Industry Focus: Language Learning
Technology has brought us an easy way to communicate and cooperate with people from other countries, and for that reason, the need for multilingualism has increased. People are in search for a quick and efficient way to learn a new language, thus providing companies dedicated to digital language learning a new market for development. This branch of edtech is rapidly evolving.
The necessity to become proficient in modern communications and information technologies, and the need to improve the quality of their education sector, have driven many developing countries to invest in e-learning. With the expansion of this field of business, new job opportunities are opening, providing educated and enthusiastic young people with a chance to thrive. Being a multi-linguist and having an interest in technology can be your winning card when it comes to language e-learning field of business.
Why Use Technology in Language Learning?
According to Jennifer Groff (a research assistant in The Education Arcade and a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab) in her paper, “Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments”, education needs to successfully prepare all learners with the skills and capacities for 21st century citizenship—global awareness, creativity, collaborative problem-solving, and self-directed learning. These qualities should also be applied to language learning.
With the progression of technology and its use in education (edtech), it is inevitable that it also finds its purpose in language learning. People need to be aware of the language learning possibilities that new technologies offer. Inspiring learners to commit to digital language learning programs can increase awareness of its benefits and successfully encourage learners to engage in these programs. It is important for the public to recognize gains from digital language learning such as large availability of languages, lowering the costs of studying, not being tied down to a certain place of learning, and so on. For that reason, new online education companies continue to emerge.
Online language courses have started to win out over standard language classes. They are easily accessible and in most cases, the costs are lower. In addition, people who travel a lot, and whose jobs or lifestyles don’t allow them the luxury of maintaining continuity in their lives, can now learn whichever language they want and need, from any place in the world. The advancement of language learning technology also enables more creative and interesting ways of learning.
Mobile Language Learning
Self-paced eLearning has had a lower success rate in the consumer segments across the planet mainly due to the demand for language learning courses. According to Ambient Insight (“The 2016-2021 Worldwide Self-paced eLearning Market”), which is an ethics-based market research firm that identifies revenue opportunities for learning technology suppliers, the demand for self-paced products has waned dramatically in just the last three years. Mobile language learning products are in much higher demand than self-paced courses in the consumer segments across the globe.
With people’s attachments to their mobile phones, creating language learning apps was a winning idea which many companies caught a hold of. For example, New Oriental and Tencent announced a joint venture called Weixue Mingri (Beijing WeLearn Future Network Technology) in August 2014 to develop mobile English language learning products. Their first product launched in December 2014. The need for English language in Asian countries, especially in the business world, makes them one of the most advanced mobile language learning product developers.
Language Learning Platforms
Memorizing foreign words is knowledge-based while using those words in speech and writing is a skill. For the purpose of making language learning more appealing and interesting, educational games were invented.
While language learning games may remind you of your early years in primary school, there are language learning games designed for all age groups. Mindsnacks, FluentU, Bravolol, Studycat, Three Flip Studios (Influent), and Memrise specialize in game-based language learning products. Besides the previously mentioned companies, here are some leading platforms when it comes to language learning and technology:
DuoLingo is a Carnegie Mellon spinoff that launched in 2012. They offer free game-based language learning products. It is also available as an app for mobile phones. DuoLingo is one of the most popular edugames currently. The learning process is both fun and educational and is for all age groups, which validates its popularity.
Rosetta Stone provides technology-based language learning solutions consisting of software, online services, and audio practice tools through blended curriculum methodology. It is a self-study language learning program available in 30 languages. Learners on this platform include individuals, educational institutions, armed forces, government agencies, and corporations.
Minlaering provides a platform for language learning to schools. It provides videos, games, assignments and more. Besides that, it also provides analytics to gain insight into students performance. The assignments and tasks are gamified for engagement. Also, teachers have access to the dashboard for analyzing the strengths and weakness of the class for formative assessment and teaching.
Some of the most sophisticated game-based language learning products were developed by Alelo for the US military. In June 2016, the US government awarded them a $3 million contract to develop a game-based language learning platform called ALLEARN. ALLEARN engages learners in interactive learning activities that develop their communication skills on a mobile device or regular computer. As they do this the system analyzes responses and collects analytics on the key metrics of spoken language proficiency – fluency, accuracy, and complexity of language.
Creativity has no limits when it comes to language learning games. For example, in February 2016, Rovio Entertainment announced a partnership with the language learning provider Papagei to sell English language learning games based on Angry Birds characters. At launch, the edugames were available in Germany, Poland, the Russian Federation, Brazil, and Mexico.
As of July 2016, the vast majority of language learning edugames are mobile and consistently rank in the top twenty best-selling educational apps in almost all 122 countries (this information was provided by Ambient Insight).
Many European universities are keeping pace with the needed fields of expertise in today’s business world and are therefore offering study programs which can be of use when it comes to language learning technologies. If you are interested in pursuing a career in this field, here is a list of some European universities and their study programs that may benefit you:
- The University of Sheffield (UK): Speech and Language Sciences
- University of Gothenburg (Denmark): Educational Game Design
- Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin (Ireland): Computer Science and Language
- University of Hamburg (Germany): Software Systems Development
- The Open University: MA in Online and Distance Education
- Utrecht University (Netherlands): Educational Sciences: Learning in Interaction
- University of Bath (UK): MA International Education and Globalisation
- University of Antwerp (Belgium): Master of Instructional and Educational Sciences
Job Opportunities Related to Digital Language Learning Technologies
When it comes to desired qualities, creativity, resourcefulness, and a good attitude are always a plus in this field. Since language learning technologies include teaching, expertise in different languages, and technology, job opportunities are diverse. If you can see yourself working and contributing to this field of e-learning, here are some of the job positions which may suit you:
Online Language Teacher
The need for online language teachers keeps growing. It benefits both the learner and the teacher since they can receive and give knowledge from the comfort of their homes. One of the necessary qualities is a positive attitude. English teachers are the most wanted, since the English language is the universal business and communication language in today’s world. The number of websites offering online teaching positions keeps rising thus providing many job openings.
This usually refers to somebody who can design, build and/or maintain mobile applications. With the increased number of mobile language learning applications, the chances of finding a job as an app developer in the language learning technology field are getting brighter and brighter. When it comes to education, pursuing and earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in computer science or some similar discipline (management information systems, for example) can earn you this job position.
Language Game Designer
If you are interested in this position you need to bring good IT skills and creativity to the table. Software developments skills and imaginativeness are a must. Language apps and Online websites are always on the lookout for new and innovative language learning games. Even education development companies need language game designers to help them create new products that they can offer to next generation schools in order to upgrade their curriculum.
Language Technology Communications Coordinator
The main objective of this job is to promote awareness of available language technology. In addition, you will also coordinate activity in the language technology domain, identify language technology training needs and assign particular responsibilities to language technology staff. In order to do this job you need to have good organizational skills and to be informed of all the language learning technology trends. Also, it is desirable to have a B.A. for entity coordinator, M.A. for area or international coordinator, or some similar area of study.
Digital language learning has changed not only the traditional learning style, but also the lives of learners and people in this field of business. Language learning has become more accessible and more applicable. With all digital changes in edtech and language learning, new job opportunities have opened up for young people willing to contribute to education with their brilliant and innovative ideas. One thing is certain: as the interconnectedness between countries and people expands, the need for language learning technologies will rise.
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