Published: 10th November 2018
Innovative online English lessons are helping learners teach themselves
En.news is owned by Mike Elchik, the founder and president of WeSpeke, a global language technology company based in the US and affiliated with the Language Technologies Institute
The following are queries from two readers of this column:
“I would like to strengthen my English. Can you suggest an app that enables learners to practice the language in an interesting way?”
“I am a teacher of English. I am interested in integrating technology into English language teaching. Could you please give me some tips on how I can use apps to help my students learn English online?”
In response to the readers’ queries, this week’s column reviews a very useful application. Modern communication technology enables English language learners to learn the language without the help of instructors. I have discussed and reviewed such online resources in some of my previous columns. Very recently, I came across a very interesting and unique app called en.news.
The app, available on both web and mobile, is unique in many ways. The users of the app are provided with authentic materials pulled from CNN’s latest news and articles on various topics including entertainment, sports, news, politics, travel and technology. The material is so appealing and compelling that users enjoy reading them. Why is it important to give authentic and compelling input to the learner?
Recently, when I asked Dr Stephen Krashen, well known for his various hypotheses on second language acquisition, to give his views on whether material plays a role in enhancing the learner motivation, he sent me one of his papers on ‘compelling input hypothesis’. According to Krashen, the input must be ‘comprehensible to have an effect on language acquisition and literacy development’. The input needs to be not just interesting but compelling. When it is compelling, learners forget that it is in another language and the compelling input has the potential to eliminate the need for motivation.
En.news is owned by Mike Elchik, the founder and president of WeSpeke, a global language technology company based in the US and affiliated with the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. WeSpeke has partnerships with CNN and The Wall Street Journal and together, they use artificial intelligence technology to repurpose media content for English education for free.
It is an innovative application. I have gone through a few lessons and experienced how today’s CNN news stories used as English lessons motivate English language learners worldwide. The lessons are complete. Each lesson helps learners develop their reading and listening skills, acquire vocabulary in context, learn the pronunciation of correct words, know the definitions of key concepts and practice the language in an engaging way. Here is a link to a sample English lesson from The Royal Wedding article: http://lessons.en.news/47508-zxx-en
I asked some of my students to complete the lessons and collected their feedback. They all enjoyed the lessons and said that they found the app interesting, motivating and useful. It has many good features. The application supports full audio playback of articles. A range of dialects and voices facilities, using the same voice technology as Amazon Alexa, are available to read the selected article out loud to the learner.
English language teachers too find en.news immensely useful as it has a Learning Management System (LMS) which allows teachers to build a roster of their classes, assign English lessons based on news stories and track their progress. The link to the LMS is: https://teachers.en.news
It is a great way to motivate our language learners with authentic content on a wide range of topics from the CNN. Learners can choose lessons based on their level and learn English in a fun way. The learners can also initiate and take part in discussions with learners across the globe.
When I asked Mike Elchik how en.news is different from other English learning apps, he said that en.news is a game-changing feature for English learners with real content, real meaning, and real results.