Teacher's Corner Header Image

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 to year, finding work in small local schools or through online platforms—while others follow ESL careers in public and higher education. Many try it abroad and abandon it quickly thereafter, an interesting footnote in their personal histories.

When I landed in Japan in the fall of 2006, a longterm career was the last thing on my mind. Instead, after a quick day or two of training, I was teaching my first 45-minute class. This was my intro into the world of ESL. I remember using a sticky textbook with a smiling child on the cover (the class was all adults), the expectant looks on my students’ faces, and how unequipped I felt to meet their expectations.

So why, more than 10 years later, do I still find myself teaching ESL?

The short answer is visible and measurable progress in technology that is leading to improved progress with students. In the past 10 years, there has been a sea change in education technology. Video conferencing and platforms are faster, closing the gap between the physical classroom and the virtual one. Outmoded ways of ineffective instruction in language learning are giving way to a contextualized, personalized, task-based method that feels like a fully organic way of learning. At the start, learners may be tasked to talk about their families, their jobs, their favorite TV shows. In other words, their actual lives. We’ve thrown away the sticky textbooks, burned the ESL worksheets and dispensed with grammar rules learned by rote. It’s a very exciting time to be an ESL instructor.

Finally, this promise of technology and blended learning environments is becoming fully realized. Edtech companies are figuring out the best way technology and teachers can serve ESL students who haven’t had access to the forward-thinking instruction and technology many take for granted. For instance, do you know you can take a free online course on Modern and Contemporary American Poetry from the University of Pennsylvania? Go right now and sign up, you’ll see.

This is why I continue to tutor: Because it still matters, and there are still students who deserve the best of what our technology and progressive methodology have to offer. I’m a long way from that classroom in a small town on Kyushu, but it’s still a place that I think about. We all have to start somewhere, right?

Brett Fogarty is the Lead Tutor at Voxy.

Brett Fogarty is the Lead Tutor at Voxy.

Language Learners' Needs Video

Should language learners try to sound like native speakers?

Today we bring you the latest segment in a video series by Voxy’s Chief Education Officer, Dr. Katharine Nielson, who’s answering all your nitty-gritty questions about how people learn languages.

When teaching and learning a second language, we often look to the native speaker as the ultimate model, but is this a reasonable goal? Most learners will never have the same command of grammar as native speakers, but does that mean we shouldn’t focus on improving their grammar skills? According to Dr. Nielson, it all comes down to why learners want to learn a second language and how they plan on using it in the real world.


Did you miss the first video of the series? Check out Dr. Nielson’s detailed overview of second language acquisition here.

Dr. Katharine B. Neilson, PhD, is Voxy's Chief Education Officer.

Dr. Katharine B. Nielson, PhD, is Voxy’s Chief Education Officer.

Katie Nielson SLA Class

Dr. Katharine Nielson: Back in the Classroom

As Voxy’s Chief Education Officer, I oversee our pedagogical approach to second language acquisition (SLA) and all of our SLA-related research. Learning a second language is one of the most complicated things that a person can do, and I’ve dedicated my career to identifying the most effective ways to help language learners and teachers.

I was 20 years old when I first taught English as a second language, and I realized almost immediately that I loved teaching. The only problem was that I didn’t exactly know what I was doing back then! Since then, I’ve spent countless hours in classrooms learning as a student, researcher and instructor, and I know a lot more about language learning and teaching than I did 20 years ago. Today, my role at Voxy gives me the unique opportunity to apply the latest research to Voxy’s groundbreaking English learning platform.

In addition to leading the Voxy Education Team, I’m also back in a teaching role, this time at Hunter College here in New York. The course will cover a range of topics, including the academic theories that explain how language learning works, the qualities that make it easier for some people to acquire second languages, best practices for teaching languages with the help of technology and how to use real-world tasks as a teaching method.

I’m so excited to be back in a classroom where I can continue a dialogue with other instructors about how to best meet learners’ needs. Teaching gives me new insights into the challenges facing English language learners and their teachers today, and it also requires me to be as up-to-date as possible on the latest language research. At Voxy, we’re not just committed to providing the most innovative technology—we’re merging the most advanced language learning platform with proven teaching methods to help our learners improve their English proficiency and accomplish their language learning goals in the real world.

Throughout the course of the semester, we’ll be creating special video lessons based on what I’m teaching week to week. Check out the first installment below! You’ll hear a high-level overview of how SLA works, what type of practice language learners need and the way environmental and psychological factors affect language acquisition.



Dr. Katharine B. Neilson, PhD, is Voxy's Chief Education Officer.

Dr. Katharine B. Neilson, PhD, is Voxy’s Chief Education Officer.

Improve English Proficiency with Voxy 2

Beginners Improve English Proficiency in 3 Months with Voxy

You might be wondering: How long does it take to improve my proficiency level with Voxy?

Based on our current research findings, 79% of 0-Beginners—or learners who have little or no prior experience learning English—are able to improve their proficiency level after just three months of using Voxy.

Depending on your current level, we recommend studying between two and five hours per week. For beginners, do your best to fit in about two hours. For intermediate to advanced learners, we suggest spending at least four hours on the Voxy platform every week.

Need some advice on how to fit practicing into your busy schedule? Visit the Learner Support Center and check out this special video for tips from Voxy experts!

Idioms of the World

Idioms of the World

The following guest post originally appeared on HotelClub.com.

We use idioms to pepper our speech and writing, often without even realizing we’re doing it. These odd little phrases are used to express a sentiment other than their literal meaning. It doesn’t really rain cats and dogs, as the world and his wife knows.

I’ve always been fascinated by foreign idioms; they give us a unique insight into the culture that uses them. Did you know that in German you can say “to live like a maggot in bacon” instead of “to live the life of luxury”? Idioms can tell us a lot about what matters to a nation. They’re a window to the soul.

We wanted to explore the world in all its linguistic glory, so we asked artist and illustrator Marcus Oakley to draw some of his favorite idioms from across the globe. We hope they inspire you to learn the local idioms next time you travel.

1-idioms of the world title2-itialian-idiom3-polish-idiom4-japanese-idiom5-french-idiom6-portuguese-idiom7-german-idiom8-spanish-idiom9-russian-idiom10-finnish-idiom11-danish-idiom