Apptivities for business English

by Pete Sharma 4. June 2013 19:00

A lot has happened in the world of apps since I last blogged on apps for language learning, a year ago.

Sales of desktop computers are falling, while sales of Smartphones and tablets continue to rise. Every day sees the launch of new apps. This post looks at four apps which have recently caught my eye, focussing on the four language skills.

Speaking - Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is a free ‘speech to text app’. You speak into your mobile device and your words appear onscreen – or an approximation of what you say, depending on how clearly you deliver the words! This can be motivating for students away from their classroom, as they are motivated to rehearse and improve their speaking efforts in order to achieve better accuracy.

Reading - Flipboard

The Flipboard app creates a personalised magazine. First, you select your areas of interest – business for example. Each time you open the app, fresh articles will appear, alongside entries from messages to your social media sites Facebook and Twitter.

Listening - Podcast

I recently downloaded an app simply called Podcast. Whether you like to catch up to regular news summaries or follow business stories, this is a great app for listening on the move. You can pause a podcast at will, and listen to sections again.

Writing - Evernote

I was at a conference recently, and noticed someone taking notes on her iPad. She was using the well-known app Evernote. She shared her notes, and suddenly, all her hard work suddenly appeared on my tablet! It was a thrilling moment, as it made me realise how students in a business English class can easily share notes using such apps, or work together to complete a set of notes taken at a meeting simulation.

This month sees the launch of a new eBook entitled ‘Apptivities for business English’. It was written by Barney Barrett, a business English teacher at Marcus Evans Linguarama, and myself and contains many more ideas for business English teachers to use apps in the classroom, and for students to use on the road. See:

Happy Apping !


Improving your business English with Blogs

by Pete Sharma 28. September 2012 07:41

You are currently reading the ‘marcus evans Linguarama blog’, an example of a corporate blog. This post highlights corporate blogs and how they can help in language learning – whichever language you are learning.

Many company websites now incorporate a blog. Some companies merely post extra information on company products. Others are more 'specialised’, providing insights from the world of say, auditing or bonds.  Some speak with the neutral, anonymous voice of the corporate entity, whilst others feature an individual named writer or writers who give more personal positions (within the limits of loyalty to their employer).

A specific example of the use of a corporate blog is when things go (disastrously) wrong. The corporate blogger is there to soften the agony of the dreaded 'product recall' or other types of bad publicity, and to provide damage limitation.

I was fascinated by the recent story of a fast food chain scouring the world looking to hire bloggers   willing to post nice things about, well, hamburgers - a reaction against famous chefs encouraging us to eat healthily and saying bad things about fast food!

While my own company website is designed to promote my business, my company blog is slightly more humorous, more personal and less 'corporate'. That's quite common, and raises an interesting issue you may like to discuss in your next language lesson: should CEO’s blog? Would you want to read the insights of, say, Virgin boss Richard Branson, or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos?  Or, would you simply switch off if they tried to impose the usual 'corporate message'?

For business English students, interesting blogs (like this one!) help you to practise the skill of reading in the target language, and at the same time keep up to date with industry developments; the benefits are obvious.

If you are interested in learning more about 'corporate blogs' and viewing some great examples, try:

Whichever language you are learning, you can subscribe to a blog in your own business field. The content will be interesting and very up-to-date. It should provide motivation for you, plus exposure to the target language. We hope you continue to enjoy reading this blog!
What are your favourite blogs?   – leave a comment with the link and we can share them with other readers.


¹The word ‘blog’ was formed by combining 'web' and 'log', a log being the old ship captain’s diary.


Learning with Technology in Bangladesh

by Pete Sharma 1. May 2012 10:42
Bangladeshi TrainIn this blog post, I report on my recent trip to Bangladesh, made on behalf of the British Council. The aim was to research how technology can help learning even in challenging situations. The country is, in a word: "amazing". It is one of the most populous nations on earth, with approximately 160 million people. Everywhere you look, people are working, in shops, in fields, in factories. Traffic is congested; chimneys pour pollution into the air. Despite all this industry, it is also one of the poorest countries in the world.
My work as an educational consultant took me to a number of village schools. Classes are composed of children of different ages. Boys and girls sit apart in class. Teachers are worried not so much by the content of classes but by the fact that students are hungry; some need shoes. Many never finish their education.
Teaching in BangladeshIn this kind of situation, my role as an advisor on technology throws up many challenges. Although the government has long-term plans for digitalising the country, the coverage of internet access remains poor and electricity supplies are erratic. However, I witnessed how just one computer with internet connection and a data projector can improve learning opportunities tremendously. Instead of simply using their (rather old) books with a picture of a volcano, the lesson I watched came alive as the teacher projected an animated volcanic eruption; the students were fascinated at the images of molten lava. Students today can Skype with learners abroad, learning through projects such as Connecting Classrooms:
I saw my first Life Player in Bangladesh. This is an exciting new portable device - a wind-up radio which is also powered by a solar cell. It plays mp3 files, so teachers can use pre-recorded material in a class outside where there is no power socket!
They say travel broadens the mind. After this trip, I won't be quite so angry when my computer crashes or a file is slow to download - at least I have the technology! The people I met in Bangladesh show that with a positive approach, technology can benefit teachers and language learners in the developing world.


Apps for Language Learning

by Pete Sharma 7. December 2011 09:11

The world, it seems, has gone 'App-crazy'. Nowadays, there's an app for just about everything!   As sales of Smartphones, iPads and other tablet PCs continue to soar, it's time to ask: can apps help with language learning?

The answer is Yes! . Using apps can be a great way to continue practising a language while travelling. They can be motivating in themselves, and the extra work you do can consolidate your language course.  However, it can be difficult to identify good apps among the many thousands out there. This blog post will focus on a few must-have apps for English language students.


A mobile dictionary app is essential. I recommend buying the app version of your favourite mono-lingual dictionary. The Macmillan English Dictionary app has a good system for showing word frequency. There are many free bi-lingual dictionary apps available, but not all provide reliable translations.



Apps allow you to do some quality listening and reading on the move. The website is a fantastic source of presentations: the app version allows you to download your favourite presentations to watch off-line. App versions of newspapers are worth investigating, although you need to pay a subscription for the Financial Times app.


Building Vocabulary

Many students enjoy testing themselves using 'Flashcard' software. Flashcards work nicely on an iPad - just swipe the screen to turn over the card; a great way to review new words. Try: Flashcards+.

SimpleMindX allows you to create mind-maps.



How is your English pronunciation? 'Sounds' is an exciting new pronunciation app from Macmillan. It allows you to hear all the phonetic symbols, as well as providing lots of practice exercises. There is a free version, which contains an interactive version of the phonetic chart.


Of course, there are many other interesting apps around. Many are free; many are very cheap. So, if you have an Android phone, visit    iPhone users will already be familiar with the iTunes store.


The next December tech-blog post will continue to explore the world of M-learning (mobile-learning), looking at some of the benefits it has for language learning.



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