Filter by tag

  • A teacher sat with students at a table, the students are using tablets.
    • Young learners
    • Language teaching

    Benefits of using tablets in the primary classroom

    By Jacqueline Martin

    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Interactive whiteboards, PCs and laptops are common in many schools worldwide, but have you ever considered using tablets in your young learners' classes? 

    Tablets can be used for many things. Online research, watching and creating videos, playing games, and digital storytelling are just a few examples. Of course, there's also the added environmental benefit of going paper-free.

    In this post, we're going to explore some of the reasons why using tablets can be beneficial in the young learner's classroom and what to consider before you do so.

    What are the benefits of using tablets in class?

    1. Facilitating engagement

    With good direction from the teacher, tablets can emulate natural social interaction and interactivity. They can also offer problem-solving activities, set achievable goals and provide instant feedback.

    Moreover, when young learners are truly engaged in an activity, it may be perceived as effortless - and they learn and use their second language (L2) without even realizing it. 

    2. Introducing authenticity and autonomy

    In terms of content, tablets allow us to bring the real world into the classroom at the tap of a screen. We can provide learners with authentic materials via level-and-age-appropriate videos and real-life communication. As well as interaction with other teachers and learners through teams or by using a secure app such as Stars private messaging

    Tablets also promote learner autonomy. They are easy to use, allowing us to take a step back and let our students work at their own pace, being on stand-by as a facilitator when students require help or a little push in the right direction.

    3. Promoting creativity, communication and inclusion

    Nearly all tablets have a webcam and voice recorder, which means that learner-generated content can be created easily - even without dedicated software. 

    You can have your students make their own vlogs (video diaries), ebooks, comics, cartoons and movie trailers. All you need to do is to install apps such as Book Creator or this series of apps specifically designed for very young learners from Duck Duck Moose. While these apps have been created for 'fluent-speaker' classrooms, they can easily be adapted to an ELT context.

    Tablets also promote communication. This can help improve students' L2 oral skills at any level, when the teacher is there to support and guide them.

    One of the greatest advantages of a tablet as opposed to a computer is that anyone can use one and they are much more portable. 

    For students with special educational needs, tablets can be an essential learning tool and they can also be used by students with low-level motor skills, such as very young learners. Similarly, tablets can work really well with multi-level classes, as they allow you to offer differentiated materials, activities and support where necessary.

    4. Enabling online assessment 

    Tablets can also facilitate interactive online exams or help measure progress. Tests such as 'English Benchmark - Young Learners' are designed with primary learners in mind, to be taken anytime, anywhere. Its game-like format engages students and takes the fear out of being assessed. It also provides instant feedback to the teacher with informative reports and advice for future study. 

    5. Building relationships with caregivers

    Finally, as with any online content, tablets allow you to connect with our learners outside the classroom. You can quickly send links to classwork and feedback to the children's caregivers, fostering a positive relationship and a greater interest in their child's progress and learning. 

    Tips for using tablets in class

    Before implementing the use of tablets in your classroom, there are some things you should consider. Here are some useful tips that will help you gain the maximum benefit from tablets.

    Usability:

    • Decide what you are going to use the tablets for and when. Are you going to allow students to use the tablets for all parts of the lesson or only for specific activities? This may depend on the number of tablets you have available.
    • Use technology to improve an activity or design new activities that would not be possible without the tech, rather than using it to carry on as normal. Think about when a tablet will help learners do something they wouldn't be able to do without one, e.g., make a video or create and share a piece of writing with the whole class.
    • Think about using tablets for creation rather than consumption. Your students can (and probably do) spend a fair amount of time consuming videos in their free time. Whether they do this in English or not is another story, but in the classroom, students should use the language as much as possible (see the next point).
    • Use the tablets for collaborative tasks that require social interaction and communication. It's unlikely that you will have one tablet per student. Make the most of this limitation by having students work in pairs or small groups. Students can use their own devices individually outside the classroom.
    • Try to incorporate tablets into regular classroom activities and interactions. Avoid making them a "reward" or just for "games". Even if games are part of your planned tablet usage, make it clear that students are playing them in order to learn English. Encourage students to think of the tablet as a tool to help them on their learning journey.

    General tips

    • Try out any apps or widgets before asking students to use them. If necessary, make or find a step-by-step tutorial to help students use an app. There's nothing worse than having a class of twenty-five students all raising their hands at the same time because they don't know where to start.
    • Have clear rules and guidelines for tablet use. Educate students about using the equipment responsibly. Do this before you hand out tablets the first time.
    • Provide students and parents with a list of recommended apps to continue their home learning. Whether you have a class set of tablets or are using BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), many students will have access to a tablet or mobile phone at home, which they can use for further practice. Students will likely be motivated to continue playing games at home and may wish to show their parents and friends any content they've created in class.

    Practicalities

    • Consider the hardware and technical requirements. Do you need a Wi-Fi connection? How many devices will you have? Which apps and programs do you want to use? 
    • Ensure the features and apps you plan to use suit the age group you're teaching. Do some research, and if possible, choose apps designed for educators, avoiding freebie apps that may contain advertising. Block any websites you think unsuitable and install a search engine with child-friendly filters.
    • Set the language of the devices to English. Even if your students are very young, they'll pick up useful language and will be more inclined to use English as they are using the tablet.
    • Decide where you will keep the tablets and how they will be maintained. How often and where will they be charged? 
    • Think about how you can flexibly set up your classroom to incorporate collaborative tablet use. Move tables together to make group work easier. Create workstations or even have cushions or bean bags in a corner of the classroom.

    Using tablets to assess student progress with Benchmark

    With the right software, tablets can allow us to conduct formative assessments through immediate feedback and learning analytics. 

    We have developed our own English-language test for children aged 6 to 13 in an app designed specifically for tablet use. This fun, game-like test is highly motivating and assesses all four skills in a relaxed environment, removing the stress of traditional exams. It also allows you to see where each learner needs more improvement, providing recommendations on what to teach next and suggested activities in selected Pearson courseware.

    Find out more information about the English Benchmark test.

  • a group of young business people chatting toether
    • Business and employability
    • Diversity and inclusion

    Unconscious bias in the workplace: Overcoming DEI barriers through language learning

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 7.5 minutes

    Unconscious bias: it's a quiet murmur in the corridors of our workplaces that can grow into a loud echo, shaping decisions and team dynamics in ways that may go unnoticed. In our collective quest for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), recognizing and tackling these biases is not just important—it's essential.

    By embarking on this path, we create workplaces where everyone feels valued and heard. If you're an HR professional, a leader, or a diversity consultant, it’s essential to always keep this in mind in every aspect of the workplace. Today, let's explore how language learning can be a valuable ally in breaking down the barriers created by unconscious bias.

  • A teacher sat at the front of the classroom smiling at his students.
    • Diversity and inclusion
    • Language teaching

    Encouraging cultural sensitivity in the classroom

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 7.5 minutes

    In today's classrooms and schools, cultural sensitivity isn't just a nice to have; it's an essential component of effective language teaching. As educators, understanding and valuing the diverse cultures that learners bring into our schools and classrooms can bridge gaps and foster inclusive learning environments.

    But why is cultural sensitivity so important, and how can we practically incorporate it into our teaching? In this post, we explore ways to help language teachers cultivate a more culturally aware and inclusive classroom.

    Why is cultural sensitivity important in language education

    Teaching languages, including English, involves a significant cultural component; therefore, we must proceed with mindfulness and respect. Recognizing and honoring the cultural backgrounds of our students lays the groundwork for nurturing a safe space where everybody feels seen, heard, and respected. This isn't just about avoiding misunderstandings or conflicts; it's about enriching the educational experience for all.

    Language encompasses more than just vocabulary and grammar; it is a conduit of culture, identity, and worldviews. As an educator, you possess the wonderful opportunity to nurture and encourage your students, allowing each voice to soar individually while harmoniously contributing to a greater collective comprehension.

    Students are better prepared for the workplace

    Embracing cultural diversity within the classroom arms students with a set of skills that are invaluable in the workplace. An example can be found in 'Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire' by Bruce Nussbaum. Nussbaum explores how creativity emerges at the intersection of different cultures and experiences.

    In a business context, this creativity is the driving force behind innovation and problem-solving. Students who have learned to navigate cultural nuances are adept at thinking outside the box, making them valuable assets in any professional environment.

    They are more likely to approach challenges with an open mind and collaborate effectively with a diverse team, recognizing that each unique background contributes to a richer, more comprehensive perspective on work and the world.

    It improves social skills

    Incorporating cultural sensitivity into language education isn't just about creating a respectful classroom; it directly enhances students' social skills.

    Numerous studies suggest that culturally diverse classrooms are breeding grounds for advanced social skills. One theory that explores this concept is Bennett's Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), which illustrates how intercultural encounters can foster individuals' cognitive growth and emotional resilience.

    Bennett states that through various stages of cultural awareness, people develop from mere tolerance of difference to integration of diverse cultural viewpoints into their own life experiences.

    Students can develop empathy and stronger communication abilities by understanding and appreciating cultural nuances. This knowledge empowers them to engage thoughtfully and effectively with peers from diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of global citizenship.

    Students have better emotional intelligence

    Robert J. Sternberg's 'Cultural Intelligence and Successful Intelligence' highlights a significant research study that supports the idea that exposure to cultural diversity can enhance empathetic development. According to Sternberg, when individuals are exposed to a variety of cultures, it broadens their emotional experiences and perspectives.

    By interacting with individuals from different backgrounds, students' own emotional intelligence can be greatly enhanced. This is because learning to understand and respect diverse emotional expressions and communication styles sharpens one's ability to read and respond to the feelings of others.

    Moreover, it fosters emotional maturity, as individuals learn to navigate and appreciate the subtleties of human emotion in a multicultural world. Through such enriching exchanges, students in culturally diverse settings develop a more refined sense of empathy, becoming well-equipped to engage with others in a considerate, informed, and emotionally intelligent manner.

    It helps their language learning

    Understanding a culture deeply enriches the language acquisition process for students. When they step into the shoes of those who live and breathe the language they're learning, it becomes more than just memorizing vocabulary and grasping grammatical structures.

    Students begin to notice the subtleties in conversation tones, the unspoken expressions that only those privy to the culture can interpret, and the implicit rules of language etiquette.

    This discernment can be the distinguishing factor between being a functional speaker and a captivating storyteller in their new language. As students immerse themselves in cultural practices, whether through music, film, or literature, they are not just learning a language—they are learning to convey emotions and ideas just as a fluent speaker would.

    It helps with classroom friendships

    This new understanding helps to peel away the layers of hesitation. Engaging in activities that celebrate diversity becomes an exciting exploration, paving the way for students to break out of their shells. They're encouraged to be curious, ask questions, and share about themselves, fostering an environment where every student is a teacher and a learner in their own right.

    As the classroom transforms into a supportive space for cultural exchange, students are encouraged to reach out and connect with peers they might not have approached before. With every shared story and every collaborative project, the bonds of friendship are forged, transcending former barriers and weaving a tightly-knit community that thrives on the unique contributions of each member.

    Embracing diversity in your language classroom

    Wondering how to transform your language classroom into a crucible of cultural sensitivity? Here are a few simple yet significant changes you can start with today.

    Get to know your students

    Make an effort to learn about your students' cultural backgrounds. This gesture speaks volumes about your respect for their identity. Use icebreakers or activities that invite students from diverse backgrounds to share their traditions and norms.

    This doesn't just apply to major cultural differences but also the nuanced aspects of diversity within a seemingly homogenous group of students. This research can also help you plan activities and whether they are appropriate for all students in your classes.

    Fostering a community of belonging

    Imagine stepping into a class where every student feels a sense of belonging and acceptance. This is the power of embedding diversity and equity into your teaching methods. This can be done by:

    • Recognizing holidays from around the world.
    • Sharing stories from varied cultures.
    • Encouraging students to express themselves in ways that honor their heritage.

    These strategies are just a few ways to instill acceptance and belonging in your own classroom environment whilst learning a new language.

    Incorporate multicultural content

    Select texts, examples, and materials that reflect a range of cultures and experiences. Familiarity breeds comfort, but newness breeds growth. Ensure your curriculum and classroom materials reflect a world beyond the traditional English-speaking countries.

    By doing so, you're offering students windows into different worlds and mirrors to see themselves reflected in the learning material.

    Representation is also incredibly important in promoting diversity and inclusivity in education. We can create a more inclusive and equitable society by using materials, programs and stories that feature varied representation.

    This not only ensures that everyone's voices and life experiences are heard and valued, but also helps to challenge stereotypes and foster understanding among different communities.

    Foster open discussions

    Encourage open discussion in the classroom around cultural norms, expressions, and idioms. When students understand the context behind language, they gain a deeper appreciation and avoid missteps that could inadvertently offend.

    Use mistakes as learning opportunities

    When cultural insensitivities do arise, it is important to approach them as teachable moments. Take the opportunity to guide learners with a warm and understanding attitude, providing them with the necessary knowledge, resources and context to foster a more inclusive and respectful classroom environment.

    Reflect on biases

    Be aware and proactive about addressing stereotypes and biases present in class discussions. Challenge your own preconceptions and lead by example. Creating brave spaces for learning helps students feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes, which is where true growth happens.

    Nurture empathy and understanding

    Teach language learning as a journey of empathy. Language is not only about speaking to someone but also feeling with them. Encourage students to step into the shoes of others, fostering a spirit and culture of empathy that transcends cultural boundaries.

    Respect linguistic diversity

    Encourage your students to express themselves in English with pride in their respective accents. Support them in understanding that clarity and communication are the goals, not trying to remove their accent or identity. By doing so, we not only bolster their confidence but also teach the wonderful lesson of inclusivity.

    Practical activities

    Implementing activities and lessons that bring cultural awareness into the forefront can transform your language classroom into a vibrant community of curious minds and hearts. Here are some examples of activities you a teacher could do:

    • A simple yet effective activity is a 'cultural artifact show and tell,' where students are invited to share an item of cultural significance to them and tell its story. This encourages sharing and deep listening, shedding light on the diverse cultural backgrounds represented in the room.
    • Cultural exchange workshops, possibly with guest speakers, can offer students firsthand insight into various aspects of different cultures. These workshops can revolve around traditional dance, music, games, or cooking demonstrations, allowing students to immerse themselves in and appreciate the richness of various other cultures.
    • Having international cuisine days, where students prepare and share dishes from different countries, can be a delightful way to stimulate the senses while emphasizing the importance of cultural traditions tied to food. It's a tasty opportunity for students to express themselves and learn the stories behind international cuisines.
    • Crafting sessions for cultural storytelling allows for the narratives of different cultures to be told through the enchanting medium of stories. Storytelling connects students to diverse societies through emotional and moral threads. The storytelling could be done in the target language you're teaching.
    • A book and film club can open doors to different worlds. Curating a list of international authors and filmmakers for the club enhances language skills and cultural understanding by engaging with diverse narratives and viewpoints.

    The list isn't exhaustive, but there may be other ways to introduce cultural sensitivity into your class, any kind of activity that showcases and introduces cultures or traditions to others in an interesting manner.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, cultural sensitivity can transform our language classrooms and schools into hives of connection and understanding. It takes awareness, intention, and a nurturing heart—qualities that you, as an educator, already possess. Remember, every small step you take has an impact on the young minds you shape and the interconnected world they will navigate.

    Embrace diversity, teach with sensitivity, and watch as your classroom becomes a microcosm of the world we all share—a world of vibrant cultures, languages, and stories waiting to be told and heard. By incorporating diverse narratives and viewpoints from others into our teaching, we can enhance our students' language skills and deepen their cultural understanding.

    So let's continue to strive for a more inclusive and empathetic learning environment, one that celebrates differences and fosters empathy and compassion among all learners.

    Keep developing your understanding

    To dive deeper into creating inclusive learning experiences, explore our free course on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, designed for teachers. To help empower educators to foster classrooms where diversity is celebrated, inclusion is the norm, and everyone feels they belong.

    Craft brave spaces, build a sense of belonging, and instill that all-important appreciation and acceptance of others. Request free course access today.

    On the topic of diversity and inclusion in the classroom, make sure to read our other posts, 'The Importance of diversity and inclusion in your curriculum' and 'Ways to bring cultural diversity into your classroom'.

    We also provide other professional development programs and qualifications for educators; you can check them out here:

  • A man smiling and high fiving another person
    • Just for fun
    • Language hints and tips

    Ways to express admiration in English

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 4 minutes

    February is commonly associated with Valentine's Day, which is a day to express love and affection to your significant other. However, it's also important to express admiration for others in a platonic, non-romantic way.

    Language serves as the gateway to genuine communication, and one of the most delightful methods of connection is through expressions of admiration. As you practice and immerse yourself in the depths of the English language, you'll likely want to learn ways to convey heartfelt praise, elevating your ability to articulate and forge meaningful connections.

    In today's post, we explore a range of examples to enhance your language proficiency and elevate your conversational English.

    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.

    Admiration is an emotion everyone can relate to, and the English language offers a beautiful range of words and expressions to convey it in the most subtle and nuanced ways.

    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.

  • Students sat outdoors writing in notepads smiling
    • Technology and the future
    • Linguistics and culture

    Why learning a language is better than using machine translation

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 7 minutes

    As technology and AI translation tools continue to advance, it's becoming increasingly tempting to rely on them for language-related tasks. However, this can potentially undermine motivation to learn a new language when technology seems to offer a shortcut. While machine translation can be helpful, it also has its limitations. 

    Learning a language goes beyond just communication; it opens the door to different cultures, mindsets, and perspectives of the world. Machine translation, despite its efficiency, cannot replicate the cultural immersion that comes with learning a language. Spoken language nuances, idiomatic expressions, cultural references, and implicit rules that are second nature to native speakers are often lost in translation. Let's delve deeper into why learning a language is better than solely relying on machine translation.

  • A man in a library with a open laptop and notepad studying and smiling
    • Language learning
    • Language hints and tips

    Overcoming language learning plateaus: Strategies and solutions

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 6.5 minutes

    Are you stumped by stubborn language learning barriers or plateaus? Everyone has those moments when it feels like they're not making any progress or are completely stuck in their studies. Let's dive into some of these challenges and explore ways to overcome them.

    Common language learning hurdles

    Plateaus in language learning often occur after initial periods of rapid progress and can be attributed to various reasons. For one, learners may have reached a comfort zone where basic communication is possible, reducing the urgency to improve further. Additionally, the complexity of advanced language structures can be overwhelming, leading to a stagnation in learning.

    The lack of measurable progress can also be demotivating, causing learners to lose interest and reduce their efforts. Moreover, insufficient exposure to the language in a natural setting can limit the ability to practice and reinforce new skills. To overcome these plateaus, it's crucial to set new goals, seek out challenging and immersive experiences, and employ diverse language learning resources and strategies that keep the language learning process engaging and dynamic.

    How can I overcome my language learning slump?

    Hitting a language learning plateau is like running into an invisible wall — your progress seems to halt and the motivation to push forward begins to wane. Here are some ways to overcome this common obstacle and get back on the road to fluency:

    • Reassess your goals: Take a step back and reassess your language learning objectives. Are they still relevant and challenging enough? Setting new, clear and achievable goals can provide a renewed sense of direction and purpose.
    • Change your routine: If your current study routine feels monotonous, shake things up. Try new learning materials, switch to a different language learning app, or alter the time of day you study. A fresh approach can reignite your interest.
    • Incorporate the language into daily life: Find ways to make the language a natural part of your day. Label objects around your home, think or speak to yourself in the language, or change the language settings on your phone and social media.
    • Seek out real conversations: Engaging in conversations with native speakers can provide a reality check on your progress and expose you to the natural flow of the language.

    Techniques to help motivate your language learning

    One effective technique to break through a language learning plateau is the use of Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). We've spoken about SRS before in our blog post' language learning techniques for beginners,' but be assured it is an incredibly useful technique that can't be recommended enough, especially for keeping out of a slump. This cognitive science technique involves reviewing information at increasing intervals to exploit the psychological spacing effect. As you learn new vocabulary, words or grammar rules, an SRS schedules these items for review at optimal times before you're likely to forget them.

    Here's how you can implement SRS into your language learning vocabulary practice routine:

    • Start with a flashcard app: Use an app like Anki, which is designed with SRS algorithms to help you review vocabulary and phrases at strategic intervals.

    • Create personalized content: Make your own flashcards with sentences and vocabulary that are relevant to your life. This personal connection can make the material more memorable.

    • Gradual difficulty increase: As you become more familiar with the content, increase the complexity of your flashcards. Add phrases or idioms instead of single words to challenge your comprehension.

    • Regular reviews: Be consistent with your reviews, even if it's just a few minutes each day. This regular exposure reinforces your memory and helps solidify the language in your mind.

    • Adjust according to performance: If you find certain items difficult to remember, adjust the intervals to review them more frequently. Conversely, items that you find easy can be reviewed less often.

    By incorporating SRS into your study routine, you can ensure a steady progression in your language learning journey, even when you hit a plateau. This method not only helps in retaining information but also in moving from passive recognition and pronunciation to active recall, a key step in achieving fluency.

    Boosting confidence and motivation in language learning

    Mastering vocabulary and grammar is crucial, yet overcoming the inevitable learning slumps and plateaus is equally vital to your language learning process. Motivation is a critical factor that can drive you past these plateaus, enhancing your learning journey and helping you reach your language learning aspirations. Regular speaking practice not only maintains motivation but also improves overall speaking and listening skills. These are often the first to suffer during a slump, thereby contributing to a resurgence in language skills.

    A strong correlation exists between self-confidence, motivation and language learning. Here are some key points to consider:

    • Self-confidence has been found to be associated with English achievement, speaking ability and self-efficacy.

    • High motivation in self-confident language learners also leads to purposefulness in language learning.

    • This purposefulness can result in better communication with native speakers.

    Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities

    Do you fear making mistakes when you're learning a new language? Sometimes, the fear can be its own obstacle to your learning. By embracing mistakes as learning opportunities, you can enhance your language skills by identifying areas that need improvement and boost your confidence through developing resilience against the fear of making errors. 

    Overcome the worry of language errors, avoid the trap of measuring yourself against others and engage in positive self-dialogue in the language you're learning to make slip-ups feel like a normal part of the learning curve. Tackling this apprehension is a pivotal stride on the path to language mastery.

    Recognizing when to take a break from language learning

    Sometimes, despite our best intentions, life throws us curveballs that can disrupt our study routines and make it hard to concentrate on language learning. Whether it's a demanding job, family responsibilities, health issues, or simply the need for a mental break, it's important to recognize when to step back and recharge.

    Taking a break can be beneficial for your language learning process. It allows your brain to rest and process the information it has absorbed. This can lead to better retention and a refreshed perspective when you return to your studies. It's crucial to listen to your body and mind and not to view breaks as setbacks but as a necessary part of a sustainable learning journey.

    Remember, it's about balance. While consistency is key to language acquisition, overworking yourself can lead to burnout. A well-timed break can reignite your passion for the language and enhance your ability to focus. So, when life gets in the way, don't be too hard on yourself. Embrace the pause, take care of what's important and know that the language will be there when you're ready to return.

    How can I keep my concentration while studying a language?

    Quite often, when you meet obstacles, you might get frustrated and your concentration suffers. Maintaining concentration while studying a foreign language can be challenging but is critical for effective learning. Here are some strategies to help you stay focused:

    • Create a distraction-free environment: Find a quiet space where interruptions are minimal. Turn off notifications on your devices and consider using apps that block distracting websites during your study time.

    • Set specific study times: Schedule dedicated time slots for language study. Having a routine can help your mind get into the habit of focusing during these periods.

    • Break down study sessions: Instead of long, drawn-out study sessions, break your learning into shorter, more manageable segments. This technique, known as the Pomodoro Technique, involves studying for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break.

    • Stay hydrated and well-rested: Drink plenty of water and ensure you're well-rested. Your cognitive functions, including concentration, are significantly better when you're hydrated and have had enough sleep.

    How can I fit studying a language into my very busy routine?

    Fitting language study into a hectic schedule can seem daunting, but it's entirely possible with some clever time management and the right strategies. Here are some tips to help you weave language learning into your busy life:

    • Utilize microlearning: Break your study into bite-sized chunks. Even 5 to 10 minutes of focused study can be effective, especially when done consistently.

    • Use technology: Use language learning apps that allow you to study on the go, like during your commute or while waiting in line.

    • Combine activities: Listen to language podcasts or audio lessons while exercising or doing household chores.

    • Stay organized: Plan your week in advance and identify pockets of time that can be dedicated to language learning.

    • Prioritize learning: Make language study a non-negotiable part of your day, similar to how you would prioritize eating or sleeping.

    • Seek out passive learning opportunities: Surround yourself with the language by changing the language settings on your devices or watching shows in the target language with subtitles.

    Remember, consistency is more important than the length of your study sessions. Integrating language learning into your daily routine allows you to progress without overwhelming your schedule.

    Summary

    Overcoming plateaus is crucial for progressing in fluency and keeping motivation high. Re-evaluating goals, diversifying study routines, integrating the language into everyday life, and engaging in conversations with native speakers are all effective strategies for pushing past these stagnant periods. Employing techniques like Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS) can greatly enhance vocabulary retention and be an aid in overcoming learning obstacles.

    Building confidence and staying motivated are pivotal for success in language learning, with self-confidence having a strong correlation to language proficiency. Viewing mistakes as chances for growth fosters continuous improvement and builds resilience. It's also important to acknowledge when a break is needed, as it can actually improve retention and provide a fresh outlook when studies resume. A balanced approach to language learning that includes regular practice and the ability to adjust to life's interruptions is advocated for sustained achievement and pleasure in learning a new language.

    For more tips and guidance, check out our blog where we cover a variety of topics, including posts that offer language hints and tips.

  • Office works stood in a cubicle and in a hallway talking
    • Business and employability

    Goal setting: A path to achieving team fluency

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 5 minutes

    We know businesses that invest in skills development are more likely to retain top talent, and see many other benefits as well. Upskilling your team's English proficiency can have a transformative effect on the business, leading to new opportunities, growth, and a more engaged workforce. However, implementing a corporate language learning program can be challenging. Using traditional goal-setting frameworks can support you and your team on this journey. Here's how:

  • A child running with a rugby ball outside, with children behind them
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    How can gaming support language learning?

    By Jacqueline Martin

    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Academics and teachers have been writing about the benefits of using games in the language classroom for many years. Wright et al (1984), Lee Su Kim (1995), Ubermann (1998), Ersoz (2000), Yong Mei and Yu-Jin (2000) and Thi Thanh Huyen and Khuat Thi Thu Nga (2003) all pretty much agreed that games provide a useful and meaningful context for language use; encourage students to interact and communicate; can both challenge and reduce anxiety (as the emphasis is on the message, not the form); provide practice in all four skills; and help students to make and sustain the significant effort involved in learning a language.

    Kim and others have also noted that games can offer a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class. Playing a game after an intensive test or with over-excited students after break time can help re-engage learners instantly in your lesson, and you'll maximize your time with them.

    Lengeling and Malarcher (1997) took the list of potential benefits of games in the classroom even further.

    Affective

    • Games lower the affective filter
    • They encourage the creative and spontaneous use of language
    • They promote communicative competence
    • Games are both motivating and fun

    Cognitive

    • Games reinforce learning
    • They both review and extend learning
    • Games focus on grammar in a communicative manner

    Class dynamics

    • Games are extremely student-centered
    • The teacher acts only as a facilitator
    • Games build class cohesion
    • They can foster whole-class participation
    • Games promote healthy competition

    Adaptability

    • Games can be easily adjusted for age, level and interests
    • They utilize all four skills
    • Games require minimum preparation after the initial development stage

    It is important to bear in mind that when the above was written over 20 years ago, it was with reference mostly to more traditional games. But more recent evidence seems to indicate that the same principles apply. Some additional benefits cited by teachers I've spoken to are that:

    • Games could make language lessons less threatening for less confident pupils as their concern about getting sentence form wrong was reduced, and so their production greater.
    • Students learn more than just the language of the lesson when playing a game; they may learn instructional language through discussion or rules and sometimes negotiation skills and a lesson in cultural differences too.
    • Students can form a greater variety of emotional connections with language through playing games, for example acting out a word or seeing another student do so, or remembering a clue for a word.

    So, playing games can help students learn a language – but is just playing them enough? Some teachers like using games with less motivated classes who won't engage with straight practice activities and will willingly use key vocabulary and structures in a game, gaining much-needed practice without even realizing it. In today's language-learning context, though, is that a good thing?

    Motivating the unmotivated

    In recent years, much research has shown that students learn better when the intention or objective of the lesson is clear to them. In short, they understand what they're supposed to be learning and why and, when taking it to the next level, can assess their own learning and be actively involved in planning their next steps.

    Would knowing that the games they play are actually a way of doing some additional language practice make these students engage less? Opinion differs, and some discussion seems to center around the actual activity involved. Some games are thinly veiled group-work tasks, but other games that are at the right proficiency level (or slightly above) and take into account factors like cultural context, available time, learning topic and the classroom setting are generally considered to have a positive impact.

    Another major influence on improving motivation is the feedback a student receives, and this is something games can also support. Online games can provide richer simulated learning experiences and immediate feedback to students in a variety of ways.

    Above all, the main issue for the less motivated students is usually that they can't see why they need to learn English. Playing games not only simulates 'real' contexts but also helps them understand that they can accomplish a variety of tasks using English as a medium, which is motivational in itself.

    As teachers, there is a responsibility to explain how or why games will help students learn. This can equally motivate learners (or parents) who fear that playing games is just frivolous time-wasting. For example, informing even adult students that a simple hangman or hot seat game helps them improve spelling skills, gets their brains focused on recognizing the shape and structure of new words, and facilitates their learning of new vocabulary soon helps them see the value (Simpson 2011).

    Can games help learners acquire 21st-century skills?

    Maybe we can draw the conclusion that games can positively impact learning – but is that even enough? Today's teachers have to ensure not just that their students learn but that they acquire the skills they need for life and jobs in the 21st century. Can games help here too? This is a newer area of research, but evidence seems to indicate that games can help students learn a variety of important skills such as critical thinking skills, creativity, teamwork and good sportsmanship.

    These ideas were taken seriously by Robert Morris University Illinois, who offered an e-sports scholarship for the first time in 2014. They studied two groups of students – football players and gamers – and found that levels of competitiveness, perseverance, focus and determination were very similar. Both groups showed a similar desire to excel as part of a team. Both 'sports' required the team members to be detail-orientated, have good hand-eye coordination and have a strategic mind. The only difference was in the level of cardiovascular activity. Both groups received performance analysis and tactical advice from coaches and both subsequently made improvements.

    How many universities will start to offer these types of programs remains to be seen. Still, the idea that online competitive gaming can improve performance is being brought to the workplace too. Think about what virtual teams could learn from playing role-based collaborative games. Team members have set roles and clear and shared goals and have to work closely together to formulate an action plan to achieve them. Teamwork, skill, strategic thinking and communication are essential.

    All these are important skills for today's workplace, so maybe gaming can provide an opportunity to hone these in a lower-risk environment and improve business performance.

    These examples are clearly far from the norm, but they do seem to indicate that using gaming to support learning in the classroom is not a waste of time. When you get the right mix of gaming and learning, it develops a student's autonomous learning skills and encourages them to spend more time on task – both of which greatly impact learner outcomes.

    Need language learning game ideas for your young learners? Read our post 5 quick and easy ESL games for teaching young learners.

  • A woman smiling with a backpack stood outside in a cobbled square with many people in the background
    • English for work and migration
    • Language hints and tips

    Language learning tips for international students

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 4 minutes

    Are you studying abroad (or soon to be), learning a new language and need some inspiration on ways to practice your language skills in the real world? Don't worry. It can be daunting to know how to begin, especially in an unfamiliar place, However, with a little bit of effort and following these useful tips, you will be able to improve your language skills and make the most of your study abroad experience.