Tag Archives: esl

Put Your Money Where Your Comment Is

Put Your Money Where Your Comment Is

Put Your Money Where Your Comment Is

By popular vote in our Edupreneurs Club, here is my take on the
Edulang / ETS kerfuffle. I am shocked. Shocked that people in the comments were shocked that something like this had happened.

In today’s publishing world the big players are pretty much known for their race to the bottom what payments for writers concerns. The story inside the company probably went like this: ETS says to subcontractor “We need a new textbook. This one from Edulang we still have lying around from contract talks is pretty good. We want a similar one.” Subcontractor has too much on his / her plate, gets late with the delivery and starts to copy and paste to meet the deadline. End of story. That does not mean that someone at ETS should not have double checked the book but it also does not mean it was a deliberate act from ETS.

But I am probably even more shocked that the commenters did not know what to say or do – just offering their best wishes.

OK, I understand that if you are under shock you are most likely not able to react, hence the word “shock” has been chosen wisely as it does not implement action from the commenter. Why aren’t they upset, enraged, infuriated or on the barricades instead?

There is a huge difference, especially for the Edulang team, between words and action. Now, I don’t mean that the commenters should sharpen their pitchforks, light up the torches and gather around the ETS Global headquarter but there are things that can be done that have some more impact than that.

The problem are the totally different company cultures. From my visit at Edulang I know that there is a great, personal spirit in the team, and their CEO Michel Nizon really cares about the quality of Edulang’s products and their clients’ success. Something you can only find in small to medium sized businesses. ETS, like other big publishers, is simply too big to care anymore. Caring takes time, resources and effort. If people are buying your products anyway (because they have to) you automatically scale back the caring to maximize the profit.

Which brings us to the solution. If you as an ESL teacher really care about Edulang, or any other small publisher, then you have to vote with your dollars (or Euros). It’s the same like complaining about caging chickens but still buying eggs from battery chickens instead of free range. If you want to change this, buy free range. If you want to crack the monopoly of big publishers, buy from small ones like Edulang. And then tell your colleagues, recommend it to your students, even better, use the material in your classes. If you have a blog, write about it, sell it on your website as affiliate and so on and so forth.

As people say, talk is cheap. Same applies for commenting. My friend Jason Calacanis once said that when one of your friends is publishing a book, it is your duty to buy as many as you can afford and give them to your family, friends and employees. If you want to support small publishers like Edulang, the same rule applies. Letting off steam in the comment section won’t hurt the big publishers. And yes, even buying a book from Edulang won’t change much (if anything at all) for ETS but it will make a huge difference for Edulang. And that’s what counts. So, put your money where your comment is.


How to learn English on the Internet

BulldogThis is a quick post for all the people on my Facebook fanpage who request that I help them learn English.

Most regular visitors of this blog know how to make the distinction between coverage and analysis of all the exciting things that happen in online education, writing my articles in English and actually teaching English online. That said, I have had the chance to talk with quite a few companies that aim to help learners improve on their English.

So, for everybody who keeps asking, here are some companies I think are interesting to you. Of course this does not represent all of the great startups out there but it’s a start. All of them offer at least part of their content for free, but keep in mind that education in general and learning languages in particular is an investment in your own future and career.

However, free only gets you so far. I’d therefore recommend to also have a look at paid solutions of you’re serious about studying online.

Mobile applications

Mobile learning can be a great way to “stuff” some learning time into your busy schedule, may it be on the way to work or during lunch break.


The startup allows you to study and share online flashcards, study guides and quizzes. With more than 2,000,000 flashcards added every week, the community is pretty active and you’ll not come to a dead end any time soon. You can study on the web or also download StudyBlue’s mobile app.

I made a quick search for “English” and the system came up with 15.9K cards. This search is, of course, very broad and ranges from American history, the Bill of Rights to studying English. If you search for “English language” you’ll still get 990 cards – all for free. I think, that’s a great basis and you might even want to contribute yourself and start by creating your own flashcards.

Link: studyblue.com


With Voxy you’ll have the best experience if you’re mother tongue is either Spanish or Portuguese and you want to learn English. The startup offers an interesting mobile approach to language learning and focuses on the personal or individualized experience which essentially means that you only get learning materials that fit your interests.

Voxy uses real content, no textbooks and have recently integrated Skype tutoring and learning English through music.

Link: voxy.com

Live lessons with teachers & tutors

Next on my list are some fellow Edupreneurs who offer their programs online using various outlets such as teaching platforms, Facebook or YouTube. I picked these two because the think outside the box which I like (needless to say..).

My ESL Friends

Created by George Machlan, My ESL Friends gets you in touch with some non traditional approaches to teaching English, off the beaten track. To get an idea, visit their Facebook fanpage at facebook.com/MyESLfriends

Besides, George also uses a virtual classroom to offer his Edupunk lessons. You can find the schedule for his different live online classes on his blog.

Link: myeslfriends.com/wordpress/edupunk-english

Fluency MC / Collolearn

I let Fluency MC aka Jason Levine speak for himself: it’s all the 3Rs – relax, repeat, remember. If you’re looking once again for an innovative and fun approach to learn English for free, you should join his popular Facebook fanpage at facebook.com/FluencyMC and subscribe to his YouTube channel collolearn that’s he’s been growing over the past two years.

Link: youtube.com/collolearn

Language Learning Communities

Back to something more traditional. The following companies have been around for the past five or six years which makes them to established players in the world of online learning. As they’re still around today somewhat proves that there must be something to the way they let you learn languages on the net.


busuu is an online learning community on the internet which lets you learn English and other languages for free. You might even find a partner for language exchange in the community.

If you’re looking for something mobile or professional with a curriculum busuu offers various paid solutions that have found quite some success in the internet community.

Link: busuu.com


To my knowledge one of the oldest language learning communities on the internet, at least the one I discovered early on. Since the days I tried it out in 2007 and 2008 a lot has changed, in the company’s structure, design-wise and about their offer.

I reckon, Livemocha offers the biggest variety of languages among the language learning communities that you can start learning for free. English is naturally the most popular by far. Similar to busuu Livemocha offers paid solution, e.g. if you want personal tutoring that comes with a pricetag.

Link: livemocha.com/pages/languages/learn-english


Unlike the two big language learning communities mentioned above, Palabea adjusted their offer and differentiates from the others by focusing on topics that you love and cultural discovery. If you search for “English” you’ll find lots of users that also want to practise and offer their native language in exchange.

I guess, if you’re not necessarily looking for a professional tutor but have achieved some level already, this might be a good way to practise your English.

Link: palabea.com


Voxopop was designed by my friend Dean Worth and is a voice-based e-learning tools that lets you explore or create talkgroups.

The talkgroups aim to improve students’ speaking skills. Teacher and students record quick voice messages to communicate or discuss a certain topic. Voxopop is used by people from around the world and entirely free to use.

Link: voxopop.com


As the name suggests, edutainment is a mix between education and entertainment. It’s getting more and more popular as you learn while you also have fun by watching movies, playing games and so on.

English Attack!

English Attack’s approach to help you learn English is entertainment based. You’ll learn through watching video, listening to music, play games and find new friends in the community. For instance, each day the startup releases a new video booster, free Photo Vocab or lets you play a free practice game.

There is lots available for free. However, if you want to have access to the entity of English Attack’s offer, you can activate your so called Booster Pass, their paid offer.

Link: english-attack.com

I hope, this gives you a number of tools at hand to learn or improve your English by studying online.
Depending on your preferences and personal taste you might prefer one method over another; I recommend you try my different suggestions out, explore further and get more recommendations from the people you will meet on the different services.

And that’s a wrap!

Picture via Wikimedia

EDUKWEST Ep. 61 with Travis Millman of EnglishCentral

In this week’s EDUKWEST I interview Travis Millman, VP of product for EnglishCentral Inc. Although still quite concentrated on the Asian market, I think it’s a nice product worth having a look at from both teacher and student side.

EnglishCentral consists of three main areas, one is to watch authentic videos dealing with different topics such as politics or entertainment. Second is to learn all relevant vocabulary, also structured according to topics for instance introductions or culture. The third element is to learn to speak or more specifically how to pronounce words.

Looking from a student perspective, I like that it’s pretty customizable and that I don’t have to watch this or that video but define my fields of interest and thus get only relevant lessons for me.

Read more and watch the Interview on EDUKWEST →

Languagelab secures $1 million funding for English City on Second Life

Shiv Rajendran, Director at Languagelab and a regular on my webcast review:ed shared some exciting news with me today. The London based startup behind the virtual town of English City on Second Life has closed a $1 million funding round.

In their approach of bringing English learning and teaching into the virtual world of Second Life Languagelab is one of the most innovative startups in education 2.0 .

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TelCos teaming up with Education Startups in Asia. Model for the Rest of the World?

A couple days ago I read on TechCrunch that the Japanese NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) invested $1 million in the ESL startup EnglishCentral.

Back in February Nokia (not really a TelCo, I know) and Pearson signed a partnership that would preload ESL learning content from Mobiledu on all new Nokia mobile phones on the Chinese market turning each phone into a mobile learning device.

And last but not least NTT also acquired a 29.7% stake in goFluent back in January. I will interview Christophe Ferrandou, Founder and CEO of goFluent, on EDUKWEST tomorrow. The company offers business English courses via telephone and internet to customers worldwide and is the European leader in this sector.

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Mingoville shows the Classroom of the Future

And I really hope that this future is not too far away. Mingoville, to my mind one of the most innovative education 2.0 companies and my declared favorite of 2009, just shared some amazing videos on its YouTube channel, showing a group of children engaging with the Mingoville universe via different devices in a classroom setup.

Those videos show how the ESL class of the future could (should!) look like. The best thing, Mingoville is only using technology that is already mainstream.

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YongoPal shows some Insights

Of course not traffic and sales but they made a nice video about the process from the student’s side which allows us to have a look at the service itself.

YongoPal also invested in a new landing page for the Korean students.

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Shocking: YongoPal plans to make Money

With an unfair move towards its competitors YongoPal won the big price of $25k in the Business Plan competition. Their plan for YongoPal is making money from the beginning by charging its customers. Can you believe that? Charging your customers for a service?

All joking aside, YongoPal the start up from Seattle that connects Korean students with native speakers in the US won the UW Business plan competition although they were the black horse in the race according to Christopher Griffin, one of the judges.

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First Look at – YongoPal

YongoPal – Make Money by Making a Difference!

Sounds great, right? But what exactly is YongoPal? Apparently the site offers a service that connects Korean university students with native English speakers who will get paid for having a chat in English with the students.

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