What's the most effective way to learn English?

Mike Mayor
Mike Mayor
A number of students sat at computers in a library

"What’s the most effective way to learn English?" It’s a question that has perplexed linguists for years. I see room for plenty of innovation in where it all starts - 'Ed'.

The evolution of edtech

In the seventies, reel to reel tape recorders were the latest technology. They enabled us school kids in the north of England to hear French sentences spoken by a first language speaker, rather than by an English teacher.

We looked at pictures projected onto the wall, listened to the sentences and repeated them over and over again. Not only did the audio-lingual methodology use the latest technology – but the pedagogy was also based on the 'sound' learning science of behaviorism. In a nutshell: if you repeat something often enough, it becomes automatic.

This 'drill and kill' approach to language learning has since been discredited and replaced by the communicative approach. Nevertheless, it lasted long enough to inform all of my secondary school French education.

I was considered a linguist and a grade A student. I went on to study for a French degree. But when I finally landed in France, I was unable to participate in even the most basic conversations. How effective had my language learning been?

A focus on outcomes is needed

So what is the takeaway? Publishers, entrepreneurs and edtech companies must think carefully about their products and courses. What problems are they trying to address? What outcomes are they trying to target?

It’s not enough to be innovative or novel. The shiny new toy will only engage learners for a short time if they don’t feel like they are making progress. We need to measure the impact on actual learning.

However, it is great to see so many exciting things happening in the world of edtech. For the first time, I believe we are on the cusp of delivering truly personalized learning journeys to all students –not just those who can afford individual tuition.

Many of us are developing AI that makes the learning journey adaptive, that monitors learner progress and surfaces that progress to the learner, that offers feedback on pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, speaking and writing.

We know that feedback has a significant impact on learning. We also know that it is challenging to give feedback on spontaneous language. But this is where AI is heading and soon the vision of learners interacting with virtual tutors on various topics will be a reality.

The role of teachers in the edtech landscape

Will technology replace teachers? Unlikely. Language is a social construct. We learn languages to communicate with others – and an increasing number of language apps are partnering with online tutors and creating language communities to address this need for human interaction. But technology can supplement what the teacher does – and will be able to do so more meaningfully thanks to AI.

It can extend language learning outside of the classroom, driving faster progress. It is available 24/7.It provides learners with a safe space to practice and fail – a way to build confidence. It does not replace the teacher. Instead, it enables the teacher to be replaced in the classroom, focusing on the communicative elements of language learning that are still a challenge for apps.

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    What is the definition of admiration?

    Originating from the Latin word admirari (meaning 'to wonder at'), admiration is the act of expressing sincere approval or deep appreciation towards someone or something, typically as a heartfelt form of praise or recognition for their achievements, qualities, or contributions. It is a sentiment that stems from feeling a genuine admiration for the impact and inspiration someone or something brings to our lives.

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    Whether you're dealing with a complex business transaction or simply enjoying a personal moment of connection, the richness of your words can reflect the depth of your feelings and make them even more meaningful.

    Examples of English compliments

    Let's look at some English phrases you can use to express admiration. There are different types for varying situations and people.

    Straightforward compliments

    To truly convey admiration in English, it's crucial to practice and become familiar with positive affirmations. The following phrases not only highlight the specific reason for your awe but also reflect a deeper, personal connection:

    • Your hard work is truly inspiring.
    • I'm in awe of your creativity.
    • You have an uncanny ability to make things happen.
    • Your perseverance is admirable.
    • Your kindness never goes unnoticed.

    Each of these phrases praises the character traits of the person you are addressing. They showcase attention to detail, appreciation for special skills, and the more intangible qualities, such as character and kindness, that are just as noteworthy.

    Tailored and specific accolades

    A compliment can carry more weight when it is clearly tailored to the individual. Phrases that are specific to a person's achievements and skills add a layer of thoughtfulness that is hard to ignore. Consider these examples of more personalized compliments:

    • The way you handled that difficult situation was masterful.
    • Your presentation was not only informative but also deeply insightful.
    • Your dedication to this project is truly top-notch.
    • I love how you always find a unique perspective.
    • Your attention to detail really sets you apart.

    These phrases go beyond generic niceties and serve to validate specific moments or attributes that set the person apart in a distinctive way.

    Building rapport with positive language

    Admiration doesn't always have to be solely based on achievements or success; it can also be directed toward someone's personality and interests.

    Sometimes, an outward expression of approval, high praise or agreement can forge a sense of commonality and mutual respect. Here are phrases that can help you beam with appreciation:

    • Your choice in music is impeccable.
    • I absolutely adore your sense of style.
    • The way you talk about your family is truly heartwarming.
    • Your passion for this topic is evident and contagious.
    • Your love of life is refreshing and infectious.

    Using these statements, you can create a warm and complimentary atmosphere, helping foster positive connections with others.

    Affectionate expressions for familiar friends

    When it comes to speaking (or writing) to someone you're close with, phrases of praise and admiration can touch on personal attributes and speak of shared experiences, creating an even stronger bond. These expressions should carry the warmth and familiarity that come with a close relationship:

    • Your sense of humor always lifts my spirits.
    • The wisdom you've shared has shaped and helped my own life so much.
    • You approach life's challenges with such grace; it's a privilege to know you.
    • The comfort and joy you bring as a friend cannot be overstated.
    • Your insights always provide a refreshing new angle, revealing things I had not thought about.

    These phrases are centered on intimate understanding and personal connections, deeply resonating with a shared history and mutual appreciation. They carry a more emotive meaning and weight, often used to reinforce the closeness and appreciation that develops through years of friendship or kinship. Therefore, you should use them with care and thought.

    The appropriateness of compliments

    The art of complimenting is nuanced; learning and gauging the appropriateness of a compliment is essential. Certain contexts or relationships might warrant a more conservative or formal approach. Professional settings, for example, often require focusing on achievements and abilities as opposed to personal compliments, which may be mistaken for overfamiliarity or unprofessional behavior.

    Consider culture and personal preferences

    Similarly, cultural sensitivities must be considered; a warm expression of admiration in one culture may be perceived as too forward or personal in another.

    Always ensure that compliments and praises are given in a manner that resonates with respect for the individual's privacy and comfort levels. By being mindful of your surroundings and the nature of your relationship with the person, your words of praise and admiration can be both fitting and heartfelt.

    Play it safe

    Usually, a good overall rule of thumb is the less you know someone, the less personal your compliments should be; if you're unsure, play it safe, or don't use one until you've gauged the situation appropriately.

    A note on delivery

    While these expressions are powerful in their own right, the delivery is key to ensuring the recipient truly feels your admiration. Context, tone of voice, and body language play a significant role in how your words are received. Be genuine, and let your admiration flow naturally. Avoid overuse of flattery, which can come across as insincere.

    Conclusion

    Whether you're networking, meeting with friends/loved ones, or simply conversing with a colleague, mastering the use of admiration and praise in the English language can open doors to deeper relationships and shared connections.

    Integrating these phrases into your lexicon can not only make your expressions more vibrant but can also help you cultivate a spirit of positivity, confidence and appreciation in your daily interactions. So make sure to incorporate examples like these into your own vocabulary; you never know whose day you might make with your compliments.

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