Monthly Archives: May 2013

Top 5- Most Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

There are several mistakes that I hear all the time from English learners.  Some of these are  easy corrections to make that maybe you just weren’t aware of and the others may take more time to work on and may give trouble to even advanced English speakers.  Check this list to make sure you don’t make these mistakes!

Funny sign: Tripping Hazard

1.    Misuse of fun/funny- This is a common mistake that many English learners make.  Fun is something that is entertaining or enjoyable.  Going to the amusement park is ‘fun’.  Funny is something or someone that makes you laugh.    A comedian is ‘funny’.

2.    Articles- This is tough even for many intermediate-advanced speakers.  Remembering to use ‘a’ and ‘the’ and how to distinguish between which one to use can be very tricky for many English learners.  The trick is that ‘the’ is called a definite article, used to describe a specific thing. ‘A’ is called an indefinite article and describes something general and not specific.

“I’m going to the library.” – This probably refers to a specific library that the person you are speaking with will understand.  Maybe there is only one library or it is the library that you often visit.

“I’m going to a party tonight.” – When you say this, it most likely means that the person you’re speaking with is not familiar with the party and you are not specifying which party you will attend.

3.    Misuse of bored/boring- This is similar to the fun/funny mistake.  This leads to a lot of funny statements from people mixing up the two words to incorrectly proclaim, “I am boring!”  Bored describes the feeling of the state that you are in.  “This television show is not interesting.  I am bored.”  Boring describes a person or thing that makes you feel bored.  “This television show is not funny, it is very boring!”   When you say, “I am boring”, you are saying that you are not interesting!

4.    Gender Specific Pronouns- Most common mistakes are due to the fact that the language point doesn’t exist in the speaker’s native tongue.  For example, in Chinese, no gender is specified in the spoken language, so many Chinese speakers mix up “He/She/Him/Her” when speaking.  This is just one of those mistakes that has to be practiced, and it usually doesn’t interfere with communication; it just makes for funny and/or embarrassing situations!

5.    Singular/Plural nouns- Another common error, students often forget to put the ‘s’ on the end of words to make them plural. To create further problems for English speakers, there are other rules involving singular/plural nouns, such as whether an object is countable/uncountable, that leads to further confusion.  A general rule is that if you can’t count the object (water, information, knowledge, etc), you don’t add the ‘s’.  “There is a lot of water in that glass!”

How Much Would You Pay to Learn a Language?

The cost of language learning varies greatly. There is a plethora of free resources on one hand, but an equally diverse range of paid options on the other. Learners in theory have the freedom to splurge or spend nothing. But often how much the learner is willing to pay is determined by what learning a new language means to them. Taking learning English for instance, most learners are economically motivated. English skills often mean access to better opportunities and salary prospects. Hence learners are willing to invest more to brush up their English skills. An average 1 year course in leading English institutions costs at least $3000 to $4000 in China. And there’s no shortage of people paying. But if you’re not learning a language out of economic motivation but taking it up as a hobby, you’ll probably allocate less budget for learning. However, you might spend much more time researching resources and engaging in self-directed learning which are a cost on their own.

Price vs Results

I’m not convinced that you need to pay big bucks to learn a language well. I believe that much more important than price is focus and methods. Many learners outsource their learning to a school or teacher because they’ve paid the money and expect the institution to deliver results. While many learners who pay a lot less succeed because they’re actively involved in their learning.

Debundling of Learning

Being focused and getting the mix right (learning methods) far outweigh price. The mix being ‘input, study, output, feedback’. Learners who know that they need these ingredients in language learning and really apply them tend to be the ones who do better. More often than not the four ingredients don’t come from a single source. Learners need to find resources in each category that best suit their needs. The bliss and problem for learners are that there are massive amounts of free and paid options. How do you go about choosing and which element should you spend more money on? In the traditional classroom model, all of these elements are thrown together though teachers and students use a lot of external resources. For the student, it can be a simple and hassel free experience, though often not the best. But we’ve been seeing the debundling of language learning where students are getting each element from different places rather than relying on one class or teacher. This is true for both learners with no easy access to teachers or classes and increasingly for those who do.

How much would you pay to learn a language?

I want to throw it out there to fellow language learners: speaking from your personal experience, how much are you willing to pay to learn a language (what language did you learn)? Do you think it was money well spent? How would you allocate your budget differently if you were to do it again? Looking forward to hearing from you!

Teacher Tips- How to Teach an Effective Online Class

The internet now makes it easy for teachers to reach students across the globe. There are many ways to become a private teacher over the internet, using services such as Skype or even specialized language learning social networks and  teaching platforms to reach your students.  So how do you run an effective online class over the internet?

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Have the Students Prepare Before Class

Teaching online shouldn’t be much different than teaching a normal class.  You should be well prepared with lesson content for the student to review ahead of time so that class time can be focused on speaking.  If you are using our OpenLanguage materials, the student may listen to the lesson, practice repeating the words and dialogue, complete exercises, and show up to class ready to practice what was learned.

Plenty of Speaking Practice

Online classes make this easy since the class will most likely be one-to-one or very small.  Class time should be treated as time that the student gets to speak and listen as much as possible and receive constructive feedback.  I think most of us language learners have probably sat through classes where you only get to say a couple of words throughout the entire class.  This just isn’t effective and the students don’t have the chance to develop the confidence necessary to go out and speak with people on their own.

Assign Tasks

Task based learning asks students to use language to achieve an outcome. Class time should be based around preparing this and equipping your students with the skills necessary to complete this task.  When using OpenLanguage, there is a ‘Task’ section in each lesson that will provide the opportunity for your students to use what they’ve learned and record an audio or video task.  These tasks can be sent to you as the teacher or to a community of language learners to provide feedback.  These tasks are a fun way for students to share what they’ve learned and help master the material.

Set Objectives

Most people view online classes as an informal practice session.  If you want your students to see results, there should be clear goals and objectives.  Maybe your student just wants to visit a foreign country and be able to get around, maybe they have business goals, or maybe they have to study for a specific test.  The goal of the teacher should be to figure out the student’s objective, create a plan and have targets to help the student along the way.

Teacher Tips- Upgrade Your Old Textbooks!

Let this be the year that you upgrade your old textbooks and turn to the digital Tablet Textbook for your language class. What’s holding you back? Here are some of the best things about making the switch to a digital tablet textbook.

The future of booksCreative Commons License


Using a tablet textbook is just more convenient! In one device, you have access to a myriad of content. For example, our OpenLanguage courses are ALL available in one location. This is the equivalent of buying many different language textbooks across all different levels! And this doesn’t even include all of the other extra tools and features.

Social and Community Interaction

One of the best things about making the move to mobile language learning tools is interacting with a community of users and native speakers. Discuss your language with other learners and native speakers, share content and ideas, and do all of this without leaving your couch! Your old textbook doesn’t come close to offering the social tools necessary for learning a language.

Extra Tools and Resources

Record and playback video and audio, test your speech against a native speaker, flip through digital flashcards, complete exercises and track your data to see where you need to make improvements, and receive feedback from teachers and speakers across the world. These features are just the beginning of what can be done with OpenLanguage and other mobile learning apps. Your old textbook can be a fine resource, but to learn a language in the most efficient way possible, it just makes sense that you use all of the tools available to you.

Student Learning Management

Teachers now have the ability, with tools such as OpenLanguage, to look at the complete study history of a student, make assignements online, give feedback, and track progression. Using your old paper textbook, teachers may see scores of assignments from week to week, but there was no real way to track actual progress and determine weaknesses. Digital tools now allow you to track all aspects of a student’s learning and receive data and charts at the click of a button.

Have you made the switch to a digital tablet textbook, or are you stuck in the past with the old paper copies? Tell us how you made the switch to digital or why you’re still stuck in the past. We want to hear from you!