Enhancing Business Presentations with Technology

by Linguarama 10. April 2012 06:10

Many Business English language learners need to give presentations for work and professional purposes. This blog post looks at some of the techniques and technologies they can use.

Love it or hate it, PowerPoint has been around for over 25 years. The term 'Death by PowerPoint' refers to those endless presentations where the speaker reads through bullet points, or uses the distracting 'bells and whistles' of sound and visual effects. But should we really blame the technology for poor presenting skills?

Two Japanese architects created a new approach to giving effective presentations designed to keep talks concise. It's called Pecha Kucha. Check Wikipedia to find out how to pronounce it. Each presenter has 20 slides which change automatically according to a timer. The timer is set to allow 20 seconds per slide, making all presentations mercifully short at 6 minutes and 40 seconds exactly.

The results can be truly memorable, as the preparation is far more focussed. Presenters are forced to think more about impactful visuals and using 'key words' only, rather than filling the screen with a mass of text. Do you dare try giving a Pecha Kucha?

Prezi is an impressive tool which allows you to break away from the traditional pre-set sequence of your slides. You can zoom in spectacularly on any piece of information within the presentation, whether it is a picture or piece of text. Using PowerPoint encourages us to think in a linear way; with a Prezi, you can jump straight to something as it becomes relevant. That makes it easy to respond to the audience.

The last presenter I saw hooked up his iPad2 to the projector. By using a navigation pane on the left of the screen, he could swipe through his whole presentation and then simply tap to go instantly to the relevant slide.

Even though I like using the technology, memorable presentations draw a lot upon rhetorical skills. The 'tools' can help, but great presenters need confidence, and charisma. That's why so many of the talks you can view at TED.com are impactful and memorable.

That's why Business English students, and learners giving a presentation in their second language, value learning the skills of giving a great presentation. And many of those who are serious about improving their skills take the Linguarama ‘English for Presentations’ course – an intensive 5 day programme designed to help make a significant improvement in Presentations skills.

Oh yes, and the technology can help, too!

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Tweeting: it's not just for the birds

by Linguarama 9. February 2012 05:56

This blog post looks at the Internet phenomenon of Twitter. We've all heard of Twitter. But do you tweet? And why would you? 

Tweets are short messages, under 140 characters, sent from a computer or mobile phone and received by anyone who 'follows' your tweets. The most interesting tweets are often re-tweeted by followers, so messages can sometimes spread round the world very quickly.

Twitter gained publicity as newspapers reported the tweets of people caught in accidents and terrorist attacks; more and more famous people (the president of the USA, Lady Gaga) began to gather thousands of followers.

So how is this new form of communication used in business? Here are four ways:

  1. A CEO announcing something important knows his or her words will be tweeted around the globe faster than journalists can publish the story.
  2. A conference speaker  understands that audience members will be tweeting during the talk to those who cannot attend. These tweets might contain uncomplimentary views about the ideas in the presentation: "Rubbish!" In fact, Tweeters could be having a silent conversation in the room! This is called ‘backchannel’ communication.
  3. Marketing departments  can send a message to thousands. The tweet 'Great product launch!' goes to 1,000 followers. Imagine if each one re-tweets that immediately...!
  4. Employees follow gurus in their field as part of their professional development. Do you follow anyone?

What about Twitter and language learning?

Tweeting is a good example of how fast language (especially 'writing') is changing. Abbreviations are used to squeeze messages into 140 characters,

 e.g.Thnx 4 the RT = thank-you for re-tweeting

Technology often provides 'newer' meanings for words. Think about: follower / to tweet. New words also emerge: twitterverse. How do these words translate in your own language?

So, could tweeting improve your language learning? Maybe. Try following someone who tweets in the language you are studying! Find out what your teacher thinks - perhaps they use Twitter to connect with teachers across the world as part of their own professional development. 

To experience the world of Twitter, open an account for free at: www.twitter.com  

Then, why not follow Linguarama's tweets? 

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Learning on the Go - M-learning

by Linguarama 24. January 2012 03:49

Many business people travel. They spend long hours in hotel rooms, at airports and on trains. We are all under pressure to make the most of our 'caught time' and the current interest in m-learning ('mobile learning') is, therefore, completely understandable. This blog post explores M-learning, sometimes described as learning 'on the go'.

Hardware

What kind of hardware is needed? M-learning can be done using any suitable portable device. ('Portable' is the key word here). This includes: lap-tops and net-books; mobile phones and, of course, Smartphones; mp3 players, such as the ubiquitous iPod; iPads and other tablet computers. The term M-learning can also include a range of other devices, such as electronic translators and e-book readers.

Contexts

It is difficult to tie down M-learning, because it means different things in different contexts. This is not unusual; the same thing happened with terms like 'e-learning'. So, let us take a look at a few common contexts for M-learning in the business English world.

1) You decide to subscribe to a 'push' service which sends you a short text each day to your mobile phone, along with a language exercise

2) You go jogging and listen to an authentic 'podcast' from your own field on your mp3 player

3) You use a translation dictionary on a tablet device to help process the content of a meeting in real time

4) You listen to a graded reader on your iPhone or Kindle; the author reads the e-book while you follow the text on-screen

5) You and your teacher discuss your company website in-class, using your iPad

These situations are very different. The last example takes place in a classroom, for instance.

It's a good idea to think about your own learning situation and the benefits m-learning can offer. You can study 'a little and often'; make good use of 'dead' time. You can work on improving listening and reading skills effectively between classes, and consolidate the work covered in your language lessons.

A good place to start is with some of the useful apps for learning (see: recent blog post on apps). The world of M-learning is very exciting .....and that in itself is motivating!

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Learning New Words Electronically

by Linguarama 6. January 2012 07:29

 

How do you store the new words and phrases you meet on your language course? Many students write down their new words in a notebook, along with a translation. However, it can be difficult to find the words you record like this, in order to review them. Have you thought about how technology can help? This blog post looks at some of the exciting ways in which language learners can store their new words electronically.

 

Whichever language you are learning, a quick and easy way to get started is to enter your new words on a simple spreadsheet. You can include a column with information about the word, such as whether it is a noun, verb or adjective. A nice feature of a spreadsheet is that you can organise words alphabetically. It is a good idea to include a final column to create a meaningful sentence containing the new word. This personalises the language and helps you remember the new words. In time, you can build up a 'personal dictionary'. Try: google.docs 

 

MyWordBook is a great free app from the British Council, and worth investigating by learners of English. You can add your own new words, a translation, and even import a photograph from your album to illustrate a word. This app allows you to practise the new words through a simple multiple-choice game.

 

Technology can help you store words in 'concept groups' such as: finance, technology, hobbies etc. In the Macmillan English Dictionary app, you can create your own categories, then assign words to them. You can even add a 'note' to a word, allowing you to 'personalise' your electronic dictionary. Of course, you have the added bonus of being able to listen to your new words.

 

Just think about the number of words and phrases you meet every time you listen to the news or read a text. Whichever language you are learning, it pays to be 'systematic' in storing and reviewing vocabulary. Why not make 2012 the year you explore some ways in which technology can help you review your new words?  

 

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General

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.

Dictionary

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.

 

Presentations

Apps allow you to do some quality listening and reading on the move. The website TED.com 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.

 

Pronunciation

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 https://market.android.com    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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Globalisation: the good, the bad and the necessary

by Linguarama 15. November 2011 11:48

In light of the recent wave of anti-capitalist protests, the Linguarama Blog is going to explore the many complex and sometimes controversial connotations of Globalisation.

Globalisation has become a buzz word for business. Thanks to its effects, the world has become a smaller place and trade is now freer than ever before.

Recently however, in the wake of the current financial crisis, the buzzword has become a byword for uncertainty in the fragile economic climate we live in.

So is globalisation an unstoppable force for good? Do the prospects for a homogenised world wide work place look glum? And what part will languages play in an increasingly integrated international market place?

First, a cost benefits analysis.

The ongoing question as to when globalisation began is still being debated today. One undeniable point is that over the last 20 years, the coming together of the world’s markets has benefited businesses both big and small. National interests and protectionism have taken a back seat in favour of blurred borders and expansion. Some argue its ubiquitous presence even encourages peace and prosperity between countries while others advocate the advantages of easier travel and improved communication links.

The cost of globalisation however, has become a bone of contention for many who feel that free trade is detrimental to developing economies and low cost travel has had an irreversible effect on the environment. Many suggest that the movement of labour leaves poorer countries lacking in skilled workers, thus keeping them in a perpetual state of poverty.

Globalisation’s impact on languages has been immense. To ensure they do not get left behind in the global market, companies the world over have been investing in language learning to compete on an international scale.

Over the past 40 years that we have been training business people to speak new languages Linguarama has seen a remarkable shift in the languages being requested. At the beginning, in addition to English, the demand was mostly for European languages with occasional requests for Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese. But now Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish for South America form a large part of the training we offer. This reflects the increasing internationalisation and globalisation of business.

So is globalisation good or bad? I think we can conclude it is a little of both and as Kofi Annan so eloquently puts it: arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity.”  Globalisation is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Our advice would be to grab it with both hands and embrace what it has to offer, languages and all!   

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Learning with technology

by Linguarama 30. September 2011 05:47

 

Learning with Technology has become a natural bi-product of the digital age; but could it ever become a realistic alternative to the classroom?

E-Learning has a myriad of benefits for the modern work place. We should know. Linguarama Direct, one of the early web-based language learning programmes, has helped thousands of learners improve their Business English as part of a blended language learning programme. 

Our trial version of Linguarama Connect, (http://www.linguarama.com/linguarama-connect ) our new language learning platform for Business English, has already proved an invaluable tool for supporting face-to-face language learning for our professional clients across Europe.

The news agency Reuters recently reported that Japan’s white collar workers have been panic buying E-Learning courses to combat what they have coined as an ‘English language crisis’  which is sweeping the country.

With slow economic growth, workers in Japan are aiming to improve their business English in order to gain an edge over their colleagues in an increasingly unpredictable market place.

Now, it is a well known fact that although Japan is the third largest economy in the world, their level of English has traditionally been low. The country's average score on the TOEFL, a computer-based test of English as a foreign language has not been at the top of the league among Asian countries. 

So is E-Learning the answer to Japan’s prayers?  In a word, no. E-Learning should only ever be used to complement classroom teaching, not replace it.

Although E-Learning is undeniably a cost effective means of learning languages, which offers convenience and flexibility, it cannot provide Japanese earners of Business English with the skills to compete in an increasingly English speaking, globalised economy.

Linguarama’s classrooms are brim full of language in action – discussion, debate and the kind of interaction that we learn language for. Outside the classroom our participants have the chance to log on to Linguarama Connect and use it as an additional learning tool.

At Linguarama, we embrace new technology and want our clients to have the chance to use it whenever it will benefit them. Technology is always evolving and no doubt there will be ever more innovative ways to learn languages online. In our opinion however, nothing will ever replace the value of the face-to-face, traditional classroom environment for getting the most out of your learning experience


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