Tag Archives: OpenLanguage

Language Profile: Why Learn Portuguese?

In celebration of the World Cup in Brazil, OpenLanguage has recently launched our new Brazilian Portuguese channel: “Língua da Gente” which means “language of the people”. Made in conjunction with the University of Texas in Austin and renowned Portuguese professor Orlando Kelm, Língua da Gente is an exciting new addition to OpenLanguage.


So why Portuguese?

Portuguese is part of the Ibero-Romance language family and is very closely related to Spanish. Though originally the national language of the 10 million residents of Portugal, Portuguese was brought throughout the world with Portugal’s colonial expansion and now is the 6th most-spoken language in the world with 260 million speakers.

Today, Portuguese is dominated by Brazil. With over 200 million people, Brazil is by far the largest home of Portuguese speakers. Due to Brazil’s large population, Brazilian Portuguese is the most spoken language in South America, not Spanish. Brazilian Portuguese is quite different from Portuguese Portuguese due to centuries of influence from African and indigenous South American languages which has resulted in a more lilting and arguably sweeter accent than the more rapid-fire and almost Russian-sounding Portuguese accent. With Brazil’s population and cultural influence, Brazilian Portuguese has in fact become the dominant dialect over the original Portuguese dialect.

The Lusophone world, the name of the Portuguese-speaking world, extends far beyond just Portugal and Brazil. There are nearly 50 million Portuguese speakers in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in Mozambique and Angola. The Portuguese spoken in these countries has been greatly influenced by Brazilian Portuguese and thus is very similar. These two former Portuguese colonies today comprise two of the most vibrant economies in Africa with blistering GDP growth rates and great future economic promise.

The Lusophone world also extends to Asia. East Timor, up until recently known for its protracted struggle for independence, is now the politically stable home of 1.2 million Portuguese speakers and is posting some of the highest GDP growth rates in the world. And if you already have money to spend, Macau, the former Portuguese enclave in Southern China, is now the gambling capital of the world with more gambling-related revenue than even Las Vegas.

The economic incentive of learning Portuguese vis-a-vis the rise of Brazil is at this point well-discussed. But looking beyond professional opportunities, Brazil is one of the greatest cultural producers in the world. Sometimes viewed as the South American version of the United States, Brazil is a melting pot of immigrants from around the world with large African, European, Asian, and Middle Eastern populations. While often known for the modern metropolises of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, modern Brazilian history stretches back to the year 1500 and has left a plethora beautiful preserved colonial towns throughout the country.

All of this coupled with the nation’s varied topography of rainforest, plains, mountains, and of course beautiful beaches creates a culturally rich and vibrant destination that one could spend a lifestyle exploring without seeing everything.

Whether for work or for play, learning Portuguese will enrich your life. So check out the free complimentary OpenLanguage Portuguese channel Língua da Gente course and get studying today!

5 Ways to Actually Learn a Language

Learning a new language is a goal many of us have but few of us ever achieve. OpenLanguage provides a highly-effective, convenient, and entertaining language learning system that will put you on the road to linguistic success. In addition to an effective learning system, however, it’s important to focus on how you approach learning a language. Here are some key ways that will help ensure that you don’t just study a language but that you actually learn it.

1. Choose a language you actually want to learn

The fundamental thing that will result in language learning success is of course motivation – you can have all the resources in the world, but if you’re not up to using them you’ll get no where. Thus to be truly successful in learning a language, it’s best choose one that you really want to learn. Maybe you have a close friend that speaks Spanish that you would like to be able to communicate with in their native language. Maybe your company also does business in China and learning Chinese will help advance your career. Or maybe you love Japanese films and want to be able to understand them in their original language. Whatever the reason, choosing a language that motivates you enough to push through those periods of difficulty is the key first ingredient in the recipe for language learning success.


2. Find ways to connect the language to the real world

Language learning is traditionally the stuff of classrooms, water-damaged textbooks, and endless repetitive exercises. What this method fails to acknowledge is that language is about people, not words and grammar points. And, believe it or not, the people that speak the language you want to learn do not live on page 76, exercise 3; they live in the real world, using that language to talk to parents, write work emails, and fall in love. Seek out ways to connect the language you’re studying to the worlds where its actually spoken. This could mean finding music or TV shows in that language to see what native speakers are into, seeking out versions of the websites you love to find out how they actually talk about stuff, or (of course) finding someone who speaks that language natively to chat with. In doing this, you’ll better understand how the language is used and feels when spoken by real people, which is almost always different from how it is used and feels when being taught from a textbook. OpenLanguage is unique in that it provides real language taught by real people, making this real world connection a central part of your studies. Through this real world connection, the language you’re studying will go from feeling like a fossil that you study as a specimen to being a living, breathing thing that you actually want to continue to get to know.


3. Try to continue studying even when you’re not “studying”

It’s easy to study for a little bit and then go on with your day without ever once thinking about what you were learning earlier. But to really internalize a language, which is the ultimate goal when studying a language, you have to bring that language with you wherever you go. You’re walking to your car – how do you say “car” in Italian? You head to the store to buy some bread – what’s the right way to say “bread” in Arabic? You just remembered that you need to call your friend – how do you say “I call my friend” in French? By teaching your brain to constantly think about the language you’re learning, it will become second nature to constantly reinforce everything you’ve been learning.


4. Go back

Make a point of regularly going back to things you’ve previously studied. You may be years into your studies, but upon returning to beginner topics you may be surprised to find things that you’ve been doing incorrectly all along. Often times these things that were glossed over earlier on in your studies will add a great deal to your now more advanced abilities. Most importantly, going back is an important motivational tool: remember that lesson that was once so difficult for you to understand? Go back and listen to it after a few months of studying and realize how much you’ve progressed.


5. Make your learning your own

People love to make big statements about one-size-fits-all language learning tricks, but the bottom line is that you have to make your learning your own. Did that trick or method of studying that you just tried work? Keep doing it. Are you learning Russian in order to communicate effectively during a month vacation in Russia and don’t care much about being able to write the alphabet? Then focus on speaking. Do you only feel like learning how to talk about food and don’t care about learning hospital-related vocabulary? Then food it is. Learning a language is about enriching your life and reaching your goals, and getting there requires initiative on your part to find the method and approach that fits your needs.


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!

Teacher Tips- 3 Keys to a More Engaging Class

One of the hardest things for teachers is struggling to grab the attention of your students and keep them interested.  Having disinterested students in a larger classroom also usually leads to behavior problems that can distract the entire class, so having an engaging class is incredibly important. Fortunately, teaching an interesting language class doesn’t have to be difficult.  Follow these 3 keys below and you’ll have your students eager to learn a new language.

Real World Application

Students want to learn things relevant to their daily life.  If you are teaching material that doesn’t relate to your students, they aren’t going to be interested!  Choose content for your students that matches their interests.  Unfortunately, most textbooks are incredibly boring, so consider supplementing with vocabulary or lessons that your students are interested in.  Music, movies, and other forms of entertaining media are great ways to get your students interested in the content.

The Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas


Learning the culture is one of the most fun ways to learn a language and also one of the best ways to get your students interested in the language.  Think about the food, music, dance, sports, and celebrations of the countries that speak the language you are teaching.  Creating lessons based around these ideas are fun for the students and can help them grow a stronger attachment to the language.

 No More Lectures!

Lectures are the absolute worst way to teach a foreign language class.  Here in China, it isn’t uncommon to see Chinese English teachers deliver lectures in Chinese to explain words, phrases, and grammar of the English language.  This may lead to students having an understanding of the structure of the language, but the student will almost certainly be left struggling to speak with native English speakers. At OpenLanguage, our belief is that the most effective way to learn a language is by listening to and studying your lesson at home and then practicing what you’ve learned with a teacher.

Teaching with OpenLanguage makes it easy to teach an engaging class by adhering to these 3 keys with up to date and relevant content, weekly culture shows, and practice exercises to get your students speaking throughout the class.  Check out our Teacher page here for more information.

Teacher Tips- How to Provide Constructive Feedback for your Students

Depending on your teaching situation and the number of students you have, sometimes it can be tough to know how to provide feedback for all of your students. How do you know when to correct your student and when to let things go? Correcting too much in the moment may cause your students to stop speaking, and not enough correction will lead your student down a path of bad speaking habits.

Keep a Notebook

A general rule is to keep a notebook to jot down mistakes that are made often so that you can give your students a chance to learn without singling out their mistakes, constantly interrupting with corrections, and scaring them from speaking out again. Most students will need plenty of encouragement to speak out in class and less interruptions from the teacher. Let your students speak out, jot down the mistakes that are being made in your notebook, and make those teaching points targeted to the class so that your student can learn without feeling criticized.

Record your Students

Recording your students or asking them to record themselves also provides a great way for you to hear your students individually and provide personal feedback to each one. OpenLanguage has made this simple with the ‘Task’ feature. The Task asks students to answer questions or speak about a topic covered in the lesson, and they can record themselves and upload the Task on their mobile device so that the teacher can send feedback. The Task gives the opportunity for the student to speak and receive feedback for every lesson so that the teacher and student together may uncover weaknesses and make improvements in areas that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Try out the Task feature with your students and start giving more personalized feedback.


OpenLanguage Meetups!


One of the things that we firmly believe in at OpenLanguage is that along with all of the technology that makes learning easier, learning a language takes real practice with other language learners and native speakers.

Today we’d like to introduce one of our solutions to helping you learn a language: the OpenLanguage meetup! Our aim is to bring together other OpenLanguage users from across the world for real guided practice of your target language.  We just held our first one here in Shanghai and it was a lot of fun!


If you’re interested in joining one of our meetups, let us know.   And if you’re in an area that doesn’t currently have OpenLanguage meetups, we can help you create one!  We look forward to seeing you there and helping you achieve your goal of speaking a foreign language.