Donnerstag 15. Mai 2014

The First Speakeasy Evening of 2014

Do you feel confident speaking in front of others? Do you feel competent speaking English in a professional environment? If the answer to these questions is yes, would you still feel competent and confident when presenting in English to other professionals?

That last question was answered by a number of our valued clients a few weeks ago, at our first speakeasy for 2014. Each was given a chance to present something they were familiar with, but in another language; English!

Obviously, one of the biggest problems anyone has is that they are nervous when speaking to a group of strangers. However, presentation practice, especially in another language, helps build your confidence. It also improves your vocabulary by encouraging the use of power words and expressions, forces you to find synonyms for commonly used words one is more inclined to always use, and above all, it allows you to practice a skill that is performed differently in another culture. In fact, getting comfortable and feeling as competent as you are in your native tongue is a lot of work. Trying it in a second or third language is even harder

So what can you do to make speaking and presenting in front of others in another language easier? Well, the obvious thing to say would be to take every opportunity you can to practice your speaking skills in English. However, simply saying things isn’t enough. Instead, think about the following points:

> Avoid sounding to complicated. Choose the right words and expressions, and keep the language you use simple enough for your intended audience to understand it. Besides, the more difficult the vocabulary you try to use, the more likely you will trip up and make a mistake. > Practice but don’t memorize. It is easy to review over and over again. However, the more you do, the less likely you will come across as being natural. Furthermore, if you suddenly forget or panic, you might even forget the rest of your presentation. > Finally, the most important point, make sure you know why you are even giving your presentation in the first place, and of course how you can communicate that reason to your audience.

As for our last Speakeasy, everyone did a great job. Plus, there were lots of laughs alongside some great presentation topics.

Our next speakeasy presentation night will take place soon. Should you or anyone else you know be interested in participating, drop us an email. We’d be happy to see you there.

Rob Beaudoin

Dienstag 11. Februar 2014

A case of "Lies, damned lies and statistics"?

To begin, my message here is not anti online learning; I have seen some good tools, I believe it offers real benefits and I have seen people benefit immensely from computer based learning, myself included.

My message in this blog is this; if you are looking at implementing an online language training solution in your company, ask LOTS of detailed questions first. Allow me to explain.

Many companies that sell computer based language training programs to businesses like to highlight the statistics and details that they can provide on student use and progress – it’s a key selling point. Their programs offer export functions to create large spreadsheets of data in Excel, or you can simply click to get an overview of employee usage via a dashboard function. In theory, this is good, and in practice it can be very impressive for the figures-focused manager.

But, how exactly is this usage being measured? “Lies, damned lies and statistics” is an expression that comes to mind. In our experience with several online learning tools, the statistics these programs produce on learner usage are inaccurate at best, and misleading at worst.

One common measurement method is time spent “in” the program; simply put, the time the user has spent logged in. But just because a user is logged in does not mean that they are actively using the program or in any way “learning”. As an example, a user is distracted by a work task shortly after logging in. They do not close the session or log out, but simply minimize the browser for several hours. Yet these hours will show up as “Time in Service”.

Another method of calculating time in use is giving each exercise a “time value”. Each exercise is given a time that it should take to complete. If the programmer says that the exercise should take an hour, but the student completes the exercise in 15 minutes, the student will still be credited with doing an hour’s worth of study. Again, not so accurate, and very dependent on how the student is leveled at the start of the course.

In short, ask the learner how often they use the program, and you will most likely get a very different answer to what the statistics say.

In summary, don’t blindly accept as accurate the figures that computer based learning programs produce. Ask in detail exactly how these figures are calculated and the methods they use.

Mike Hicks