Why Authentic Content Is Important

man ordering at coffee shop

Authentic content gives learners exposure to the kind of language that they ultimately want to understand and create for themselves. If you don’t use authentic content, and teach learners with scripted dialogs or simplified materials written by language teachers, you’re not giving them models for how to produce or understand the language they’ll encounter in the wild. Not only is this ineffective, it’s also inefficient.

It’s Just Like Riding a Bike

Usually, when I tell people that learning a language is learning a skill, like cooking or surfing, I get nods of understanding. That seems to make sense, intuitively. And then when I go on to say that, because those are skills, they require copious amounts of practice and individualized instruction, I still get nods, and people are receptive when I go on to paint an even clearer picture. Where this breaks down is when people try to actually apply this theory to setting up a language program. So what to do?

Writing in Online Language Classes

One question I often get asked by instructors setting up online language courses is how to structure peer-to-peer communication. They ask because thousands of empirical studies on distance learning have established that a feeling of community drives learner engagement and, therefore, outcomes, but the wrong approach can actually be damaging for language learners. So what is the solution?

Naomi Sveholm: 3 Reasons language teachers should be language learners first

As a language learner-turned-teacher, I believe all language teachers should study another language—especially with another teacher. There are numerous benefits to practicing what you preach, but I’m going to cover just a few. Teachers often find themselves in a sort of bubble: they’re focused on leading their own classes and rarely see other teachers at …

Brett Fogarty: The Unique Experience of Learning Online

Teaching a language online is certainly a different experience than teaching in a physical classroom, and most people like to point to its limitations and drawbacks. But do we ever consider the undeniably unique experience of being in an online language class? Perhaps the biggest advantage is students getting to connect with each other. This …

Rebecca Wagoner: Learning English Through Pop Culture

The most common question I’m asked by ESL learners when we first meet is, “How can I become fluent in English?” The answer to this is tricky, because it truly depends on the individual and a number of factors, such as agreeing on what fluency even means. It’s my job to help people become fluent, …

Naomi Sveholm: What a Toddler Can Teach Us about Language Acquisition

When my son was born, I was excited to interact with him (after some sleep, that is). We’ve been communicating his whole life, but his speaking didn’t really take off until he was around 16 months, when I noticed a lot of parallels between my son and my English students, some of which matched my …

Ashley Dresser: The Morale of Making a Mistake or an Error

Achieving oral proficiency in a foreign language can often feel like an insurmountable challenge. And sometimes, no matter how fast you ride your horse toward it, it still remains a distant speck on the horizon. My adult English learners frequently express their frustration with this feeling, so I always have a lesson ready to help …

Rebecca Wagoner: What I’ve (Unexpectedly) Learned from Teaching ESL

I was originally hesitant to enter the world of online education, concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sufficiently connect with my students, but I’m now three years in and have found the opposite to be true. Working from an online platform has given me access to teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) learners …

Brett Fogarty: Why I Teach

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) is probably one of the most multifaceted occupations you could ever pursue as a career. It requires a unique skill set, including loads of cultural empathy and a chameleon-like ability to adapt to a variety of settings. A lot of the teachers are itinerant—staying in different locations year …