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Eliminating the Foreign Language Requirement

In the U.S., we force students to sit through mind-numbing grammar lessons and stilted dialogues, leaving them unable to order coffee at a French bistro. But that doesn’t mean we should eliminate language instruction. It’s incredibly important for everyone to speak more than one language in today’s interconnected world.

Evaluating Translation in Language Learning

By Dr. Katharine B. Nielson – A couple of months ago, I pointed out that translation is an ineffective methodology for language teaching. That piece was then published on the ELTJam site, where it has generated a lively discussion on the merits of pedagogic translation as well as some more colorful exchanges–it’s been a long …

It’s Just Like Riding a Bike

By Dr. Katharine B. Nielson – 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 …

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 …