more connected, learning a second language is increasingly valuable. There are various ways to learn another language, from immersing yourself in the country where it’s widely spoken to using text books, but there are several benefits from choosing a structured course that make it the preferred method for so many people. Here are just some of the reasons why opting for a structured online English course will help you learn more effectively.

You’ll learn the rules of the language

English can be a tricky language to learn as it has a lot of contradictory rules and guidelines that can be confusing. Using a structured course will help to provide you with a better understanding of how these rules work in practice, as well as providing context for when and where certain words and phrases might be used.

It helps to keep your learning in order

When you’re picking up random phrases here and there, often you’ll learn something without the background of how it works which can make it confusing. Do you learn plurals first or adjectives? How about tenses? With a structured course, you’ll learn these things in the correct order, making your learning more seamless and efficient.

It’s faster and more convenient

Having structure to your learning means you’ll keep up with it and, as with anything, repetition is the best way to learn a new skill. Instead of reading a textbook and then not picking it up again for two months, by which time you’ve forgotten much of what you’d learnt, you’ll have regular interaction with the language which will help to speed up your learning and help you to pick up English more quickly.

Studying becomes more accessible

Courses provide multiple resources to help your learning, from online downloads to help you study wherever you are to people you can get in touch with if you’re struggling, all of which helps to ensure you learn the language more easily. The accessibility and help you receive with a course helps you to feel more supported throughout your learning.

 

Watch More Movies – and improve your spoken English

There are not man times in school where a teacher will say “you should watch more movies” but when it comes to learning English movies (or films as many English people call them) can be a brilliant way to improve your English learning both in terms of listening and understanding English conversations and improving your spoken English.

Movie or Film?

There are many things in the English language that have more than one word to describe it and movies are one of them. The word movie is something that has come from the USA and is certainly a term that is not traditionally used in the UK. British people tend to use the word film instead. However, ironically due to American movies being watched more and more across the world the word film is now less common and movies are used a lot. Both words are fine to use in the UK but the movie is probably better in other English speaking countries.

How Do Movies Help You Improve Your English?

Quite simply a movie in English is 1.5-2 hours of solid English speaking and if you are trying to learn English this is a great way to hear new words, understand new ways of saying things and also improve your spoken English because you get to hear how people say words you may have learned in a lesson. While full online English courses are the best way to learn English watching movies will help further improve and broaden your knowledge. It is like being in a room with people speaking English without having to find a group of people to be in a room with.

Accents

One of the hard things but also very useful things about watching movies is the different ways people speak. While the teacher in your online video lessons may be easy to understand, in the real world people speak with a huge range of accents. By watching a range of movies you can pick up and understand some of these accents and this will help you understand people in the real world. However, it is worth being careful to choose movies with mainstream accents and initially avoid rural accents in places you are not likely to visit. For example, if you are planning on working in Australia then watching a movie about rural Scotland may not be very useful and may be very hard to understand.

How to Watch a Movie?

Depending on how advanced you are in English you can watch a movie in different ways. If you are a beginner then use English subtitles while listening to your native language. This will help you associate words. If you are more advanced then try watching in English and using native subtitles. If you are even more advanced then aim to watch the whole movie in English. If you have to pause the film to think about some words or rewind to hear again then do but the best way to get better is to try to watch it all in English.

If you can you should watch at least one movie a month but once a week would be better. Try getting a group of people together so you can talk about what is happening and learn from each other. Quite often one person will hear something another person may have missed so it is useful to share the learning. If you cannot do this then find some people on our Facebook page who may wish to watch the same movie and then talk about it afterwards on WhatsApp or messenger.

Movies can be a really fun way to help improve your understanding of spoken English and improve your own ability to speak English. TV shows are also useful and seasons on platforms like Netflix can be good if not better than movies because there are hours of watching time with the same accents and people to listen too.