Voxy Attends ICEF Berlin, Global Language Learning Event

Last month Voxy traveled to Berlin to attend ICEF, an international conference that in part connects educators with agents who recruit students for immersive language-learning programs. The event is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, bringing together more than 2,000 professionals and hosting dozens of seminars on current and future trends in the international language-training market.

One of the event’s central themes this year was the growing interest in moving toward technology solutions for language learning. But new technology also introduces new challenges, such as how to sustain online engagement if students are already spending several hours per day studying their target language in a classroom setting.

The Voxy mobile app addresses this concern by allowing students to continue their English courses at their own pace and in small pieces, no matter where they are. Voxy’s flexible platform can also be used as an effective assessment tool, or as an online supplement to be used before and after an immersive English language program.

Another emerging need for travel-based language programs is a way to grow their customer base while maintaining a low-cost solution that keeps students engaged. Because Voxy can produce thousands of real-world learning materials at scale, we can offer a competitive and cost-effective solution—without sacrificing human instruction or effective engagement strategies.

ICEF Berlin sponsors included EC English, INTO, The Language Gallery (TLG), Language Studies Canada (LSC) and the International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC), among others.

Travel industry

10 Words For… The Travel Industry

This blog series will explore the top 10 useful words for specific industries, so you can learn the English you can actually use in the real world. This week, we’re looking at some basic concepts and vocabulary words related to the travel industry.

1. reseller (noun): Someone who resells goods and services in exchange for a fee, also known as agent
Ex: Travel agencies can use a reseller to buy group tickets for tourist attractions.

2. quote (noun): give someone the estimated price of a job or service
Ex: The school asked several travel agencies for a quote for the class trip.

3. to charter (verb): to reserve an aircraft, boat or bus for private use
Ex: The group chartered a bus so they would have more flexibility during the trip.

4. layover (noun): a short stay at a place in the middle of a trip
Ex: We have a two-hour layover in Iceland before landing in Paris.

5. accommodation (noun): a place (such as a room in a hotel) where travelers can sleep and find other services
Ex: The client has specific accommodation requests for her trip; she only wants to stay in hotels.

6. booking (noun): a reservation for accommodations or travel, or a ticket purchased in advance
Ex: The agency took care of all bookings, from flight tickets to hotel rooms.

7. package deal (noun): a group of services related to travel or vacations that are sold together for one price
Ex: Their package deal includes the bus tour, hotel room and plane ticket, but they will have to pay for their meals.

8. itinerary (noun): a passenger’s travel schedule
Ex: We finished our itinerary for our next trip: we’ll start in Barcelona, then go to Italy and finish in France.

9. amenities (noun): a useful or enjoyable feature of a place
Ex: This hotel has first-class amenities: a swimming-pool, sauna, spa and high-end restaurant.

10. yield management (noun): the process of frequently adjusting the price of a product in response to various market factors, such as demand or competition
Ex: Airlines practice yield management, which can result in drastic variations in airfare over a short period of time.

For additional practice with industry-specific terms in English, check out the Unit Catalog in your Voxy course for more work-related materials.

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, so I like to give them some real advice that I’ve learned from observing people who speak English as a second language. The learners I’ve met who emit the most confidence with their abilities in English are those who also happen to be well-versed in pop culture.

A learner’s ultimate goal in achieving fluency should be to feel comfortable speaking and writing in a foreign language. Part of that fluency means easily understanding other people, and eventually laughing at jokes and understanding sarcasm. The challenge in achieving this is that the material available in a typical foreign language class tends to cover more formal language skills and grammar, which might fall short when it comes to making friends or developing an identity within a second language. Spoken language is much more nuanced than a textbook can explain.

So how can students learn the depths of real, “natural” English without being fully immersed in it? In short, by watching TV series, movies and online videos. It seems that the next best thing to living abroad is watching people abroad. The type of language in pop culture has a raw edge that is chock-full of different accents, dialects, slang and even mistakes or deliberately incorrect words like “ain’t.” The students I meet who talk with me about the latest episodes of “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things,” for example, are the students who are speaking much more naturally and comfortably about their daily lives.

It has been my experience that being able to grasp the idiosyncrasies in conversations on the big screen translates to a better understanding of the dialogues and quirks of real life. When people watch movies in another language, they absorb phrases they’re more likely to use themselves and they learn a certain level of social expectations within that culture. This familiarity and repetition pulled from pop-culture references helps establish an internal system of acquired language that is especially helpful when it comes to speaking fluently.

So all those reruns of “Friends” might not actually be a waste of time after all. The movies and shows you watch could be helping you form the very language you use to speak.

I suggest finding a show that resonates with your interests and watching it with English subtitles. Choose a show that’s well-paced for your level of understanding—you should be able to tell if it’s a good fit within the first episode. As a basic rule of thumb, if you’re able to follow the storyline of the first episode and you enjoy it, then it’s a good fit. If watching the show frustrates you and you miss half of the dialogue, try watching something with simpler subject material that you can understand with less effort.

For those who don’t have enough free time to start a new series or watch an entire movie, YouTube and Vimeo have a lot of short films that may work better for you. Simply type in “short films” in the search box of the site you prefer, and you’ll find a long list of shorts that range from one to 45 minutes long. I recommend these for someone who’s looking for entertainment without committing to a schedule. Remember to choose a category you’re interested in, whether it’s comedy, horror, drama, animation, or whatever you’re in the mood for.

If you prefer to watch more practical content, I recommend checking out TED.com. TED talks are relatively short speeches designed to share an idea, and the topics cover a wide range: science, education, technology, health, diversity, art, music, humor, business—and the list goes on. These are great for a quick, informative and inspirational listening session. When you go to TED.com, click “Watch” on the top panel, then “TED talks.” Next, you can browse through interesting topics, select English as the language and choose a duration. There are plenty of talks under 15 minutes that are perfect for English learners. These are especially helpful for people studying English for professional reasons or who plan to attend college in English, because they help prepare learners for lectures and presentations.

Ultimately, the goal in watching TV, movies and videos in English is to help learners feel more comfortable understanding their second language. This comfort and familiarity will build a base on which learners gain confidence in speaking with native speakers. Consider this listening practice a form of entertainment while your brain is working hard undercover to achieve the fluency you’re aiming for.

Let us know what you’re watching in the comments below!

Rebecca Wagoner is a Voxy tutor.

Rebecca Wagoner is a Voxy tutor.


Idioms of the week: Halloween

In this blog series, we’re breaking down common English expressions that are used in everyday conversation, so you’ll be able to expand your language skills and have fun with new English phrases. This week, we prepared a spooky list of idioms in the theme of Halloween.

1. to have skeletons in the closet (noun phrase): to have embarrassing or incriminating secrets from the past
Ex: Mike became defensive when I asked him why he got fired. He probably has some skeletons in the closet.

2. devil’s advocate (noun phrase): person who disagrees with others so that there will be an interesting discussion about some issue
Ex: Everybody in the class had the same opinion,so the teacher asked a few students to play devil’s advocate to create a more lively debate.

3. a witch-hunt (noun phrase): an attempt to find and punish people whose opinions are not popular
Ex: Social media have become the ultimate tool of the modern witch-hunt; it’s now really easy for people to share information online and track somebody.

4. make someone’s blood run cold (verb phrase): to shock or horrify someone
Ex: My blood ran cold when I saw police at a crime scene two blocks from my house.

5. ghost town (noun): a deserted town
Ex: The campus turns into a ghost town during the holidays because all the students are gone.

6. pale as a ghost (noun phrase): when a person’s face is lacking color, and he/she appears scared or sick
Ex: Mary was as pale as a ghost when she came to work this morning, so I told her to go home and rest.

7. curiosity killed the cat (proverb): being inquisitive about other people’s affairs may get you into trouble
Ex: When Sara started asking too many personal questions to his new colleague, he simply replied that curiosity killed the cat.

8. night owl (noun): a person who is usually active at night
Ex: I never go to bed before 2 or 3 a.m., even on weekdays—I’ ve always been a night owl!

9. to come back to haunt someone (verb phrase): to cause problems for (someone) in the future
Ex: I never imagined that something I did in college would come back and haunt me 10 years later.

10. over my dead body (noun phrase): in no way, under no circumstances
Ex: “Mom, I’m dropping out of college.”
“Over my dead body!”

Try using these idioms the next time you practice your English skills. You’ll find yourself using them more naturally in conversation in no time!

ULACIT Takes Control of Its Curriculum by Digitizing Materials with Voxy

Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología (ULACIT), San Jose, Costa Rica.

Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología (ULACIT), San Jose, Costa Rica.

We are excited to announce a new partnership with the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología (ULACIT), one of the most prestigious private universities in Latin America. Based in San Jose, Costa Rica, ULACIT maintains an English school for university students as well as independent English learners. ULACIT is using Voxy to digitize its entire English curriculum, and to offer its students thousands of additional English resources and powerful learning tools that are available 24/7 through Voxy’s web and mobile applications. Voxy has replaced hard-copy books for the program—removing the burden from ULACIT of maintaining a large inventory of textbooks—and provides much greater flexibility for students to access their course anytime, anywhere.

“Especially because ULACIT is focused on science and technology, we are extremely proud to have been selected as the best online content and technology provider for their students,” said Daniel Lichi, Director of Business Development at Voxy. “Through this partnership, Voxy will help ULACIT move into to the next era of high-tech learning and provide their students with a truly blended English program, a totally integrated curriculum and aligned support from both Voxy and ULACIT’s faculty.”

Voxy will provide ULACIT with the data and reporting it needs to better understand the language learning process and to best support its students. This includes unprecedented visibility into what students are doing outside the classroom, which opens up new opportunities to track students’ progress and identify areas of improvement. For example, ULACIT can use Voxy to monitor specific areas of language development, such as vocabulary or grammar, to understand why and where a student may be struggling.

“By working with Voxy, we can determine what’s relevant to students and what areas of need we should add to in the future,” said Bernal Céspedes Mora, the Dean of the School of Education and General Studies at ULACIT. “But the biggest difference maker is the fact that Voxy allows the university to have control over the academic process rather than have a textbook publisher tell you what to do on a weekly basis.”

By eliminating reliance on textbooks, Voxy also gives ULACIT more control over the learning experience. Most schools follow a path that the book lays out for them, but ULACIT can make all of its own curricular decisions with Voxy’s flexible platform. And unlike textbooks that often don’t offer enough challenging tasks for language learners, Voxy provides the kind of academic rigor and integrity that results in significant, meaningful learning.