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Language learning technology comes of age

Globalisation has made multi-lingual skills an attractive quality, says Panos Kraniotis

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | September 17, 2016 | Business

Online learning, social media and mobile technologies have inspired a change in the way people learn. Technology is now a seamless part of our world; in education, the workplace and at home technology enhances the learning experience and supports learner development.

Businesses in particular value language skills and need confident and skilled candidates entering the workforce. Globalisation has made multi-lingual skills an attractive quality in candidates, making them even more marketableacross industries and business functions.

Communication with clients, potential customers, partners, and employees in various languages is increasingly the norm in business. It is critical that employees are equipped with the training they need in order to effectively communicate across languages barriers. With a common language, stronger relationships are formed, more successful interactions result and higher levels of trust are built. This can result in more sales, higher productivity and more successful working relationships.

Being competent in a second language and feeling confident and prepared to use it in the business world are very different things. While confidence is a substantial part of speaking another language, it is not easy to achieve, let alone ‘teach. 

It’s perhaps not surprising therefore, that a recent survey by Rosetta Stone of language learners in companies where language training is provided, found that only 46% felt the language courses they took at school adequately prepared them for the 21st century workplace.  

This suggests a skills gap that language learning technology can help to fill in the classroom, the workplace and in everyday life.

Learning in the digital age

Sophisticated digital learning programmes can enhance the learner experience. By providing personalisation, interactive and engaging content, and outcomes-based reporting, they can complement in-person teaching to deliver an all-round learning experience.

Learners are engaged through a high level of interactivity with simulations of realistic foreign language interactions. The pace of information delivery can be varied, making it a flexible tool to meet the whole range of individual needs. Some are even “gamified,” turning learning into a fun game-like experience and challenge.

Learners are engaged through a high level of interactivity with simulations of realistic foreign language interactions. The pace of information delivery can be varied, making it a flexible tool to meet the whole range of individual needs

Highly adaptive digital learning programmes such as Rosetta Stone Catalyst, can take this individualisation even further by individually assessing each learner and assigning them to an appropriate learning path. It’s important to understand the benefits of such programs as there’s no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to learning. The more personalised and catered the content is to each learner, the better results they’ll achieve.

Beyond the classroom 

There’s no question that technology has dramatically changed when and where learning can take place. No longer confined to a set learning environment, learners can take their lessons home, to work on-the-go through mobile devices. This is a huge bonus to businesses looking to implement learning programmes across various markets and time zones. Employees can learn on their own schedule, when and how they want to.

A cornerstone of  language acquisition is correct pronunciation. This is critical and the sooner your employees are at speaking in the language they’ve learned, the sooner they can put it to use in the workplace, and the sooner you will see the positive impact it will have on business relationships. Look for digital learning programmes that have speech recognition software and online tutoring capabilities. This combines the personal touch with the efficiency of remote learning. Some of the best speech recognition tools allow even visual learners to boost their language skills by displaying speech patterns visually.

Accountability

All investments must be measureable and show a return. An added bonus of digital learning is that teachers and administrators can accurately measure learner progress regardless of how and when the learning programme is accessed, tracking learner usage and performance across users and the range of languages covered. Catalyst, for example includes reports on progress, tests to measure learning outcomes and signals when each learner is ready for new opportunities. But don’t just hold the programme you select accountable to deliver – it’s up to your employees and management to do the work. Consider adding an item to annual performance reviews.  This will really drive home the fact importance of multi-lingualism in your business and show your teams it’s not a “nice to have,” but a “need to have.”

Panos Kraniotis is Regional Director of Europe at Rosetta Stone, which has just launched its Catalyst product.

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