Wijng is an emerging online platform for learning English, and currently it’s free. I’ve looked at a few of the units, including one on skiffle, that nice music of the 50s, and here are a few thoughts:

  • The makers of this platform are taking existing videos, e.g. on YouTube. These are not skripted or specifically spoken and produced for language learners, so they contain “real” English. This is not “good” or “bad”, it all depends on how the media is taken apart to allow the learner to process the language. The makers then transcribe the spoken text. Some of the videos have subtitles in the video – a function allowed by YouTube.
  • Other lessons are made out of news articles that are simplified for the learner.
  • Still others present a tense or other grammar point with explanations in German
  • The makers provide vocabulary lists at the bottom of the transcript/text.
  • The explanations and questions/ responses are in German.
  • There are four kinds of exercises, content-based multiple choice and true/false/no information questions, plus vocabulary or grammar drag and drop or type in.
  • A very nice feature: Extra tips or hints are provided in the language exercises themselves to help the learner make his or her decision.
  • However, there are no explanations with the feedback to the exercises – just “right/wrong”. Not good.
  • There seem to be some bugs in the software compiling the results; the system told me I hadn’t completed the exercise.
  • They have introduced tracking and evaluation of the learner’s overall work and progress, perhaps similar to what Dalango, the Spotlight Verlag learning platform I introduced recently, does, but I haven’t seen how either works and what the user gets out of it.

Overall a nice and friendly approach. We all know how much time and money goes into producing a good video, so this is an attempt to keep it simple. The makers of the site could, however, improve it in the following ways without incurring any real costs:

  • provide simple questions and answers in English.
  • accompany the feedback with explanations.
  • add pictures and charts to the grammar lessons

A bigger problem is the didactic concept of placing “grammar lessons” in the basic level (A) and “comprehension lessons” in the section for more advanced learners (B). That’s quite oldfashioned, dear Wijngers! But yes, it is very hard to find videos with “simple” language for lower level learners. I personally don’t think that web-based training is suitable for the (A) level learner. I do include video extensively in my own lower-level classes. I show the same videos – the students and I just process them very differently!

A huge problem for any public media-based project such as Wijng is that they simply can’t compete for content and methodology with a fabulous platform such as the BBC Learning English, which has masses of good journalism and didactic expertise in-house, all available online for free. This is something that an established learners’ magazine such as Spotlight is up against, too. So Wijng needs to develop its own profile and personality to find its audience, just like any media product. I’m all for good free content on the internet (that’s a no-brainer) and am curious to see whether Wijng finds a way to make it work. Their project blog is here.


A star is born. Dalango is a brand-new web-based series of language courses (English, Business English, Spanish).


1/2 a year in the works, a major investment (so they say), Spotlight Verlag inside expertise and cool young dudes and gals bringing in new media ideas, some 300 minutes worth of good videos based on great scripts, subtitles, 6,000 interactive exercises (that’s per language), along with tracking and evaluation software. Aimed at the intermediate learner. Under 10 euros a month for a six-month package. Hope it finds lots of fans and gives us all, web-based teachers and learners alike, a shot in the arm.


I’m looking forward to hearing from you

Here’s another chant, this one created on the spot in Paderborn at Benteler (for Akademie für Sekretariat und Büromanagement).
Hi ladies 🙂 !

Snap your fingers to anchor the +ing in your memory.

I’m looking forward to seeing you
I’m looking forward to meeting
I’m looking forward to hearing
from you
I’m looking forward to talking
to you.

Why? “To” is a preposition here, and prepositions are followed by +ing

I’m looking forward to +ing (informal, expresses feeling)
I look forward to +ing (more formal expession)
Look forward to +ing (informal email)

cul8r! See you later

language focus: verb + preposition + -ing

Up to Speed

Carole Eilertson & Louise Kennedy have just published their lovely EFL coursebook Up to Speed (Cornelsen) for business professionals who want to fine-tune their upper-intermediate English skills. Geared to one-to-one learners (and small groups), their book focusses on day-to-day operations, teamwork, meetings, presentations, networking and project management.

What I like about their approach is a winning combination of teaching emotional intelligence in communication, enough jargon to win you points in international meetings and up-to-the-minute business thinking to keep things interesting. The teaching philosophy is the best part, though. Continue reading Up to Speed

How long have you been here?

Management Circle offered a business communication seminar for management assistants in Frankfurt that I had the privilege to teach. They do a really professional job of organising these events. My students, Astrid, Christine, Elke, Petra, Sladana and Theresia were such a pleasure to be with. Two days are obviously very short, but I have the impression that they left the seminar highly motivated to apply their new skills. I tried not to slay them with input, which of course is always the danger with these short intensive courses. Overall, I’m very pleased with how things went.

Here’s a chant I used in this seminar which is really effective. Grammar needs to be “automated”, you shouldn’t be thinking about tenses when you talk – so that’s where chants shine. Continue reading How long have you been here?

My blog. Your blog?

anne-bloggingWhen I first started this blog I was unsure what approach I should take. I mean, I don’t stand in the middle of town talking to myself. And I keep my private life private. At least I used to think I did. Until I got this message on Skype from a woman in Russia who said, “Anne, do you know that your secret journal is online?” Last week, when I told my brother Adam over a Mass at the Oktoberfest that I had blogged about our mother, he gave me this very strange look. My husband tells me my topics are too complicated. So what am I doing it for? Give me a few minutes of your time, and I’ll explain. And maybe I can get you to join me. Continue reading My blog. Your blog?

Just show up

“The golden rule of language learning: Absolutely any method of language learning, as long as it includes regular exposure to the target language, will eventually yield fluency if followed faithfully enough. … Some methods of language learning may be better or worse than others, but there is no “wrong” method. … It’s like the saying goes, “most of success is just showing up“.Glowing Face Man (blogging about language, communication, and self-improvement)

I’m not sure about that. I really like Glowing Face Man’s optimism, but I know that using the method that is wrong for you is counterproductive – precisely because it makes you not want to show up anymore. That unfortunately is what happened to me in math and physics (so interesting and yet so hard for me). So I really want to help learners find the best approach for them.