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

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


Voxy web and mobile engagement data featured

Are language learners more engaged on mobile?

Voxy’s Chief Education Officer, Katie Nielson, and Senior Research & Assessment Associate, Rebecca Jee, traveled to the 2015 Foreign Language Education & Technology conference (FLEAT) earlier this month to present Voxy’s latest research on mobile learning.

Their goal was to understand how the use of mobile devices affects the engagement of second language learners using Voxy. Do learners complete more activities on a mobile device than on the web application? Do they engage with the Voxy platform more frequently?

Nielson and Jee looked at Voxy learners who used just the web or mobile application and learners who used a combination of both. Let’s take a look at the data to see how learners are actually using Voxy.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

These results show that one platform isn’t necessarily better than the other in terms of engagement—learners who took advantage of both platforms were more likely to be engaged. What’s more is that learners who used both platforms used the web application more often than the mobile app. Future research will consider exactly what learners are doing with their mobile devices and how their mobile usage affects their proficiency improvement over time.

As technology advances and the use of mobile devices continues to grow rapidly worldwide, perhaps the learning capabilities on mobile will surpass those of the web. But these data show that mobile phones aren’t replacing computers just yet!