14 April 2016
Andrew Sharp, Partner Sales Manager, Professional Solutions
Language barriers: taking the stress out of mastering English
Learning a new language is a big deal at any age. Mastery of their mother tongue is a child’s passport to understanding the world and interacting with others. Later on, grasping a second language – or a third, or fourth – can have an impact on employment and relationships that’s literally life-changing.
With almost a billion native and non-native speakers combined, English is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages – and it’s certainly the most important in terms of international communication.
English is the standard for global commerce, science and mass entertainment. It’s spoken by air traffic controllers, diplomats, politicians and trade bodies. It’s ironic, then, that the world’s most frequently-taught language is among the toughest to learn.
Its rich, complex parentage includes Anglo Saxon, Norse, French, Latin, Greek and old Germanic influences.
And that means that English – in both written and spoken forms – is peppered with irregularities, idioms and exceptions that can seem bewildering to a non-native.
Similar sounding words are a minefield – like ‘buy/by/bye’, ‘to/two/too’ and ‘their/they’re/there’. Why is the pronunciation of ‘rough’ so different from ‘bough’ and ‘through’? And why can I ‘watch a movie’ or ‘see a movie’ – but not ‘see television’?
Picking English as a second language can be dictated by the circumstances of work or relationships. And it’s a required subject for tens of millions of overseas school students each year. Either way, English language learners (ELL) can be in for a choppy ride. The learning process can be dogged by embarrassment and lack of self-confidence. It’s particularly difficult for children in English-speaking schools whose parents don’t speak the language at home. And it takes real courage attempting to pronounce an unfamiliar word aloud in front of other fluent speakers – whether it’s in a business meeting or on a night out with friends.
The sheer power of English as an enabler for social and professional development is unmatched by any other language. And that’s why it offers such a huge market opportunity to educational publishers worldwide.
At Texthelp, we work behind the scenes with content owners to make their own products more easily appreciated by the widest possible international audience. From reading on-screen text aloud to offering dictionary definitions and real-time translation, easy-to-use supports like our SpeechStream toolbar make web sites and online course materials accessible to students and employees for whom English isn’t their first language.
Over the last 20 years we’ve refined our deep understanding of the challenges facing English Language Learners of all ages. And that’s why today we’re the trusted choice of leading publishers like Pearson, Edgenuity, Achieve3000 and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who depend on our writing and fluency support technologies to strengthen their own online learning and literacy resources.