Beeblio interviews a pilot user Roza of the Habit Language Lab
Roza is an English as a second language teacher and is the founder of Habit Language Lab! Habit Language Lab is a growing, online English community that provides ways to help English learners across the globe achieve their speaking goals. It was created from the idea that language learning should be enjoyable and accessible. Habit Language Lab provides students with many options to progress their spoken English, including daily English tips and challenges on their Instagram account @habitlangaugelab. They also provide private lessons, small group conversation classes, and a fun blog filled with video-based lessons for students to complete on their own time, all found at www.habitlanguagelab.com. Check it out!
What is your current occupation? How can your field benefit from using the Beeblio App?
Roza: “At the moment, I teach English as a second language in Canada I’m also the founder of a growing, online English community that provides programs to help English learners across the globe called The Habit Language Lab. Beeblio is a great app and I think that English language learners and even teachers can benefit from using it. The app can cater to students who are learning English and want to improve their vocabulary on their own, but it is also versatile enough that teachers can use the app to create helpful activities for their students.”
Similar to Beeblio, The Habit Language Lab provides students with many options to progress their spoken English, including daily English tips and challenges. They also provide private lessons, small group conversation classes, and a fun blog filled with video-based lessons for students to complete on their own time,
What features do you like most about the Beeblio App and why?
Roza: “The most valuable and effective feature of the Beeblio App is the fact that it allows the user to insert their own text so that they are learning exactly what they are interested in. This is important because we learn best when we are having fun and are interested in the topics we are talking about and using more often. Beeblio lets you pick the subject and then teaches you the relevant vocabulary!”
What if anything surprised you about the product?
Roza: “ I can’t pick just one favorite feature of Beeblio! Allowing the user to save words is especially useful. It allows you go back and review those words whenever you need since repetition is important. In the definitions, Beeblio also provides you with the pronunciation of each word so that you can use them in conversation! The most unique feature of Beeblio is being able to adjust the level of difficulty to suit your needs. You can keep using this app no matter how fast you are improving, even if you are fluent!”
How is the Beeblio app unique compared to the products that already exist? How does their process differ from our methods?
Roza: “I am not familiar with any other apps available that have the same features as Beeblio! There is other vocabulary-based apps out there but non as comprehensive as Beeblio!”
How would you describe your overall experience using the app?
Roza: “Stress-free! The Beeblio app was very straightforward, yet effective. It felt intuitive to navigate! The organization of the vocabulary was also easy to follow and understand, and it was very fun to use!”
What features do you think would be useful to add to Beeblio?
Roza: “There are no other features I can think of to add to Beeblio at this point aside from providing this amazing app in different languages!”
For more information on Roza and the Habit Language lab you can follow them on Instagram @habitlanguagelab or visit them online at www.habitlanguagelab.com
Beeblio Converses With The Host of Aussie English, Pete Smissen
Pete is the host of the Podcast Aussie English.
Pete, can you share your history and background with our readers?
“ I was a scientist in training , my parents were both biologist so growing up I always had a love for animals, that was all I knew so I studied zoology. I fell into the cycle of completing a degree but there were no jobs in my field unless you have the next degree up. I moved on to studying my masters, P.H.D, post doctorate and so forth. So, I went through 11 years of schooling for Biology and gained quite a bit of weight. During my studies for my doctorate, I wanted to get back in shape, so I started to practice martial arts in my home of Melbourne, Australia. When I was practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA a lot of my friends were Singaporean, French, Chinese, Japanese and spoke different languages, I felt embarrassed that I only spoke English.”
Can you describe the culture of Melbourne, Australia?
“Currently, 40% of Melbournians are being born overseas, the city is multicultural there are people from all over the world. When you walk through the streets you hear languages other than English. I had learned some French and Chinese when I was younger but never followed it through to fluency. In 2012 I dived right in and began studying French, it was a rabbit hole! By using internet resources and tutoring, I began speaking fluent French in six months.”
What tools did you use to learn French?
“I started off using applications like Duolingo and I gain a lot of practice from speaking French over English with my French friends, they were amazed at my results and asked what tools I used. I shared a French podcast called “Français Authentique” that I would listen to as much as I can to work on my listening comprehension.”
What inspired you to create the Aussie English learning tool?
“Many times, foreigners assume that when visiting Australia all they should learn is American English or British English, but our dialects are quite different, and they get culture shock when they arrive. The amount of slang we use, euphemisms and our humor create a complicated English. My friends wanted to know if there was a version of the Francoise podcast for Australian-English so that foreigners can understand our accent. So, we began searching for a podcast that explained Australian English and culture but found none and that is when the idea of Aussie English was began.”
Pete has a large audience of viewers and listeners on YouTube, Instagram and his Podcast. He explains what it is like to discusses current events to familiarize his audience with Australian culture.
What results do you see after learners use your resources?
“They tend to be more confident, they become more comfortable when interacting with the culture. They can understand Australian history and stay updated on current events. If they were just going to standard class, they would not have any exposure to historic events like the role the Australian Anzac army played in WWI during the Gallipoli campaign. I believe natives appreciate when foreigners can relate to their stories.”
What do you believe is missing from the ESL community?
“Initially, I was trying to teach Australian expressions then I realized very quickly that what people wanted was a cultural experience. They wanted to understand what life is like for an Aussie in Australia, they wanted to know our history and about the diversity of our culture. My job was not to teach anyone English; it was to use English as a conduit to allow people to understand Australia better. In return when they would visit or move permanently, they can feel like they had a different understanding of the culture because they know the lands history and that would allow them to integrate rapidly with the natives.”
Which one of your platforms do you believe works best for learners?
“The podcast 100 percent! If you listen to podcast and watch YouTube videos you can see that YouTube is much more entertainment, it feels like junk food in comparison to a podcast. YouTube is good if you are a visual learner. When listening sole to audio, you must be more present and focused, so the audience’s retention seems to be better. And people tend to listen from start to finish with podcast versus YouTube which only catches the viewers’ attention so you can watch the ads. The one that delivers the most results is the podcast specifically for language learning because of the availability of the transcripts. The transcripts are the most effective because like the Beeblio app, you can find all the vocab you do not understand to target your weak points.”
Do you have the same content on each of your social media platforms? If so, how do you differentiate your content?
“First and foremost, I focus on the resources that learners pay for. Free content like the podcast is great but if they have paid for the bonus episodes, transcripts, and courses then they deliberately have an interest in learning and that is my priority. I try to video the podcast as much as possible so that I can reference the important facts on my YouTube, because you do have people who prefer YouTube over podcast.”
Pete had the chance to test out the Beeblio App and shared some views on some of its features.
“I liked the fact that you can set up the pronunciation of words in different accents, I found that insane. I would have never thought that would be one of the options and I saw there was an Australian accent as well! Another feature I liked was the ability to pull an actual sentence and not just the word and of course the frequency list. I would be interested in seeing Beeblio collaborate with the Polyglot community because they have effectively learned multiple languages from scratch, and I believe the resources they use could be a reference to expanding to apps features.”
What can we look forward to from Aussie English in the future?
“Just more of the same things, I need to tighten things up. I am growing my team and we have expanded to the Philippines. I am working on getting better content out on a regular basis and of course expanding our online learning academy with more lessons and courses.”
Beeblio Discusses The Tools Used and Challenges Faced Within The ESL Community with Independent Online Teacher Jennifer Lebedev
Jennifer, you have been involved in the English teaching community for a while now, more specifically in online learning. Can you share with our audience when you started teaching English, and how did you decide to use the Internet as a medium to help the ESL community?
I started out as a classroom teacher. I taught English in Moscow, Russia. Back then, there was no access to any online resources. Even when I moved back to the U.S. and taught at a private language school, my use of the Internet was limited. I remember going to the Boston Public Library to browse materials I could pull into my teaching: books, documentaries, and the like.
In 2005, I chose to focus on a book contract, and soon enough I was a mother of two with no easy path back into full-time classroom teaching. I began to experiment on YouTube simply because I missed teaching, and I wanted to see who I could reach with my video lessons. The response was positive and interest grew. I began to understand that a new path was taking shape: online teaching.
What is your background and credentials? (Schooling, how long have you been in the field etc.)
I was originally certified to teach Russian as a foreign language at the secondary level in the state of Pennsylvania. I graduated magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and received departmental honors. I then went on to complete my graduate studies through Middlebury College. I spent an academic year in Moscow, and that is where I began to teach English as a foreign language.
I decided to stay on in Russia and switch to EFL/ESL. After several years, I returned to the U.S. and completed the required coursework to be certified in ESL. My professional development has continued through TESOL, Inc. I have attended the annual convention and presented numerous times. My ESL journey has now spanned about twenty-five years.
Was English your primary language? If no, which language was and what tools did you use to learn the English language?
I am a native English speaker. I studied Russian as a foreign language. I also have limited knowledge of French and Japanese. I even took Portuguese lessons for a few months. Having some understanding of those other languages helps me identify the challenges that learners face. All my early language studies were without the use of digital media. The internet simply was not an option at the time. Only now can I benefit from the availability of online resources. I have been meeting with a Russian tutor over the past year to brush up on my Russian.
What challenges do you and your pupils face in the classroom or during learning? And how do you overcome them?
I mainly work with adult learners, and our biggest challenge is time management. Adult learners must juggle many responsibilities, including work and family. I enjoy private instruction because I can tailor lessons to an individual’s needs, and we can adjust the workload according to personal circumstances, which can vary from week to week or month to month.
Specifically, what are some of the challenges that teaching online presents vs teaching in a class setting?
Some have the impression that making a meaningful connection online is not possible. I would argue that I have even more of an opportunity to connect with my students, especially when I teach one-on-one. However, even in a group setting, the key ingredient is trust. Once I succeed in establishing a positive learning environment, learners open up and meaningful exchanges take place. I have come to care very much for people I have never met and never will meet face-to-face. I know about their personal and professional struggles. I know their interests, their family dynamics, and some of their cherished memories. They have shared these with me in the context of meaningful learning. Because of a good working relationship, language progress takes places. I teach the whole learner and care about their personal and professional growth.
I have not been in the traditional classroom for a while now, but I know that many classrooms have modernized. Honestly, I would need a bit of time to get up to speed with smartboards and learning management systems. In contrast, I am extremely comfortable with all the online tools I need to produce content and teach in real-time from my phone or my PC.
What tools have you been using to teach English and how do you like them?
I currently use Zoom and Skype for private and group lessons, which are usually scheduled through Calendly. I livestream through my phone or on my PC through OBS software. It took more effort to figure out OBS, but I am comfortable with it now. As for video editing, I have been using Camtasia Studio since 2007. I do not have a very sophisticated editing style. I have maintained a simple, clear approach in my videos.
What are you most proud of, after these years of creating and distributing content that reach millions of users?
I am proud of the fact that I have been able to stay professionally active as a mother of two despite the many challenges that life has thrown my way. I have learned to accept the ongoing struggle to be visible and relevant in the growing crowd of online teachers, and I am determined to hold on to my methodology, my teaching style, and my principles, even if these things make me less popular.
We know you are dedicated to the ESL community. What is the main difference between teaching English to native speakers, and teaching ESL?
Native speakers usually have less awareness of how their language works. Only through teaching English have I learned complex grammar, acquired more vocabulary, and become a better public speaker and a more effective writer. More important, I can actually explain the process to learners and help them to develop their skills. If you teach your native language to others, it helps to draw from your own personal language learning experiences. You need to remember what struggles your learners are going through in the second language.
What would you like to see change in the ESL community? And how can others participate?
Thankfully, there is growing awareness of native speakerism and the prejudice that has existed in our industry. As a result, more appreciation and respect is being given to the many non-native English-speaking teachers who are very competent. Teachers should be judged on their competency and professionalism. Period.
Can you tell us what goes into producing a new educational video? Briefly walk us through the process from the conception to the publication.
I listen to my learners and my audience. I observe their success and their struggles. All of this informs my teaching. I create single video lessons to answer a question or target a specific aspect of language. I create a series with a larger goal, for example, to build familiarity, accuracy, and confidence with intonation. I develop a script, but during filming I may make changes. Filming is only part of a day, but editing takes place over a stretch of days. Many hours go into editing and producing a video. Even then, I may not catch all my mistakes. Uploading a video also takes time, especially when it comes to writing the captions. Then there are the video details, thumbnail, and promotion. In short, a lot of time an effort goes into a single video lesson. The exciting part is publishing the video and seeing the response. Reading and replying to comments also takes time, but I feel that this interaction is important: it is part of my commitment to being a part of the learning experience. I aim to be a teacher who is accessible and accountable.
What do you think is most important for a student out there looking for ways to learn English: the use of educational apps, or the use of educational videos?
Students should be selective about resources. There are many out there, so limit your use to a few good ones. You can integrate a number of resources into your studies. Develop regular study habits. Take breaks and do not binge watch video lessons. Give yourself time to digest, reflect, and review. Follow teachers who are good models and who can resolve your doubts. Look for ways to extend your studies. Each online teacher has additional platforms. Explore them and use the ones that help you meet your goals.
What other advice would you give to anyone trying to learn English, or any language?
Learners, be patient. Learning is a process. There are no shortcuts. Have confidence in your ability to learn. Find support in other learners. You do not have to practice all the time with a teacher. Native speakers are not the only answer. You can also find ways to practice on your own: keeping a diary, writing a short story, reading aloud, singing songs, watching movies, learning a script, studying with flashcards, and speaking aloud – yes, to yourself! Be dedicated but be realistic. Set goals and form a plan to achieve them. Hold yourself accountable. Also, be your own cheerleader. Find out what motivates you and remember to give yourself a pat on the back now and then.
Now, we have to ask because of what we do. What is, in your opinion, the most important aspect of learning a language? Is it grammar, vocabulary or something else?
Language is a whole. You cannot isolate grammar. It is connected to vocabulary and all four skill areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. You cannot focus on conversation without some study of grammar, and reading can inform your speaking. Regular writing develops self-expression, which naturally helps you articulate your ideas in conversation. Pronunciation is also not an isolated skill. It should be part of vocabulary building, and it is used in conjunction with grammar. My point is that there is no one skill that deserves all your attention. Be a whole language learner. Develop all your skills so that you can be versatile in self-expression and competent in communication.
As you might be aware, our company is a new player in the space of language learning. We just launched our web application and are in the process of launching our mobile app in the coming weeks. As a language educator, what are some of the features or characteristics that you want to see in an application that teaches language skills?
Technology today can be a great aid. Apps can help students set goals, create a study schedule, and track progress. Educational apps can make self-study fun and productive if there is quality content and strong methodology. Ideally, students will learn to balance self-study with meaningful interaction. They can learn to be independent and still tap into live instruction when it is accessible.