Small British language school is among the best in Europe
October 05, 2011 (PRLEAP.COM) Education NewsA small enterprise based in Kent, the Garden of England, has been selected by a European Commission (EC) educational body as one of the top companies in its field in the whole of Europe. Although tiny by comparison, it now rubs shoulders with some of The Continent's best-known universities and distance-learning organisations.
Languages Out There Ltd (LOT) of Sidcup is one of only 10 organisations selected for their expertise in using technology to advance the educational goals of EC member countries, in particular in the field of teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL).
The elearningeuropa.info portal is an EC initiative that forms part of the Lifelong Learning Programme, managed by the Directorate-General for Education & Culture; Geographical Impact of Programmes; Comenius–Grundtvig Unit.
The EC initiated elearningeuropa.info in 2002, to support the transformation of education through technology. Today, with more than 35,000 registered users and with an average of 16,000 monthly visits, it has become a key forum for exploring change and innovation in education.
A 2011 competition titled "Social Media use in formal language teaching contexts" was launched to identify and award language teaching initiatives with social networking technologies that take place in classroom settings in Europe. It ran from February to July.
In early September, the first round of selection was completed, and the ten best practices were identified. By mid-November the top practice – subject to a second round of selection among the ten best – is to be announced.
English spoken in 18 hours
As part of its submission to the competition, LOT submitted a case study in which it helped a Chinese student to improve her spoken English by three levels after just six lessons. According to the company, the rapid improvement was achieved by using a new type of English course called English Out There (EOT).
LOT has backed its claim by posting 'before and after' audio conversation clips of Jane, a 27-year old Chinese architecture student studying in Strasbourg, France. Until she responded to the company's offer – in an on-line forum – of free lessons, Jane says she studied 'spoken' English for 16 years with very little success.
LOT's founder, Jason West, said: "The main goal was simply to improve the case study subject's English communication skills as quickly as possible, using social media tools, and Jane's newly-learned ability to speak 'the world language' is among the reasons why EOT was placed in the Top Ten by the EC educational body."
All written and spoken interactions from the lessons are available on-line for anyone to analyse. The 'before and after' clips can be heard at this URL:
Reading, writing, but not speaking
Around the world, there are hundreds of millions of individuals who can read and write English – to varying levels of competence – but only a small percentage are able to speak the language with the fluency required to communicate clearly with other English-speakers.
LOT's low-cost courses are aimed at individuals or groups who can read and write basic English, but now want to quickly learn how to speak conversational English – but without commiting huge amounts of time and money.
In the practice lessons of the EOT course, beginners are taught some basic elements of the English language, and are then encouraged to use what they have learned with complete strangers or native or fluent on-line practice partners. This technique helps learners to overcome their fear of speaking in an unfamiliar language, and boosts their confidence and motivation levels.
Despite its limited resources, the LOT team has devoted thousands of man-hours over a nine year period to develop and publish its social-learning English courses. These combine with free websites and communication services, such as Facebook and Skype, to provide students with a method of learning that is easy to understand and use, and is affordable to the majority of individuals.
Mr West believes that the accolade bestowed on LOT by the elearningeuropa.info organisation of the EC not only provides unequivocal proof of the effectiveness of the EOT course, but will encourage more of the estimated two billion English learners in the world to experience this low-cost fast-track to spoken English.
The audio conversation clips, together with more information, is available at the company's websites: www.EnglishOutThere.com and www.LanguagesOutThere.com
Notes for Editors
English – There are 38 EOT e-Book courses for students and teachers. They are sold with 'social DRM' (digital rights management), which allows them to be used on multiple devices. These cost either £5 or £25 each.
In 2006, LOT started using Skype to make free on-line phone calls, and quickly realised that its approach to teaching English was a perfect fit with the on-line environment, Web 2.0 communications technology, and social media
Journalists are welcome to call the company with questions, or obtain supplementary information by visiting the following links:
Free e-book for people interested in volunteering as practice partners: http://englishoutthere.com/volunteer-with-english-out-there
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