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03

Sep 03, 2013 By Tags:, ,

Five Barriers to Break Through Online Lessons

online-lessons

Welcome to our guest article for TeachingEnglishOnline where we discuss the benefits of online lessons.

We (TurksLearnEnglish.com) launched a site dedicated to conversation classes for Turkish speakers in May 2013. So far, we’ve found that the online experience can actually be more powerful than the in-person traditional English lesson. For any students considering whether to try online English lessons, we present to you five barriers that are removed when learning online:

1:              Kill the commute: As urbanization grows across the world, the commutes in many of the world’s largest cities can be hellish. Many students learning English as a second language are also young professionals working long hours. If a young professional leaves work at 6:00 pm they may not arrive to a centrally located language school until 7:30pm. Three hours of class later and they are lucky to arrive home by midnight. This cycle is not sustainable. Taking online lessons in large cities removes hours of unnecessary travel time. In rural or remote areas, this may be your best chance to access professional, well run classes.

2:              Focus on conversation: Most adult students do not need another grammar lesson; they need communication confidence. As any online teacher knows, the virtual world is a great platform for developing language communication ability.  When a student pops on their headphones, they are able to focus with concentration that is rarely seen in a physical classroom. Better yet, the online classroom does not inhibit students in the way that a traditional classroom does. Fewer students and the webcam somehow boost a student’s willingness to take risks and make the mistakes every learner needs to advance in a language.

3:              Between classes: Video self-study lessons for outside of classroom reading and listening are extremely powerful. These video lessons can enrich your students’ experience and provide them with an additional way of connecting with you as a teacher. At TurksLearnEnglish.com we’ve created a series of videos called İngilizce Dersleri where we read current event articles related to Turkey and introduce new vocabulary. So far they are a big hit with our students.

4:              Location flexibility: Students likely travel. If they are working in a competitive field, sometimes they’ll have to travel without much notice. Even if they don’t travel, they often have to stay late at work and do not have time to get away to an 8pm class. Online lessons give students the ability to stay up to speed with their lessons even if they need to skip town for a week or work late.

5:              Additional tools: There are many things that can be done online that cannot be replicated in the real classroom. Running games and quizzes using pre-developed lesson plans and screen sharing is more natural online and can be great for motivation. Using the chat function to help students while conversing is also a great tool. Recording lessons can also be powerful. We’ve found that many of our students like to go back to lessons they found challenging and review them.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our story on online lessons. We would love to hear your thoughts!

James and Kris are co-founders of TurksLearnEnglish, a site dedicated to getting Turkish speakers to build communication confidence. For any online educators out there, feel free to take a look at and use our online-self study videos in our İngilizce Dersleri library. You can get in touch with them through the contact form on our site or email info@turkslearnenglish.com.

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01

Sep 01, 2013 By Tags:, ,

Adventures in Online ELT for Turks (part 2)

online-ELT-for-Turks

Merhaba, and welcome to the second part of our two-part guest article for ELT Jam. Here we give our readers, students and prospective students some insight into why we started TurksLearnEnglish to address online ELT for Turks.

Brief introduction to the Turkish online market

Before we describe our product (which is focused on online ELT for Turks), we should probably mention a couple points about the booming online market in Turkey. I will borrow some phenomenally interesting statistics from the co-founder of Markafoni, Sina Afra, which he wrote in his well-crafted article that you can find here:

  • Turkey has a large and young population of 80M people, with 36M Internet users (fifth biggest internet population in Europe)
  • Turkish Internet users have the third highest engagement in Europe (measured by average time spent online)
  • Turkey is country No.5 for Facebook and No. 8 for Twitter
  • Credit card penetration is approximately 60% (compared to a European average of 50%)
  • It is estimated that 6M to 9M o the 36M Internet users in Turkey have spent money online (an e-commerce penetration rate of between 17% and 25%) – in Germany and the UK the rate is closer to 60% meaning there is still huge potential for growth

Why focus solely on online ELT for Turks?

Several people have asked me this exact question to date. If you believe in your product, why limit it to Turkey? As we’ve already pointed out, the English language presents particular challenges to a native Turkish speaker. It makes sense for Turks to learn English online in a classroom with multiple Turkish students, rather than in a cross-cultural setting that you may find in a global online ELT service such as Live Mocha. Turks have a very strong sense of identity. Since motivation is a deciding factor in every education undertaking, a knowledge and appreciation of Turkish culture, and understanding what Turks find interesting, is all-important. We understood that our role was to provide good teaching and uplift motivation, within the bounds of a Turk’s experience, understanding and expectation.

With this in mind, we decided to launch TurksLearnEnglish.com, a site dedicated to providing communication confidence to unlock the dormant language resource that many Turks possess. We offer conversation classes for up to 6 adults at a time and staff our classes exclusively with native English speakers who have experience teaching in Turkey. We launched in May 2013 and have been learning ever since. As a supplement we have launched our İngilizce Dersleri series (video self study exercises) and our Türklere İngilizce series (language lessons that target areas of English that many of our Turkish students have problems with) for free.

Our concept: tap a dormant resource

Most of James’ adult Turkish students possessed something we defined as a “dormant resource”. Years of English classes at various points in their life meant that a strong knowledge base existed; yet, they still did not have the confidence to speak.  Our aim was to tap this dormant resource and address four main barriers to Turks not learning to speak effectively through the status quo private language institute experience:

1:              Kill the commute: The commutes in Turkey’s largest cities (Istanbul, Ankara) can be hellish and working hours are relatively long. If a young professional leaves work at 6:00 pm they may not arrive to a centrally located language school until 7:30pm. Three hours of class later and they are lucky to arrive home by midnight. This cycle is not sustainable. Offering online classes in a city like Istanbul, removes hours of unnecessary travel time.

2:              Focus on conversation: Most adult students in Turkey do not need another grammar lesson. They need to speak. As any online teacher knows, the virtual world is a great platform for developing language communication ability.  When a student pops on their headphones, they are able to focus with concentration that is rarely seen in a physical classroom. Better yet, the online classroom does not inhibit students in the way that a traditional classroom does. Fewer students and the webcam somehow boost a student’s willingness to take risks and make the mistakes every learner needs to advance in a language.

3:              Leverage Turkish themes: Turkish culture is strong. It’s very difficult for a Turkish student to relate to a grammar curriculum with subject matter based on Western themes. We’ve developed a curriculum (for both our conversation classes and our İngilizce Dersleri series) that is almost entirely based around Turkish themes. We try to use current events, history, culture, food, movies and other popular entertainment as much as possible.

4:              Keep it Turkish: Although we agree that complete immersion is best practice for developing language ability, we find there are benefits of having students from a common linguistic background. When we started researching our competition (global online ELT start-ups), we were very much impressed. But we did notice that having students in one classroom connected online from all over the world seemed bit disorganized and inefficient. So far we’ve seen our students correcting each other and learning from their mistakes. This happens a bit less in a multi-linguistic setting.

So there you have our manifesto. Despite the numerous challenges, successes, re-designs, re-re-designs and countless late nights since our launch, we believe we are on to something. It’s too early for a “lessons learned” story but we will be sure to update you once we celebrate our first anniversary!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our story. We would love to hear your thoughts!

James and Kris are co-founders of TurksLearnEnglish, a site dedicated to getting Turkish speakers to build communication confidence. For any online educators out there, feel free to take a look at and use our online-self study videos in our İngilizce Dersleri library. You can get in touch with them through the contact form on our site or email info@turkslearnenglish.com.

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İngilizce Dersleri: Adults don’t exercise enough

İngilizce öğrenmek! Türklere online dersler

Our İngilizce Dersleri series provides a library of video learning curriculum. We have designed these video articles for our Turkish students learning English. They are a supplement to our online conversation classes. We encourage our students to use these videos to practice their listening and reading skills between conversation classes.

This İngilizce Dersleri video is targeted towards intermediate students and above. You can find our complete database of video lessons in our Ingilizce Dersleri library The language in the article includes technical (scientific) and statistical terms. It is great practice for anyone studying or employed in a technical field. The article provides interesting vocabulary for IELTS and Intermediate students of English.

İngilizce Dersleri: konu ve sözlük

Konu: egzersiz, spor, formda olma, zindelik

Sözlük: to fail, research, chronic, physically, to analyze, inactive, evidence, cost-effective, moderate, facility 

turkish-excercise-istanbul-park

İngilizce Dersleri: article synopsis

The article focuses on a recently published study regarding the relationship between a person’s socioeconomic and geographical conditions, and their time dedicated to exercise. The article states that people of lower socioeconomic class and less favorable climatic conditions (cold / rain) exercise less. The article also briefly touches upon the relationship between the London 2012 Olympics and the increase in “grassroots” sport participation.

You can find a copy of the article on the BBC website here.

Relevance for Turkish Students?

As you may be aware, Istanbul is bidding to host the 2020 Olympic games. We created a previous İngilizce Dersleri video article about the Istanbul Olympic bid, that you can find here. Istanbul is bidding against Tokyo and Madrid. The winner of the bid will be decided on September 7th 2013 in Buenos Aires. When a country hosts a Summer Olympics, a spotlight is created around the state of sports and fitness in the country. Typically, the host country will dedicate a budget to building up community sports facilities across the country to create an “Olympic legacy”. If Istanbul is successful in its bid, the world’s attention will be on sport in Turkey.

Please give us your thoughts! Do Turks get enough exercise? How would you like to see the culture of sport improved in Turkey? Do you think a successful bid for Istanbul 2020 could help accelerate sport across the country?

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İngilizce Dersleri: ABD’de yolcu uçağı iniş yaparken düştü

İngilizce öğrenmek! Türklere online dersler

In our İngilizce Dersleri series we provide online video learning lessons. These video learning lessons are designed to compliment our online conversation classes. We encourage our Turkish students learning English to use these videos between conversation classes. They are designed to develop a student’s reading and listening skills.

In our İngilizce Dersleri series we try our best to use recent current events to spark motivation and interest in our students. Today’s article is about the recent Air Asiana plane crash into San Francisco airport (SFO). We recommend this article for our intermediate students of English. The event was tragic and involved deaths, our condolences go out to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident. This is also a great video lesson for anyone taking the IELTS program. The article provides very good vocabulary for describing a current event. We hope that you will all find it useful!

Turkish speakers may also like to look at the BBC article, ABD’de yolcu uçağı iniş yaparken düştü which provides context to this video.

İngilizce Dersleri: article synopsis

İngilizce-Dersleri-plane-crash-sanfran

A Boeing 777 recently crashed at San Francisco airport.

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Seoul crashed while landing on Saturday at San Francisco International Airport, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said.

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said it was flight No. 214, and it was unclear how many people were on board.

Images from television station KTVU in San Francisco showed extensive fire damage to the airplane, which had lost its tail in the crash. Fire engines were on scene and the fire, which had burned through the cabin’s roof, appeared to be out.

Please do let us know if you enjoyed this article and whether there are any topics you would like us to cover for the İngilizce Dersleri series!

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29

Apr 29, 2013 By Tags:,

“Why can’t Turks speak English yet?” They can…

Turks are learning English, but are they speaking it?

The whole world is trying to learn English, and Turks are no exception. As a teacher in Istanbul on and off for the last seven years, I have heard this question often from both foreigners and Turks: “Why can’t Turks speak English yet?”

Last year Güven Sak answered this in a short informative article in the Hürriyet Daily News. After several observations regarding the state of English in Turkey today, he bemoaned the lack of skilled English teachers and relevant education to train educators. It got me thinking.

Despite the obvious ongoing need for more well-trained teachers fluent in English, there is something else worth noting about Turks and their collective knowledge of English. For many, after years and years of English lessons at both school and University, the learning curve plateaus, then stagnates. Turks learning English put down their grammar books, complete their last gap-fill activity, and start life in a professional career. English simply sits unloved and abandoned in the attic.

Turks speak English: a dormant resource

To me, this is an enormous waste of a great resource. Among my adult students, almost all of them had watched their English stagnate and decline, never put into use during their professional career. For some there has been the odd holiday abroad when they could sputter a few questions to ask directions in Rome or Miami, though in general spoken English was a downhill slide once working life commenced.

The majority of my Turkish students, and especially those who had pursued careers requiring professional qualifications, continued to be more and more exposed to authentic English. My students who worked as doctors would attend seminars conducted solely in English, while those in engineering kept up with the latest developments through academic journals. Listening and reading, the passive skills of language, overtook the active. Turks could read and listen to English: they just couldn’t speak it. English conversation was frustrating and often an embarrassing situation for them, and their self-confidence plummeted when they spoke English to a native-speaker.

It’s a widespread issue. Turkey now has a huge number of citizens who in fact possess ‘dormant English’, a good understanding of the language that is, simply, asleep, unused and atrophying. It didn’t take much for me to realize what could help awaken it, and fast.

How to kick-start this dormant English in Turkey?

Internet use in Turkey is on the way up. Household broadband penetration is at 40% and rising. Turks are  becoming more confident about purchasing online. Turkey’s economy continues to perform well and thus economic opportunities are increasing for many citizens.

So why not seize this opportunity? Reawaken the English within Turks without waiting a generation for new teachers to be trained? With the Internet, why not give Turks access to English conversation classes with native speakers? There are a number of providers of online English lessons, offering easy access to native English speakers. For any Turk with a broadband connection, an exhausting evening or weekend commute to a physical classroom is no longer required. Let’s reactivate this passive knowledge and make English an active skill for the growing number of Turkish professionals who need global language and communication.

The Internet can’t provide a solution to all the challenges facing English language education in Turkey today. However, by leveraging the technology and communications infrastructure already in place, we think there’s an immense opportunity to fast-track the English that currently sits as a unused resource within the Turkish population. We’re already seeing great results. Motivation, higher self-confidence, and improved spoken English!

Are you an EFL educator in Turkey or a Turk trying to kick start your dormant English? Let us know what you think?

2 thoughts on ““Why can’t Turks speak English yet?” They can…

  1. Chris

    I mainly teach Spanish speaking students, but the issue is still the same. It’s much easier to remain in your comfort zone than get out their and practice speaking. I think the main thing is that they need to find ways to build their confidence in English and find fun opportunities to use it. That way they can continue to develop their skills without it feeling like hard work.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for your response Chris.

      As you’re teaching mostly Spanish-speaking students, do you find that any of the confidence issues come from the culture, or education system of the students? For Turks, we suspect that most of them come through an education system that does not give a very high value to individual thought and expression.

      While education in the country appears to be improving dramatically in many ways, young people still lack confidence after exiting a system where it was important to have memorized a lot of information, while analysis and critical thinking took a back seat.

      Since Spanish-speaking students originate from a far wider geographic range than Turks, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how motivation and confidence varies between Spanish=speaking regions, if that is indeed the case, and also whether your Spanish-speaking students adapt quickly to online learning.

      Cheers,

      James

      Reply

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İngilizce Öğrenmek: TED Talks for listening skills

In our second İngilizce Öğrenmek post we talk about why we recommend TED Talks as a tool for our Turkish students learning English. Our first İngilizce Öğrenmek post was about weekly reading for Turkish professionals.

TurksLearnEnglish.com is a fan of TED Talks. The site is a great way to hear about new and exciting ideas. Better yet, these talks are a truly practical way to improve your listening (and reading) skills. 

Keep in mind, that here at TurksLearnEnglish we also have an entire library of video learning exercises specifically designed for Turks learning English. You can access the library in our Ingilizce Dersleri section!

Why TED Talks is good for Turks learning English

TED Talks presents speeches on a wide range of topics, all of them in English. It’s a simple way to hear good spoken English while also learning about a new and interesting topic, such as the latest developments in medicine or predictions about the future of education.

Another benefit is that the presenters come from every part of the planet, making it one of the best sites to hear every possible accent in English. Familiarity with many accents is a key way to improve your understanding of the English language. And good listening skills means understanding more than just your English teacher!

TED Talks are usually between six to 20 minutes in length, with many around ten minutes. Short enough to watch a couple of times in the same day or even during your lunch break, and just long enough to hear some interesting ideas.

What level of listening skills do you need to understand a TED Talk?

To be honest, most TED Talks will require a second listening for many students of English. There are often a few technical terms used in the speeches, and sometimes the presenter’s humor may not be understood clearly by non-native speakers. The advantage of the Internet is that you can listen to a certain section again, until you understand what is said.

Better still, many TED Talks come with a transcription, which means you can read everything that is said during the presentation. And better again, in some instances the transcription is available in Turkish, so sure, why not listen a few times… and read as you go along? It’s a visual guide to help your listening skills!

TED Talks for Turks in three easy steps!

First, go to the website: www.ted.com

Secondly, click ‘View all tags’ to select talks that interests you. There are many different topics covered so you will find something that interests you: education, language, medicine… even rocket science!

Thirdly, listen to the presentation once. Then, why not try a second time while reading the transcription. At the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, click on the drop-down menu to find the transcription in English, or Turkish (and if it’s available).

TED Talk transcriptions are great for new vocabulary

TED presentations are authentic English and the transcriptions are a wonderful way to see English words on the same topic together at the same time. It helps to learn words together that have some connections. For example, in a speech by Margaret Heffernan, she uses the words and phrases conflict, disagree, fight, head-to-head, provoke, whistle-blower, and to have a fight on your hands. It’s much easier to learn these words together and in context.

Lastly, mimicking is excellent for learning the rhythm and intonation of a language. When no one’s around, it really makes sense to repeat, with a loud voice, phrases of the speakers. It’s truly one of the best methods to improve your pronunciation (just think of all the song lyrics or lines from English movies that you already know).

That’s it. There are hundreds of talks on scores of topics, so start improving your listening skills now!

Let us know if you found this helpful… and why not suggest something for us to write about?

 

 

 

 

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Time for culture-specific online language learning: English tailored for Turks.

TurksLearnEnglish.com is excited. We’ve now launched our online English language classes, designed specifically for Turks. For our first post, we’ll explain a little about who we are, what we’ve learned thus far and what we hope to achieve.

Our story is simple. After teaching English to Turks in the traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom, we, the founders of TurksLearnEnglish.com, realised there was opportunity to bring together our knowledge of teaching English to Turks with the benefits of an online setting. As you probably already know, English-language education in Turkey is a big business.  As you are probably also aware, online language education is a rapidly growing part of the wider ‘EduTech’ movement.

Our idea is simply to tailor online English lessons for Turkish native speakers, and we believe this ‘culture-specific’ approach to English language education has linguistic, cultural and motivational benefits. As founders, we have first-hand knowledge of teaching in Turkey, though we think a ‘culture-specific’ approach could work for any group of people sharing a strong common identity.

What do we mean by ‘culture-specific’ classes?

The Internet now provides access to English language lessons to anyone who has a decent Internet connection and a laptop. Livemocha is a successful example of an education start up offering language classes (and has recently been in the news for merging with Rosetta Stone). They offer everything from free ‘community’ exchanges between members to structured courses that can be purchased, and it’s not just for English – they teach a variety of languages.

For the most part, Livemocha is not culture-specific. Any given online class can contain students with vastly different languages and cultures.

Our approach for Turkey will be different. We are launching online English classes that contain only Turkish speakers, and teachers who have experience teaching to Turks.

Three primary advantages to culture specific online language lessons: Linguistic, Cultural and Motivational.

Linguistic advantages

It’s clear to anyone who has even the most basic understanding of Turkish, or to a teacher who has taught Turks, that Turkish exhibits some peculiar qualities.  When a classroom contains students with a common linguistic background, students’ needs are similar if not the same; the time saving is obvious. One student’s mistakes are relevant to all participants and this holds true for vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. Likewise, there are innumerable common mistakes to all Turkish speakers that make entire lessons on ‘Turklish’ an enjoyable and relevant learning experience.

Particularly beneficial is that students assist each other. A student with slightly higher verbal proficiency might assist with vocabulary, while another helps improve his classmates’ pronunciation. The classroom becomes a collaborative experience in which students become educators and where teacher-interference is reduced.

Cultural advantages

Turks, like many cultures, possess a strong identity. As a teacher of Turks for several years, I’m able to make some personal observations about the average Turk learning English.

First, Turks are not particularly confident students; however it’s very easy to motivate them. They are warm, friendly and love to tell an anecdote. Turks of all ages form an strong attachment to their teacher. Turks exhibit a wide range of (interesting) emotional responses in the classroom. The average educated Turk possesses a large body of received knowledge, which can sometimes inhibit the expression of an individual opinion…

Each culture can probably be described with a similar set of phrases. My point is that a collective set of values or behaviors work well if shared in the same learning environment. When a student group is homogenous a teacher can act more effectively. Cultural knowledge helps promote a comfortable class environment and to avoid discomfort and tension.

In Turkey, certain topics remain off-limits, from a cultural perspective. A teacher needs to encourage and motivate Turks, yet be careful not to belittle them in front of their peers, and to accept that self-discipline cannot always be expected. Turks may speak bluntly to another person but take offense when spoken to the same way. They love humor in lessons and Turks are a lot of fun to teach. As with linguistic issues, what is culturally relevant or irrelevant to one student is probably the same for all.

Motivational advantages

Most significant are the benefits of talking about issues of interest to Turks. Most Turks participate eagerly in discussions about the current flurry of Istanbul infrastructure works and the 2020 Olympic bid. Turks spend an inordinate amount of time with their families and they are happy to describe family events, which often make up part of each weekend.  It’s evident that a student needs to be interested in the topic at hand to maintain motivation, so TurksLearnEnglish.com also developed theme-based lessons rather than a curriculum, which allows flexibility during lessons to adapt instantly to student needs and desires.

So far, we’ve found that the culture-specific online classroom is a relaxed environment where students are ready to share. For a teacher with at least some knowledge of the students’ language and culture, it is also less time-consuming to make corrections that are often relevant to everyone present. Best of all, Turks seem as engaged in online lessons as in a physical classroom, and very much able and willing to build a positive learning relationship online.

We encourage discussion and look forward to hearing your ideas and comments!

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