Using technology to enhance language learning

I’m often asked which are the best apps and websites one can use to learn a language quickly and conveniently. The landscape is rapidly changing, so this is my answer as at July 2014, keeping in mind my answers may change in a few months.

Duolingo – probably number 1 right now. incorporates gamification features, making it fun and addictive. Social media integration adds motivation.  Web-based, iOS and Android apps available.

Memrise – flashcard based. not as fun as Duolingo, but helpful in picking up vocabulary. Web-based, iOS and Android apps available.

Social-based language learning platforms like Livemocha, Fluentify, italki and various others.

Many of the apps on the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace are well-designed and useful for beginner language learners.

However, language learning is inherently a social exercise. Unless you’re learning a language purely as an academic exercise, surely the purpose is to communicate with others. Apps like Duolingo and Memrise are great, but in playing around with them, I quickly realise the most important, and best, part of language learning is missing: talking to real people.

Social-based learning platforms address this issue to some extent. But the quality of tutors are highly variable, and the nature of language exchange is such that everyone wants to speak the language they are learning.

Ultimately, all these technology applications are great, and some people do acquire a basic level of fluency by solely using these applications.

Sometimes people ask me if Euroasia has been affected by the advent of such technologies.

Yes and No.

Yes, because people have come to expect instant results. Often apps and websites promise the world, without having to put much work.  This creates unrealistic expectations.

No, because these applications give people a taste of the language and leaves them wanting more.

Euroasia has started offering  live online language classes, and will be introducing audio clips etc to supplement traditional classes. If you wish to join us for our language courses at our physical locations in Auckland and Wellington, our July intake starts next week.

Share this:

Meet Heather Warne – Japanese language student at Euroasia

You may have seen Heather Warne in the Mitre 10 ad currently running on TV.  Or at one of the many theatre productions she has been part of over the past few years.  A long-term client of Euroasia, she progressed from the Japanese Level 1 course in 2010 to the Japanese Advanced class with Takako. We talk to Heather about her wide range of interests in food/acting/singing/learning.

heather warneWhat do you do professionally?

I work for a charity called the Leprosy Mission – we do overseas aid and development work with people affected by leprosy. I'm also an audio-book narrator with the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

What's your favourite food?

Ooh, so many options! I really love variety and trying new combinations and foods from different cultures, but a few old favourites are pizza… chocolate mousse… teppanyaki prawns with Yum Yum sauce…

What do you do when you aren't working?

I like basically any singing opportunities I can get my hands on – musical theatre, recording projects, jamming with bands. I also act, which is sometimes work and sometimes not! And of course enjoy both these things as a spectator, at concerts, theatre and movies. I probably also spend far too much time on computers.

How did you get involved in acting?

Acting is something I've done since I was a kid and been very interested in since college, so I then went on and did a degree in it at Unitec. Singing too – been singing since I was about 5, but a show I did a couple of years ago introduced me to a group of cool singers and I've since then had more training and got further involved in music, and really enjoying all the different avenues of it. I know a few songs in Japanese – it's a fun language to sing in.

What has surprised you most about learning Japanese?

How many verb forms there are… and the number of different words you use to count things!

What's the best thing to happen since you started getting into Japanese language and culture?

I suppose as far as the language, it was pretty awesome when I was watching some old Japanese movies I hadn't seen in a while and found that I wasn't always needing the subtitles. I haven't been to Japan yet – I'm sure that will be the highlight once I have!

Do people recognise you in the streets? What do they say when they do?

Haha, no I'm definitely not at that point yet! Occasionally I'll meet someone who's seen me performing on a stage before we've actually met – but never in really anonymous situations like on the street.

What's your dream job?

Singing, either on the West End or in the Tokyo jazz scene. Perhaps flitting between one and the other.

Heather with her Japanese class and Sensei Takako at the Euroasia Xmas party
Heather with her Japanese class and Takako-sensei at the Euroasia Xmas party (Dec 2011).

What's it like to be learning Japanese at Euroasia?

Really positive environment, great learning from a native speaker and everyone's there of their own accord so they're keen to have fun and also learn.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about learning Japanese?

Go for it! It's a fun language to learn – there are fiddly bits, but it's also not too hard to get your mouth around. As far as a tip, start learning kana (the writing) early – the sooner you know them, the sooner you can start practicing as you continue to learn

What's the difference between a Japanese and a Kiwi?

Hmmm… I haven't personally met a lot of Japanese people so I can't really speak from my own experience. The Japanese appear to be much more stylish, pop-culture-wise, much more outgoing. Also driven – whereas kiwis are often quite laid-back. Though if Takako-sensei is anything to go by, the Japanese must smile a lot!

Share this:

Language learning trends at Euroasia

Traditionally, the greatest interest has been in the ‘big four’ European languages (French, German, Spanish and Italian). Euroasia has offered course in six levels in all these languages, together with higher level classes when there has been sufficient demand. In recent years, there has possibly some movement away from European towards Asian languages. In contrast, though, there has been growing interest in the three other European languages which we offer, namely, Portuguese, Russian and Dutch.

There's clearly growing interest in Asian languages, especially Mandarin.
When we started offering Mandarin about 6 years ago, it was very much a minority interest, and students seldom continued beyond level one. Now it’s the most popular language (surpassing Spanish), and we have students returning for a whole series of courses. We offer six levels, plus we have an advanced class for those who wish to continue beyond that point. Some of our students have been coming along for years, and are very happy to do so.

Interest in Japanese is fairly stable overall. We have a dedicated group of people who keep returning to study in our highest level class.  We also regularly have new beginners starting.

Korean is fairly popular. Perhaps this is because of Korean drama, K-Pop etc.

This year, Euroasia is also offering Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Arabic, in response to requests from clients.

euroasia parnell

Our clients are predominantly young to middle-aged European professionals, although there's a small but growing number of Asian clients. We also find that people originally from Asian countries are interested in learning another Asian language. Sometimes the reasons are surprising: for example, Chinese and Japanese people may express an interest in Korean soap operas!

Kiwis learn foreign languages for the following reasons:

– Personal travel

– Business

– Partner speaks that particular language

– Descended from speakers of that particular language

– General interest

Reasons vary from language to language: with Mandarin, often business; with Italian, usually personal travel; with Dutch, generally family connections.

We are often asked what can people realistically achieve by attending our courses.

To achieve near-native speaker competence takes years of study, together with a substantial amount of time in the country in question. Realistically, there are not that many people who achieve this level of competence. But there are many other levels of competence, and achieving these can be immensely rewarding as well as of practical benefit. Even a short, introductory course gives insights into the way the language works and the way people think, as well as providing a useful range of vocabulary for everyday situations. The more you study, the wider the range of experience you’re able to discuss in the foreign language. Language learning is an ongoing process, much like keeping fit. Just because you've managed to develop a summer beach body doesn't mean you can stop working at it.

Share this:

Kiwis learning Italian?

We have observed over the years that there are a number of reasons Kiwis learn Italian. Apart from the vogue, the peculiarity, the mental exercise and the culture it’s always useful to speak the language of those with whom we have been bewitched.

Italy is a perpetual fascination from which there is no escape, a country of colour and aromas, of inducements ideal and cultural that can’t be denied. The country “condemned” to manage and conserve about 80% of all the world’s archaeological and artistic beauty which, as much as it seems a clichè, renders it a prisoner.

It’s precisely the Italian language, seemingly unimportant in a commercial world, that contributes in a very significant way to enchantment. With its richness of inflections and nuances, it’s a language that is applicable to declarations of love as much as tragedy, to complicity as much as humour. Popular culture, including everything

from Roberto Benigni’s

filmmaking talent to Eros Ramazotti’s and Andrea Boccelli’s music to the best recipes for pizza

margherita, is made even more enjoyable when you know a little of the lingua franca!

Italian classes (as well as French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese and Korean) start 26 April at Euroasia Language Academy in Auckland and Christchurch. Check out our course timetable or call 0800 387627 for more information.

Posted via email from Euroasia

Share this:

Euroasia at Parnell Summer in the Park


will be at @SummerInThePark today at lunch time (if it doesn’t rain). Otherwise look out for us on Friday if

you’re in the area.

Parnell Summer in the Park: Relax on a deckchair, use free Parnell Wireless. Every fine weekday, 11.30am–2pm from Mar 15 – Apr 9 at Heard Park, 190 Parnell Rd.

Euroasia will be giving away a free course valued at $360. All you have to do is take part in the Euroasia Language Challenge, answer the questions

best price for propecia
correctly, and you will go into the lucky draw.

Posted via web from Euroasia

Share this:

2010 New Year Resolution: Learn a language

In recessionary times, it’s even more important to keep improving and to consider learning a second language. Now is the time to be upskilling to future proof yourself. The ability to speak

a second language puts your business or your job prospects one step ahead of the competition. You are also demonstrating to future employers that you have what it takes to stick to something. Employers realise that people who embark on language learning have some key characteristics that are highly valued in such times: commitment and dedication being some key ones. Part of what makes knowing a language a great skill to have is simply because it’s not that easy for someone to acquire fluency. If it was, it would quickly lose it’s value and won’t be treasured as much. Some of you would already have mastering a second language set as a 2010 New Year resolution.

How do you ensure you achieve your 2010 New Year resolution? Your goals have to be SMART. The reasons people give for not learning a language include lack of time, the cost involved and the difficulty of the subject area. The good news is you can craft a SMART plan to overcome the obstacles mentioned, to achieve your goal of speaking a foreign language by the end of 2010.

1) Specific

What does “speaking a foreign language” mean? Should your goal be to know enough French in order to survive in a remote town in France without relying on interpreters?

We have a specific learning outcomes for people who enrol for courses at Euroasia. For example, at the end of the Level 1 French course with Euroasia, you should know enough to “get by” in French: you will be able to cope with the most common everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions, and you will be able to understand people when they speak to you about the situations covered.

2) Measurable

How do you know you’re on track with your goal? You need some objective measure of your progress. This is the main reason why self-help language courses don’t work. This is because learning a language is not like studying history. You need constant feedback from experienced teachers who know how to provide constructive suggestions and correct you when you make mistakes. CDs and software programs can’t do that as well as humans. You need to be regularly “tested” either formally or informally so that you know you’re making progress. Language schools follow lesson plans that introduce progression over time. As long as you keep on top of the coursework, you will keep improving.

3) Attainable

Your goals have to be realistic. Sometimes we get calls from people who need to master a language within a matter of weeks because of an impending transfer offshore, or because they have to meet the future-in-laws who don’t speak any English. Learning a language, like everything else, takes time. There are certainly people out there who promise the world, and will tell you that you do not have to put in the hard yards and yet will emerge fluent within a short timeframe, simply by spending an hour a week listening to CDs or playing some games on your laptop or iphone. This is obviously appealing, in the same way that expensive infomercial weight-loss programmes are. The real secret to learning a language (and weight loss, saving money etc) is having a realistic plan and keeping to it. At Euroasia, we follow a language learning programme that allows people to realistically gain fluency over time. If we did have magic pills that make clients instantly fluent in Spanish, we would be selling them at a thousand-a-pop and not bother investing so much money in establishing and running a school.

4) Relevant

Why are you wanting to learn a foreign language? If you’re just wanting to learn Italian for fun so that you can order a beer and have a simple chat with hot locals as you roam around Rome, then your goal should be to complete Level 1 or Level 2 with Euroasia. A Level 1 course can be completed within 2 weeks, 5 weeks or 10 weeks, depending on how intense you want it to be. If on the other hand, you wish to conduct business negotiations with your suppliers in China, then a Level 1 course is not sufficient, and realistically it would take a year or two to get a point where you can engage in everyday conversation, comparing your life in New Zealand with other people’s lives overseas; discussing matters of interest, including politics and economics. The more solid your reason for learning a language, the longer the staying power. Visualise your end-goal. When the going gets tough, keep reminding yourself of how it feels to be able to ultimately converse freely with locals. What would also help is if you have career-oriented language goals such as planning to gain a foreign language qualification. If your goal is to pass a formal certification exam like DELE (Spanish), DELF (French) or HSK (Chinese), then you are also more likely to have stronger motivation.

5) Time-bound

What’s your plan in order to achieve your goal? Where do you want to be in 3 months? 6 months? An ineffective resolution is “I will be rich someday”. An effective resolution is “I will save $20K

by December 2010″. You then break this down further into quarterly and monthly targets. In the same way, you would set targets for yourself in learning a language. You may wish to complete the Euroasia Gold Package (4 courses) by the end of 2010.

We wish you all the best in setting SMART goals for 2010!

Share this:

November / December Euroasia update

OK This is going to be a long-ish post, to update you with all the goss over the past month. I have been very busy with various projects, travelling, attending all sorts of forums and events, and trying to keep up with everything else. It’s Christmas eve, and I finally get to do some blogging. I dread to think what it must be like in the shopping malls right now, so this is a welcome reprieve.

We had the annual Euroasia Christmas party late this year (11 Dec 09). We had a decent turnout of around 80 clients and friends of Euroasia, which is OK seeing we clashed with many other corporate parties. File note: next year we definitely have to do this the first week of Dec, perhaps even late-Nov. As you can see, those who managed to make it had a great time.

We didn’t

do any Christmas carols in Spanish, French, German, Chinese and Japanese like we did last year… but our team did organise some cool games. It was also a great opportunity for me to thank all our clients for their unwavering support to us over the past year. Dr John Reynolds spoke eloquently in 3 languages about his language learning experience at Euroasia.

Ken with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and fellow businessmen from Australia..

A few months ago, I accepted an invitation to speak at the World Chinese Economic Forum in November and held in Kuala Lumpur (which happens to be my hometown). I’m really glad I went, as I managed to meet a number of very interesting people. At my session, I talked about how overseas Chinese can assist businesspeople from Western nations, including New Zealand, to access new markets in Asia generally and China specifically. I provided examples of enterprising Chinese businesspeople facilitating trade opportunities. In the past, New Zealand chicken producers had to spend money to dispose of chicken parts like chicken feet (that Westerners don’t eat, but Chinese love). Through the intervention of Chinese traders, NZ chicken producers have not only saved money from having to dispose of these chicken parts, but are now profiting from the sales of these parts. There are plenty of business opportunities in China that New Zealanders are missing out on because of the DIY mindset. A far superior approach is to collaborate with Asians who live in NZ and have an entrenched knowledge of the language and culture in the target market. I’m hoping to devote more time and energy to work on these Asia Bridge initiatives in 2010.

At the Forum, I managed to have a chat with the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng. When he found out that I lived in NZ, he said “you Kiwis qualified for the world cup”, referring to news that New Zealand qualified for the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa and demonstrating his knowledge of New Zealand. I had to break it to him that NZ also qualified for the Hockey World Cup, beating Malaysia the day before the forum.

Ken with PM John Key

Earlier this month, I attended the annual APEC Advisory Business Council (ABAC) dinner, where the PM briefs members of the business community on what happened at APEC. This year, there’s lots to say about the economy and the PM has just arrived back from the East Asia Summit, Malaysia-NZ FTA, CHOGM, and about to go to Copenhagen.

I have previously blogged about this but one funny anecdote worth sharing is from the Q%A where a guy asked a serious question “If we want to catch Australia why not just merge with them?” The PM’s response: I just got back from CHOGM where Australian PM Kevin Rudd asked me the same question. My response was I’m too busy running New Zealand to run Australia as well. This guy can be very funny. I do think John Key is more in touch with the masses than Helen Clark; and has a way with both CEOs as well as joe public. Perhaps this explains his 80% favourability rating throughout a very difficult year.

Mock up of Euroasia’s new website to be launched in 2010

In the new year, you will see the launch of Euroasia’s new website and enrolment system, which we have spent the last 2 months working on. Some people have asked us why we want to spend money on this, especially seeing this is a particularly difficult time. My response is that in order to maintain Euroasia’s position as a leading provider of foreign language courses and cross-cultural services, we have to keep investing in the business, and to keep improving our service offering, especially when times are bad. Recessions don’t last forever, and I’m optimistic that 2010 will be a spectacular year for Euroasia. As it stands, our forward bookings for 2010 are already way ahead of this time last year.

Over the next two weeks, I will spend some time hopefully relaxing and reflecting on the past year. If you’re like me, and need some help with the reflection process, I’ve found this guide pretty helpful. Ask yourself 20 questions that cover all facets of life, not just material prosperity.

Last Christmas, we produced a video compilation of Euroasia staff bringing Christmas and New Year greetings in their native languages. I hope you don’t mind me recycling (seeing it’s in vogue now) this message. Once again we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Share this:

MYOB vs Xero review – 6 months post-implementation

In recent months, visits to our blog has increased measurably, with lots of people looking for reviews of Xero and comparisons between Xero and MYOB. My initial post on MYOB vs Xero – A comparison, explaining the reasons why Euroasia swapped from MYOB to Xero is now our most popular blog entry for 2009. My follow-up post in July 2009 on our experience with implementing Xero is number 10 on the list.

Regular readers will be somewhat surprised that a blog on culture and language would have a post on accounting as the most popular entry. I'm interested in this topic not just because I think Xero has a great product, but I'm also happy to see a New Zealand company doing so well. I've enjoyed playing around with Xero, looking at reports and checking out their website. Xero has given me some design ideas for the soon-to-be-launched new Euroasia website.

twitter xeroWhen I first wrote about Xero in March 2009, Xero had 6000 users, having doubled in the preceding 6 months. At last count, they had over 12000 users, doubling again in the last 6 months. How could this be? For starters Xero is very attentive to client needs. For example, just look at their Twitter posts from today.

Xero is not insecure about their product. Check out the re-tweet here from a fan who is offering to help with both MYOB and Xero. I was quite surprised to see that Xero twittered this on to their fanbase.

In my last post, I complained about some of the drawbacks of Xero and some suggestions for improvement. I was surprised to see in their September update the specific feature requests I suggested. This includes customisation of user roles and a name field for contacts. The customisation of user roles is a step in the right direction, but administrators are still not allowed to customise access rights for individual users (MYOB does this). I hope this is addressed soon. The budgeting function can also be improved to make it a more useful tool for businesses that do more planning/forecasting.

I'm still waiting for my bank to link up my credit card accounts to the live feed. The daily live feed of bank entries is one of the top reasons why Xero is such a great proposition. But Xero is sometimes held back by banks who do not have the same sense of urgency in implementing changes that save customers' time/money. So users still have to import credit card statements into Xero ala MYOB. So don't think by implementing Xero you get away from 100% of the dirty work.

I have previously blogged on the drawbacks of MYOB. There are also drawbacks to Xero. For example, anyone that handles a lot of stock will find MYOB a better proposition. So in summary do your research before jumping in.

Xero went live today with their new pricing plans. Euroasia is on the “medium” plan at NZ$49/month, which works well for us. And because we're an existing customer, we can always activate multi-currency when we need it without having to pay for the “large” plan at NZ$64/month.

For freelancers / property investors who process less than 5 AR

and 5 AP invoices per month, the “small” plan would be ideal for you at NZ$29/month.

Share this:

Taste of Japan: 19 September

The annual Taste of Japan is coming up again. This is a free event where you can experience Japanese culture and food at its best in Auckland City. There will be Japanese food, Taiko Drums, calligraphy, tea ceremony and more. We encourage everyone learning Japanese to attend this event, and certainly a number of us from Euroasia will be there. If you've always wanted to learn Japanese, go along to be inspired. It's the closest you will get to Japan at spring-time in Auckland.

When: Sat 19 Sep, 10:00am–4:00pm
Where: Logan Campbell Centre, ASB Showgrounds, 217 Greenlane West, Epsom

I've been to Taste of Japan when it was held at ASB Stadium in Kohimarama, and certainly moving to the Showgrounds is a great idea. At least it solves the parking problem. I really don't know what the fascination is with shaved ice but there were 50 people in the queue at any one time at a previous festival. It's the lowest cost product with the highest margins, buy cialis online no prescription and the enterprising guy who passed this off as Japanese food deserves high commendation (as well as the thousands I'm sure he took home for a day's work). I will be going along just to sample the authentic Japanese food, although the drummers should

be good too.

This is the perfect day out with your friends and family so don't miss out.

Share this: