Author Archives: OpenLanguage

OpenLanguage Podcast Host Spotlight: Q&A with Jason Bigman

Lesson hosts are the heart and soul of OpenLanguage. They bring language expertise, life stories and charisma to the learning experience. Today, we introduce Jason Bigman, host for OpenLanguage Japanese, Spanish, and English.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: I am a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Aside from my obvious passion for languages, I also love good design, dumplings from various global culinary traditions, writing, and dry climates.

Q: You are quite the language nerd. Besides English and Japanese, what other languages do you speak?
A: If we go with “speak” meaning I can have conversations that involve original sentences that I’m coming up with on the fly, I can also speak Spanish, Mandarin, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Arabic.

Q: Why do you keep studying different languages?
A: I love the experience of a learning a language well enough that new worlds open up, both in terms of how to express ideas and describe the world around me but also the cultures and people of communities where that language is spoken. We live in an interconnected, globalized world and being able to personally connect with people from hugely varied geographic and linguistic backgrounds never gets old to me.

Q: What is your strategy when it comes to learning a new language?
A: One of the biggest factors to successful language learning is making sure that you’re studying a language that you truly care about, whether it be for personal or professional reasons. If you have the internal motivation, then the rest comes easily. I also tend to speak aloud to myself when I’m alone to practice speaking languages for which I don’t have regular conversation opportunities. I promise I’m not crazy.

Q: What’s your favorite OpenLanguage lesson that you’ve recorded so far?
A: I really enjoy recording Japanese lessons where my co-host Wakako and I get to delve into the complex relationship between the Japanese language and Japanese culture. The lesson “My Mom Buys Me Gifts” has some good examples of this.

Q: Any thoughts or suggestions for fellow OpenLanguage learners?
A: Keep studying! Take lots of notes and go back to lessons that you’ve already done to reinforce what you’ve previously learned. With words that are hard to remember or complex grammar patterns, try to come up with your own personal tricks or methods of comprehending them. You have to make your learning process your own.

OpenLanguage: a option for home-schoolers

At OpenLanguage we are committed to facilitating language learning in every form it might take. While many of our students pursue learning a language in their free time, we have teachers and students using OpenLanguage in both tradition schools and home-schooling environments. With the popularity of home-schooling growing, especially in the United States in recent years, we at OpenLanguage see this as a particularly important moment to provide innovative resources for teachers and parents to use with their young-ones .

So, in order to help facilitate home-schoolers we’d like to introduce our ‘Friends and Family’ subscription plan, and extend our academic rates to all parents using the service for home-schooling their children—just $50 per student per month!

Using our Friends and Family plan, as well as the Open Academy, parents and teachers will be able to join students in their language study process as well monitor their children’s progress. This is a decided advantage over the traditional classroom where the teacher spends a majority of the time inputting the information and trying to discover individual difficulties. This is what we term the ‘Flipped Classroom’ model. In the Flipped Classroom model, all the ‘inputting’ is done before the class and teachers can use their time most effectively to help students through their difficulties as well as practice newly learned concepts. By embracing this new model of learning and teaching we believe OpenLanguage can greatly improve the pace of language learning, whether you’re a casual learner, in a traditional school, or home-schooling.

The Flipped Classroom focuses on giving students the tools they need to expose themselves to language lessons before they make it to the classroom, thus giving the teacher the ability to help students practice the newly learned information and provide corrective feedback, instead of wasting valuable time talking at students! With our OpenLanguage lessons, not only do they receive the lesson audio, guided by two of our bilingual hosts, but they also have the opportunity to use our review tools to solidify their grasp of the vocabulary and grammar, in addition to expansion sentences building on the lesson dialogue.

Finally, before ever making it to the class the students will then complete exercises designed to gauge their comprehension of the lesson. The teacher or parent can review this prior to class, giving them a powerful understanding of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. With this new approach OpenLanguage believes students and teachers will be more likely to see rapid improvement in language acquisition by facilitating the input portion of the learning process thereby increasing the value of class-time.

The OpenLanguage Learner’s Series: conversation with a reluctant polyglot 

Today OpenLanguage co-founder Jenny interviews Orlando Kelm, Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at University of Texas, Austin.

Though his profession is teaching Hispanic languages, Orlando also found he was passionate about learning Asian languages such as Japanese and Chinese. Jenny talks to Orlando about whether he is one of those blessed with a language brain or is there anything else at work to produce a successful language learner? They delve into the learning methodology for different languages, how to stay motivated when motivation is running low and whether ‘polyglots’ should be role models for language learners. They also explore whether a few key learning trends such as mobile learning and Flipped Classroom are a fad or the future of learning.

5 tips for how to stay motivated when learning a new language

Motivation can be the hard part of learning any language. In this busy world it’s hard to keep a consistent level of excitement in learning a new language. Certain parts of every language can be a stumbling block, and even as we get better our goal of conversational or fluent ability can seem further and further away. But with dedication, and help from these 5 tips you should be able to maintain that motivation and power through any obstacles.

1) Pick a language for the right reason: genuine interest. If you’re not interested in the language you’re learning it will be hard to stay motivated. But if you have a good reason for learning, and you want to see it through, anyone can learn a new language.

2)  Find something to strive for. If you have a clear goal in mind, and a reason for learning, it can make everything simpler. Do you want to be able to speak to your girlfriend’s parents in her native tongue? Or maybe you want to be able to read a book, or watch movies in their original language. It could even be just to impress your friends or parents, but whatever the reason, hold it clear in your mind every time you plan to study and you will be able to find that illusive motivation you’re looking for.

3)  Travel to the country where they speak the language you’re studying. This is a great reason to travel. If you’re studying a foreign language, one of the best ways to learn is to immerse yourself in the language and culture. The best way to do that is to be in an environment where everyone is a native speaker. Not only that, but being able to get around and travel in a foreign language is exhilarating and can open doors that you might never have opened speaking English.

4) Fight off the urge to procrastinate. If you have trouble studying for longer periods, break your sessions into 10 or 15 minute blocks. This can help you by creating smaller, manageable goals. You can also set deadlines for yourself, or use language studying to procrastinate from doing another task :)

5) Create a study log. Keeping track of when and what you’re studying will help you understand when you are most productive. You can also record audio of yourself speaking the language and then you will be able to hear just how much progress you’ve made.

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!”

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?

Although you're far...

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.