Tag Archives: learn chinese online

UP Open University’s online systems disrupted due to Glenda (Rammasun)

Such natural disasters are very tragic and disruptive. This article (click here) talks about a typhoon taking down a prominent online learning system.

It is tempting to say that online learning is vulnerable and unreliable. But a bad storm could wipe a physical education institution, or even a whole town, which could take years to recover.

Nevertheless, that is why in Genashtim, we have chosen an entirely cloud-based platform to operate from. We are hosted on 3 separate domains, and additionally have our data and programs backed-up in 3 different locations in 3 countries. Our operations are entirely distributed, making disruptions easy to avoid at very short notice. In spite of having quite a significant proportion of our resources in the Philippines, not one single session of EPiC Online or Mandarin eSpeak, or any of our other services was affected during this recent typhoon Glenda (Rammasun), and even not with super typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

The Future of Universities – The Digital Degree

This recent article in The Economist explains the status of an industry which has failed to evolve for too long. It is really quite mind boggling that today, education is largely delivered in the same way as it was in the industrial revolution. In fact the article says that is has barely changed for centuries.

open online course

It is hence not surprising that even in the most developed economies, there is a funding crisis, particularly in higher education. According to Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, “Fifteen years from now, more than half of the universities in America will be in bankruptcy”.

Online education is only just starting to explode. Apart from taking a lot of cost out of an archaic system of learning, it will level the playing field for a game, which was been designed for the rich, powerful and famous. With technology and the internet, the best content can be delivered by the best educators to most remote and marginalized communities. This, to me, is the most significant aspect of this evolution and revolution. I will write more about this later.

The article also examines some of the issues with online education. I will also write later about how I see some of these issues could evolve. I can imagine wonderful and exciting prospects when we embrace and leverage technology and social media in the field of education. Not least of which would be the impact on global warming.

The third point that this article made is about continuing education and adult learning. In the past, a college education can pretty much see us through our working life. Today, we have many first year students in a 4 year education program who will graduate into jobs that have not been invented yet. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of Oxford University, reckon that perhaps 47% of occupations could be automated in the next few decades. The article suggests that traditional education models will not be able to compete with digital/online delivery in cost, speed, scale, accessibility and relevance.


 For information about our online learning services, visit www.genashtim.com.

Native Speakers

I am rather perplexed at the fixation most educated intellectual people have regarding trying to learn a language from native speakers.

Firstly, native speakers are not necessarily the best teachers of their language. This is because most of them are probably monolingual, which means they have never learnt to speak a second language. Hence they are at a disadvantage to understand how someone can acquire a second language.

Secondly, taking English as an example, I question why you need to learn to speak English from a native speaker. You probably need to speak English with a variety of different people, most of whom are using English as a second language as well. Let me give you this example of a multinational company in China that wanted to enroll their representatives to learn English, insisting on having native English speakers as teachers. I asked them who their staff will be using English with. This was an engineering company, and their technology centers were in Sweden, Italy and Germany. Hence it did not really make sense for them to be taught English by an American, British or Australian. Even when you travel to places like London and New York, Sydney, I am quite sure that more than half the time you will be speaking English to people who are using English as a second language.

Lastly, there is no homogeneity among native English speakers. There is no such thing as a common American accent or dialect because different parts of the USA have different accents. Texas, New York and New Orleans all produce speakers with different accents. Within England itself, there is even a wider spectrum, such as Cockney, Yorkshire, Geordie, and Estuary just to name a few. In Australia and New Zealand, and Canada, the accents are also different. In Zimbabwe, the only medium of education is English, so are they native speakers too?

To further illustrate my point, please watch this video of a young man imitating different native accents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMc3fOhMDUM


For information about our online English learning services, visit www.epiclanguage.com, and for our online Chinese language  learning services, visit www.mandarin-espeak.com.

Learning to speak a new language in a classroom

It is hard to imagine that you can improve your conversational skills in a classroom with a fixed teacher or tutor. If you want to improve your listening and speaking skills, you should be practicing with different people, and one a one-to-one basis.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. In a classroom environment, it is generally not possible to engage in a dialogue. You end up taking turns to say something. This is not how conversation take place in a real life environment.
  2. You learn to increase your listening tolerance (the bandwidth of your listening) by speaking with different people. Different people speak differently, even if they share the same nationality or racial background. When I was first posted to the Philippines as a country manager for a multinational company, on one occasion, I asked my staff, “When are you going to get back to me?” They could not understand me even when I repeated this several times. The reason is that as a Malaysian I’m used to pronouncing back as beg. When I was pushed to re-emphasise, I pronounced it as beck. However, the Filipinos are used to hearing back as bark.
  3. You need to build your confidence in using your newly acquired language with people you have not met before. If you have only been speaking with your teachers in class, this will not help to overcome your intimidation and nervousness when you need to talk to someone that you have not met before. Practicing with different people is particularly useful in a language test situation because your assessor will definitely be someone you have never met before and you do not know how he/she will speak.

 


For information about our online English learning services, visit www.epiclanguage.com, and for our online Chinese language  learning services, visit www.mandarin-espeak.com.