Learn English with Artificial Intelligence (AI)

2023 was the year of Artificial Intelligence (AI) being put fairly and squarely on the map. Some people are excited by its potential, others are scared about where this could go. Will we all be out of a job? Will we fail to distinguish the difference between human-generated text and machine-generated text? Will AI help us to make great scientific discoveries? Will it make medical interventions safer and better? Which way will the balance swing?

It is scary; a super powerful tool with no moral compass, where “truth” and “fact” can become even more blurry concepts than they are now!! But, ignoring its benefits for business is potentially a dangerous thing to do.

Working in the language teaching industry is no exception, and despite our continued and genuine appreciation of teachers, AI is actually very good at giving corrections and feedback on students’ written work. Is it as good as an experienced and qualified English language teacher? No, and it probably won’t be for a long time. But is it as good as a mediocre or recently qualified English teacher, then, probably yes. It’s very good at giving corrections and explanations once it’s been properly trained.

What isn’t it good at doing? Well, don’t expect it to empathise with the writer, or relate to what a student has written on an emotional level. And it’s not great (yet) at grading in an acceptable way according to level.

So, it’s most definitely a wake-up call for teachers to realise that they need to do more than just correct a piece of writing with token explanations about why something is incorrect if they want students to appreciate and be prepared to pay for their services. For most dedicated teachers, this shouldn’t be a problem but the days of winging it are over. But for those teachers whose feedback is noticeably above and beyond AI, this, on the other hand, is an opportunity to get their value felt.

On the flip side, for those students who either can’t afford tutor rates, or those who just don’t like working with a teacher, this is their opportunity to effectively develop their language skills in a safe and instructive learning environment without having to talk to anyone “real”.

We’re excited at Net Languages to see how AI can add value to our courses. Why not check out our video on how we have incorporated AI into the General English course or our information pages to see what we’ve been doing? We hope you’re impressed!

For the time being and the foreseeable future, however, we’re definitely not ready to dispense with our wonderful team of tutors. AI just helps us to provide more options and cater for a wider range of needs, and that makes strong business sense.

The importance of a great online personal language tutor

When we request feedback from our students, one of the things that stands out most is their appreciation of their tutor. We believe that combining a great structured online self-study course with the support of a great personal language tutor is a winning combination.

So why does a personal language tutor make all the difference?


Never underestimate the importance of having somebody by your side when you’re studying. We are social beings and while online self-study courses are great, if there is no tutor, we can miss out on that social interaction we get from talking and writing to a fellow human being. It always amazes us how quickly students and tutors build up a rapport and become the best of friends. This relationship makes all the difference in reducing drop-out rates and increasing the enjoyment of the course.

“This module has been really interesting. The tutor has been very professional and very close while doing the speaking tutorials. Her feedback during and after the tutorials has been very useful.”

Contextualisation and Personalisation

Why and in what context we need to use the language we are studying is very relevant. But however good an online self-study course is, it is impossible to cater for all the different contexts that our worldwide learners find themselves in. By assigning students their own individual tutor, the tutor can help to contextualise the language practised making it relevant to each and every student’s needs.

“I would like to thank all the corrections and advices made by the tutor during the course. I will be able to use them in my daily job.”


We all know how frustrating it is when you don’t understand something, you can’t find the answer to something, or something isn’t clear. When the only thing you have to consult is a ChatBot which really doesn’t get what you’re asking, learning can become very frustrating. Having a personal language tutor means that you can ask all these questions to a real human being and what’s more, a professional language teacher who not only will be able to give you an expert answer but will also be able to empathise with the problem you have.

“The tutor (Jason) has been very helpful and has insisted that I can send him e-mails to solve my doubts. Both of my two speakings with him have gone very well.”


One of the main appeals of online courses is the flexibility to study 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Individual tutorials with your personal language tutor guarantee this flexibility by allowing you to arrange your speaking tutorials for a day and time that suits you.

“Thank you so much to my tutor who has been so flexible in changing my speaking tutorials and has been super nice, I am so grateful to her, she is a really good tutor and has taught me very well” (translated)


When you are assigned the same personal language tutor for the length of a course, your tutor really gets to know your language learning weaknesses and strengths. She can help you to work on the areas you need to improve over a series of tutorials. This is extremely effective especially when compared to online coursers which offer a different teacher for each class with no continuity between the classes.

“The teacher, Lucy Bucks, is very professional, I’ve learned so much her!”


When you promise your tutor you will finish a unit by a certain date, you feel accountable to your tutor and this helps to motivate you through the course. If you don’t find time to do the course, you aren’t just letting yourself down, you’re letting your tutor down to and this can push you forward.

“I have loved Nathan. The best tutor I have ever had” (translated)

Experience and qualifications

A good language tutor is not just a friendly English-speaking person, she is a professional language teacher, experienced, qualified and trained to teach online. Our tutors are selected not only for the quality of their teaching but also for their ability to connect with students and their passion for teaching. They will make all the difference on your language-learning journey.

“My tutor has been really accessible and flexible. She has encouraged me to keep on learning and pushing myself. In the speaking tutorials she made me feel very comfortable and relaxed and this has allowed me to express myself with more confidence and feel less stressed. The flexibility of the tools to do the speaking tutorials has been really useful.” (translated)

Does this sound like a good solution for you? Why not experience how Net Languages personal language tutors can help you? Sign up for a Premium course for access to an online structured course combined with individual tutor support


The Benefits of Using Mock Exams in Language School Preparation

Language schools play a pivotal role in preparing students for official language exams, such as Cambridge Assessment and IELTS. To ensure their students’ success, it is crucial for language schools to adopt effective exam preparation strategies. One strategy is the use of mock exams. As most of us know, using mock exams brings numerous benefits to language schools and their students. Here is a brief reminder of why they are so useful:

Authentic Exam Experience:

Mock exams provide students with a realistic simulation of the official exam environment. By closely replicating the format, timing, and question types, language schools can offer their students an authentic exam experience. This familiarity significantly reduces exam anxiety and boosts students’ confidence levels.

Cambridge Assessment and IELTS Exam Structure Familiarisation:

Official language exams have specific structures and patterns that students must become acquainted with to do well. Cambridge Assessment and IELTS mock exams allow students to practise navigating through these structures, becoming more comfortable with the exam’s layout and organisation. This familiarity enhances students’ efficiency during the actual exam, allowing them to focus on answering questions rather than spending time trying to understand what they have to do.

Time Management Skills:

Effective time management is crucial in language exams where candidates are often pressed for time. Mock exams enable students to practise pacing themselves and allocating appropriate time to each section. By working on these skills during mock exams, students can optimise their time usage and improve their overall exam performance.

Identification of Weaknesses:

Mock exams provide a valuable opportunity for language schools to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. By carefully analysing students’ performance in various sections, language schools can help identify specific areas where students require additional support or instruction. This means that schools can tailor their teaching methods to address individual weaknesses and ensure comprehensive exam preparation.

Performance Improvement:

The iterative process of taking mock exams, receiving feedback, and analysing results fosters continuous improvement. Language schools can use the insights gained from mock exams to develop personalised study plans and provide focused guidance to students. As a result, students can make significant strides in their exam preparation journey, boosting their overall performance in official language exams.

Confidence Building:

Mock exams not only assess students’ abilities but also serve as confidence-building tools. As students repeatedly practice under exam conditions and receive constructive feedback, they become more self-assured in their knowledge and skills. This increased confidence translates into improved performance on the actual exam, allowing students to showcase their true capabilities.

Resource Optimisation:

Marking mock exams can take a long time for a teacher which uses up valuable resources. By using self-correcting online mock exams, teachers can spend more time helping students to improve areas of weakness rather than spending time correcting the exams. By using these resources, language schools can optimise their teaching materials and ensure their students have ample opportunities to practice and refine their skills.

Incorporating mock exams (especially online mock exams) into the exam preparation of language schools brings many benefits to both students and institutions. From fostering an authentic exam experience to identifying weaknesses and enhancing performance, mock exams provide a structured and effective approach to exam preparation. By embracing the use of online mock exams, language schools can better equip their students to achieve success in official language exams, ultimately solidifying their reputation as top-of-the-range exam preparation centres.

If you represent a language school and are interested in using our online Cambridge and IELTS mock exams, contact us for more information.

Online language course provision for universities

Demand for online courses and materials is high in universities as we saw in our blog post: online learning trends for universities. So how do universities source online courses and materials?

Some universities have created their own online course content, some outsource it, and others do both.

We specialise in collaborating with universities so we thought we would share some of the ways we cater for university requirements:

Scenario 1 – An integral component of course studies

Imagine if you will, universities that need an online course to become an integral part of their students’ English studies. Students will probably also attend lectures but in addition they are required to complete a structured online English course as part of their studies. The results of the progress on this course will contribute to their final grading. So, one model is to provide the university’s students with access to one or two levels of the General English online course series which will give them extensive practice in the four skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking in addition to vocabulary, grammar, functional language, pronunciation features etc. The integrated testing model provides proof of learning as the student progresses through the online course material and provides both global and specific language area scores.

Scenario 2 – A blended approach to language training

Other universities implement a more integrated approach. They need online course material to combine with online group classes which are taught by their English language teachers. The teachers introduce and prepare the students for the online work for the week in a virtual group class, the students complete the work during the week, and in the next class the teachers extend the online practice and prepare the students for the following week’s work.

To support the teachers, we provide comprehensive lesson plans for use in the online group classes.

This blended approach provides essential support and motivation for the students in the online component of the course, and we have found this to be a highly effective and successful language learning course model.

Scenario 3 – Online language resources for university students

A different scenario is that of university libraries or resource centres. One example is a consortium of university libraries which license a wide selection of online language resources to support students via their online university libraries. Each university library selects the online course material most relevant to their students’ needs and using a concurrent user access model, the university libraries provide affordable access to all authorised users via the library portals.

Some of the most popular resources include our IELTS Preparation courses, Business English modules, the 8-level General English course and the 5-level General Spanish course.

Scenario 4 – Online language courses for professional development / In-service training

Of course, universities can’t run well without a dedicated and motivated staff to run them. Another very popular model is catering for the training requirements of the university’s invaluable administrative and services staff. The professional development requirements range from improving the staff’s general overall level of English to specific work-related requirements e.g., giving a presentation in English, attending and participating in meetings in English etc.

We provide flexible and tailored online training packages which include access to self-paced online courses combined with one-to-one tutorials or online group classes contextualising the language practised to specific work-related contexts and requirements.

Do you work for a university? What online learning trends for universities do you identify with? Do you fit into one of the above scenarios or do you have different language learning requirements?

Contact us and let’s see how we can help you.

What problems do learners of English have communicating in English at work?

How learners perceive their needs

Hearing how English language learners describe their needs is always interesting. It provides course designers and teachers with essential information. Knowing what learners need and want makes it possible to target these areas and provide learners with appropriate, effective support and practice, addressing their needs at work and helping them to achieve their goals.

As part of our level testing process, we ask learners to write answers to questions such as these:

  • Do you use English in your work? If so, what do you do in English?
  • What areas in English would you like to improve on?

There are two reasons for asking these questions. The first, of course, is to have samples of the learners’ writing to confirm the appropriate level of study for them. The second reason is to find out how they perceive their needs. The answers to these questions are often detailed and revealing. Clearly, the learners know better than anyone what they need to do in English and what they would like from a course of study.

Needs analysis is nothing new. It is standard practice for any serious language teaching service provider. Asking is just the first step. The important next step is what you do with the information you receive. For the process to be worthwhile you need to be a good listener and to be able to respond to what learners tell you.

What do learners say?

The following is an example of a comment made by a language learner, concerning her use of English at work.

I need to improve my written expressing and fluency. I often have inquiries about heritage come from other countries, always in English. I need to be able to write better, not only to answer messages, but to be able to write short texts and articles in English. 

A solution to this learner’s needs would be a course that helps to structure her writing and provide her with the language she needs so that she can express what she wants to say in a clearly organised way and in an appropriate register. The student mentions different work-related text types, from messages and short texts to articles. It would be useful for her to see model texts of these different genres, to focus on and practise useful language, register and writing conventions. It would be even better if she could work closely with a tutor, to guide, encourage and support her.

Another learner described how he wanted to feel more comfortable making long speeches on different topics. This learner could benefit from a course that equips him with the ability to plan and structure a presentation, and then provides him with the right meta language to deliver it. Learners often comment on their need to feel more confident when using English. Opportunities to practise in a “safe” environment, for example, simulations with a tutor, can help here.

Matching courses to needs

The two cases above show that language learners have very different needs. Clearly, it is not easy to cater for the needs of all learners with just one course. A general English course can help a learner to improve their overall level of English, but can it help learners with specific work-related needs?

One approach is to develop shorter modules to target key work-related areas. In this way, a learner can go directly to their areas of need. In a work context, these could be areas such as writing, telephoning, negotiating, travelling for work, attending meetings, giving presentations, banking and finance, applying for a job and dealing with the public.

Common “Pain” points for English language learners

Learners’ needs or areas that cause them difficulty are sometimes referred to as “pain points”. The following are some of the more common pain points for English language learners in a work environment:

  1. Inadequate language skills for job requirements: learners may lack the language proficiency needed to effectively perform their job tasks, causing frustration and hindering job performance.
  2. Communication difficulties with colleagues and clients: a lack of language skills can lead to misunderstandings and communication breakdowns, impacting the quality of work and professional relationships.
  3. Inability to participate fully in workplace discussions and meetings: learners may struggle to follow and contribute to discussions, causing them to miss important information and feel excluded from the workplace community.

To address these pains, course designers can employ a number of solutions. These could include:

  1. Task-based language teaching: designing tasks and activities that are directly related to the learners’ work tasks and goals, allowing them to practise and apply their language skills in real-life situations.
  2. Focused vocabulary and grammar instruction: targeting specific vocabulary and grammar areas that are essential for learners to perform their work tasks effectively.
  3. Incorporating authentic materials: using real-life materials and scenarios from the learners’ workplace to make the course content relevant and engaging.
  4. Providing opportunities for interaction: creating opportunities for learners to practise their language skills in a meaningful way.

How can we help?

Contact us if you would like to know more about how we can help you or your company or organisation address language learning problems in a work context.


Willis, J. and Willis, D. (2007). Doing task-based teaching. Oxford University Press.

Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge University Press.

Little, D. (2007). Language in the workplace. Multilingual Matters.

Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A., & Wesche, M. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. Newbury House Publishers.

Murphey, T. (2003). Building communicative competence in a second language. TESOL Journal, 12(2), 21-29.

Online learning trends for universities

As we all know, because of the pandemic, probably all universities created some sort of online alternative to cater for their students’ learning requirements during lockdown. Initially online solutions may have been considered as just a stop gap until students could return to the physical classroom. However, it now looks like 100% online degrees or online components as part of a degree are going to play an important part in university offerings from now on.

In this post we analyse what is happening.

What do the statistics say?

According to a report by BestColleges on online Education in colleges in the US (2022):

  • 43% of administrators said their universities would offer online options for students in the future.
  • 70% of students claimed that online education is better than or equal to on-site education.
  • 95% of online program graduates said they would recommend online education to others.
  • 90% of online course graduates said that their degree has had a positive return on investment.
  • 60% of remote students (students who had registered for on-site courses but were studying remotely because of the pandemic) said they were likely to enrol in an online course after their campuses return to normal operations.

Although this is data for just the US market, the trend towards more demand for online courses and degrees is clear.

Why does this make sense for universities?

The obvious answer is that if higher education institutions want to be able to take advantage of the demand for online courses, they will need to expand their online offerings to match this demand.

In addition to this, online offerings open up new markets to universities. These markets are students who either don’t want to study on university premises or can’t study there due to limitations such as visas, costs, family or work commitments etc. By offering online courses, learning institutions gain access to a broader range of global students. See article by Higher Education Partners (UK).

Why does this make sense for students?

From a student point of view, the advantages are manifold:

According to Research.com flexibility and convenience are the two most important factors when deciding between an online course or an on-site course. Most online courses offer flexibility in terms of when students need to study and can thus fit around work, family, or other commitments.

Online education gives students access to world-class teaching, courses and degrees. They have many more options to choose from and can access these courses from the comfort of their own homes.

Online courses are significantly cheaper than attending a face-to-face course. In addition to the course costs, they can make substantial savings with living expenses, transportation etc.

And last but not least, online studies can be more effective than traditional courses as students can work at their own pace and focus on areas which are of most interest to them.

What is going to happen next?

The exponential growth in online courses available has already seen a boom in “stackable microcredentials” and “nanodegree” programs and this trend is likely to continue. Stackable microcredentials are short courses which can be combined together to create a bigger course or degree with the corresponding qualification or certification. This trend is in response to an increase in on-demand and micro-learning options: people study short, concise, relevant courses as and when they need them.

Keeping engagement high in online courses has always been something of an issue. Those courses which include components of gamification or find ways to keep the student engaged will be more popular than others. Gamification, when done well, can help to make e-learning more enjoyable and result in higher uptake and ongoing participation.

For educational organisations, machine learning and analytics will be important to help them to measure student performance and use this information to guide future developments. Depending on the sophistication of the analytics, it can also tailor the students’ learning to their specific needs.

Mobile learning options are extremely important and this trend will continue. There are many reasons for this:

  1. For many people in developing countries or with limited incomes smartphones are the only device they can use to learn. Courses will need to be fully responsive to be truly inclusive and accessible to these people.
  2. Smartphones are the default device to use to follow micro-learning courses. Micro-learning courses are designed to be done in short periods of time, so they lend themselves to being done on the go when typically, students only have a smartphone.
  3. Multi-device options are also relevant for bigger, more substantial courses providing students with the flexibility to use different devices depending on where they are studying and the devices they have available at any given time.

Inevitably creating a great student experience requires the integration of many different components: integrated tech platforms, the redesign of courses and delivery models, and the development of an educational infrastructure that will not only deliver but also enable universities to analyse and redefine their offerings to create exceptional learning experiences for everyone.

In order to do this many universities are developing their own online courses but, many are also partnering with third-party EdTech and online platform providers to advance progress and have access to expert knowledge.

How can we help?

We specialise in licensing online English and Spanish language course content to universities to use as part of core studies or as a resource to access from online libraries or resource centres. If you are interested in knowing more, fill in this form and we’ll set up a meeting or send you information.


BestColleges: https://www.bestcolleges.com/research/annual-trends-in-online-education/

Higher Education Partners: https://higheredpartners.co.uk/why-online-learning-in-higher-education-is-here-to-stay-a-trends-assessment/)

Higher Education Partners: https://higheredpartners.co.uk/edtech-how-technology-is-empowering-universities-to-deliver-high-quality-online-programmes/

Research.com https://research.com/education/online-education-trends

Why do multilingual employees give companies a competitive edge? (a summary of recent studies)

In a global survey by the Economist on how cultural and communication barriers affect business, two-thirds of 572 international company executives said that multicultural teams increase their organisation’s innovation. Why is this? In this blog post, we give a brief summary of some of the latest research into the benefits of multilingualism. Continue reading

The future of online training courses for the corporate market

corporate training

Where to next with corporate training?

Before the pandemic some companies provided employees with the option of taking online courses but the majority of training was conducted in person. Indeed, according to a report by the Ken Blanchard Companies in 2021, prior to the pandemic, corporate training was as follows:

  • 70% in-person instructor-led training (physically present teacher)
  • 14% virtual instructor-led training (a teacher connecting with the class online)
  • 16% self-paced courses (structured online interactive content)

With the pandemic this changed unsurprisingly to:

  • 19% in-person instructor-led training
  • 57% virtual instructor-led training
  • 24% self-paced courses

Now that the pandemic seems to be behind us, how is this affecting corporate training? Are we reverting to how things were before the pandemic or is online training playing a much more significant role than it did in 2019? Well, the indications are that online training is playing a much more significant role in corporate training than it did prior to the pandemic.

According to the Ken Banchard Companies report, the prediction is for the following:

  • 34% in-person instructor-led training
  • 40% virtual instructor-led training
  • 25% self-paced courses

So, if this is right, traditional face-to-face training is just going to be half of what it was prior to the pandemic. And there will be more virtual instructor-led training than in-person training. However, what is even more interesting is the importance of self-paced courses. This refers to online learning platforms which include structured interactive digital content which allow course participants to work through the course material at their own pace.

Why has the balance changed? There are many different reasons:

  1. More and more people are either working 100% from home or part-time from home, part-time from the office. Online training options particularly self-paced courses provide the flexibility to cater for this type of working environment much better than in-person instructor-led training.
  2. Due to the pandemic, more people have now experienced online training options and realised that it can be an effective way to train people. As such it has broken down psychological barriers that existed with certain people who hadn’t experienced online courses before.
  3. Self-paced courses and virtual instructor-led training can be more effective, more efficient and cheaper than conventional training options.
  4. People are more digitally confident than they were prior to the pandemic. The vast majority of people have experienced Zoom, Teams or other web-conferencing tools. Following an online course is no longer an intimidating prospect for most people.
  5. People now expect more flexible training options. They know that flexibility is possible and want to continue to enjoy these options.

The conclusion seems to be that corporate markets will require more and more flexible options to cater for a fast-changing work environment. Self-paced courses combined with virtual instructor-led training caters well for this environment.

Net Languages has over 20 years’ experience of doing just that.

Find out more about what Net Languages can do for your corporate training needs.

And contact us here to schedule a call or request information.

Or, if you are a language school or training organisation, contact us to find out how you can use our materials with your clients.

Measuring learning: KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

If you work in corporate training, you have probably heard the term KPIs. But what are KPIs and what are they used for?

KPIs stand for Key Performance Indicators. They are the critical indicators of progress toward an intended result. They are often used by training managers to help them measure learning and the effectiveness of training programmes. Simply put, they are the reason for running a course and the means to evaluate if the training has had a positive effect on achieving the objective.

Here is a visual representation of how KPIs can be created:

Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators

A practical example of Key Performance Indicators

Let’s imagine that certain people in a company need to attend international conferences and deliver presentations in English. However, feedback on these presentations is not good. It has been noted that the presentations are not easy to follow because of the level of English of the presenters. The company decides to commission the services of a language training specialist to change this. The training has three clear objectives: to help the presenters deliver talks in a clear, register-appropriate and engaging way in English.

In order to evaluate learning and improved performance, the participants in the course need to be assessed both prior to training and after training using the same criteria. In our example, the course participants would need to be evaluated on clarity, register and audience engagement in the delivery of their presentations in English.

It is important for language teaching organisations to find out whether corporate clients will use KPIs to measure the effectiveness of a course and to set realistic expectations. The teachers delivering the course also need to be involved in the dialogue about the KPIs to ensure that the training is focused on making improvements in these specific areas.

The difference between KPIs and Learning Analytics

Key Performance Indicators tend to be different from Learning Analytics. Learning Analytics is the more granular data provided by language teaching organisations to prove that learning has taken place. Typically, the data includes results of tests or exam results and can be broken down into specific language areas e.g. Vocabulary, Grammar, Functional Language, reading skills, listening skills, writing skills and speaking skills.

Learning analytics is normally presented to training managers by the language teaching organisations. Key Performance Indicators, on the other hand, are normally analysed by the training manager and are closely linked to the specific training needs and goals.

Communication is key

The important thing is that there is an open and frank dialogue between the language training organisation and the training manager or learning and development manager of the company about the goals of the training. For training to be successful we need to ensure that realistic objectives for the language training are both set and met.

Do you need help to achieve your language learning objectives?

If you represent a company or institution and are interested in finding out how we can help you achieve your language learning objectives using KPIs, fill in this form and we’ll set up a call.