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 …

By the numbers: Meeting global demand for a growing maritime industry

Global demand for maritime workers has grown by 45% since 2005. And with increasing demand, HR professionals are facing greater hiring challenges, especially when onboard communication is of critical importance. Forty percent of all ship accidents are caused by communication factors, which means the need for English proficiency among crews has never been more important. …

Research review: Online versus face-to-face learning outcomes

In a comprehensive investigation of online and traditional face-to-face learning outcomes, the U.S. Department of Education released one of the first major reports to take a close look at the effectiveness of each approach. The analysis revealed that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. While this is certainly good news for online learning, the results are not as clear-cut as they may seem. To help break it down, we’re sharing summaries of three key findings from the study.

How to launch an English training program in the workplace: Part 2

In this two-part blog series, we’re sharing our best practices to design and launch an effective English training program for your team. Now that you’ve established what your organization needs and how you’ll measure the results, it’s time to consider the learning program itself in more detail. At the core of every Voxy course is …