Building an Effective Workplace English Program—It’s Easier Than You Think!

workplace collaboration

Learning and development is only one of the many competing priorities that Human Resources (HR) managers face. Fortunately, though, there are some easy-to-follow guidelines that can help HR professionals assess the quality of their current English training programs and, if necessary, bring in more effective, efficient, and innovative tools to help their employees develop their language skills.

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?

Pronunciation Instruction

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and unfortunately for many non-native speakers, a foreign accent can sometimes get in the way. It’s one of the first things that people notice, and incomprehensible, heavily-accented English can be used to label and categorize, often wrongly. Language learners understandably want to minimize their accents, but they are rarely successful; let’s consider why.

How long does it take to learn a language?

By Dr. Katharine B. Nielson – Another question I get asked all the time is how long it takes to learn a language. And my answer–which no one likes–is “it depends.” But there are no easy answers to this question, because it really does depend on so many different things, from how much time you …

Teaching the right thing

By Dr. Katharine B. Nielson – As anyone who’s ever tried to learn a language can attest, it’s not easy. I don’t know how many times I’ve had people tell me that they are “bad” at learning languages, citing the fact that they’d spent four years of high school or college learning Spanish or French, …

Translation doesn’t teach language

Last week, I wrote about what makes learning a language hard and pointed out that using data on word difficulty from the language learning application Duolingo is not particularly credible. Duolingo relies on gamification and translation to “teach” learners decontextualized words and sometimes useless phrases such as, and I am not making this up, “the …

Is “bench” one of the hardest words to learn in English? No, it isn’t.

By Dr. Katharine B. Nielson It is hard to accurately write about scientific research for the mass market, and journalists regularly make mistakes. I don’t think, however, that explains what happened last month at Business Insider. Not only did Mark Abadi publish a factually-inaccurate piece about how hard it is to learn English, he relied …

Is writing the Achilles heel of English language learners?

Even for the most advanced English learners, there’s one skill area that often goes neglected in both classroom and online settings: writing. Improving one’s writing skills is incredibly difficult and requires consistent practice—especially in a second language—so learners tend to shy away from tackling it head on. Yet for English learners who need to use …