Why Language Teachers Need Business Cards

February 28, 2011

Often, I have heard that schools or programs consider it too expensive to give out business cards to staff or faculty. How ridiculous!

Your staff and your faculty are ambassadors for your program. They talk to people all the time about what they do, where they work or what they teach… in business meetings, at family gatherings, at social events. Consider these two scenarios:

One of your teachers meets a foreign man at a social event. He wants to send his son abroad to study languages. He begins to talk to your teacher about the program and is impressed with what he hears. He asks for your teacher’s card so he can contact him for more details.

Scenario #1: Your teacher says, “Oh sorry… I don’t have a card… Let me write down the e-mail for you on a napkin… Ummm… Do you have a pen, by any chance?”


Scenario #2: Your teacher says, “Of course! Here you go. All the contact information is right there. If you e-mail us at that address, we can get an information package out to you right away. We’d be delighted to have your son study with us!”

Information that can be included on a business card includes:

  • Individual’s name
  • Organization name
  • Organization street or mailing address
  • Organization phone number (with the area code, and if you are doing business internationally, your country code, too)
  • E-mail
  • Website
  • Facebook page
  • Twitter username
  • Skype username

There are many companies who offer templates for business cards. Big box office stores are a good place to start, but also check out online printing businesses. If you can’t afford a graphic designer, use a template to keep the design clean and professional.

In the big picture, business cards are not expensive when you consider the incredible marketing force your staff and faculty can be for you. By providing them with business cards, you are treating them as the professionals they are.

Not only will this help to build their loyalty to the program, it also demonstrates to others  that you respect and honour your staff enough to provide them with the tools necessary to endorse your school.

Order business cards for each and every member of your team today.

This post is adapted from “Idea #20: Give your staff their own business cards ” in 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Kids and Gaming: Let’s Talk About It

February 25, 2011

Technology and gaming can cause tension in families. Some parents become exasperated at what they believe to be their children’s over-use of technology. Gamers enjoy the sense of achievement, exhilaration and “flow” they experience.

The notion of “flow” has been documented by scholars such as Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and others. It is difficult to explain, but when you experience it, you know.


  • To watch an educational video focused on technology as a family.
  • To discuss the pros and cons of gaming for individuals, families and communities.
  • To explore the notion of responsible gaming and how to use technology skills for the benefit of others.
  • To offer perspectives on what activities offer a sense of achievement, exhilaration and “flow” to both children and parents.


Watch Jane McGonigal’s 2010 TED talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World” (20:02) together as a family.

Conversation questions

  • What do you think of McGonigal’s idea that gaming can make a better world? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • How are you using technology now in your daily life? Do you over-use technology? Under-use technology? What do these terms mean, anyway?
  • How can you use technology to help others? (This can include things like helping family members improve their technology literacy, using technology skills in volunteer and community work, etc.)
  • What other activities in your life give you a sense of achievement and exhilaration?

Further reading for parents

Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1996), Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, New York: Harper Perennial.
Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1996), Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life, Basic Books.
Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (2003), Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning, New York: Penguin Books.

Download a 1-page copy of this activity from Scribd:

View this document on Scribd

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Live Internet Video for Language Learning

February 24, 2011

Web-based video is a hot topic in 21st century language education. The Internet offers a cornucopia of options for language students to include video and television in their target language in order to help them learn the language. Researcher Elizabeth Mejia points out that “video” can mean a variety of things including popular films, documentaries, television advertisements, materials produced by textbook companies to accompany their books and accompany classroom instruction, educational broadcast and amateur videos made by teachers and students.

Sites such as YouTube and Vimeo offer educational videos, as well as “how to” videos produced by language teachers and students alike. Students can get tips, study strategies and answers to question through such video sites.

In addition, news sites such as CNN, Deutsche Welle and the BBC offer multilingual live, real-time news casts, available both on television and via the Internet. At the time of this writing, for example, Deutche Welle offered current news in 30 langauges. The BBC has an entire section of its website dedicated to language learning that includes courses, testing and activities all centred around real world news.

Web-based, live video has become an valuable augmentation, and may eventually replace, static video that is stored on tapes and DVDs, as a means to offer studetnts exposure to relevant and current information and content in a multilingual context that connects them to real issues of pressing concern around the globe.

Live Internet video provides a means for language learners to make sense of the world around them, while making sense of the language they want to learn.


Mejia, Elizabeth. Video in Language Education:  Making News Broadcasts Work for You. Retrieved from http://lookingahead.heinle.com/cnn/mejia.htm


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

How to Use Google Forms – Free Training Manual and Webinar Recording

February 22, 2011

Google forms are one of my favorite tools to use. You need a Google account (also known as a Gmail account) to use the forms. Once you have that, you can build any type of form you like. They are free and easy to design.

The primary ways I use them in webinars are:

  • Evaluations
  • Registration forms
  • Volunteer sign-up forms
  • Testimonial collection

Free manual

Get your free How-To Manual here: Exceptional Webinars – Using Google Forms

Webinar recording

I recently did a live demo via webinar on how to build, design and use Google forms. Thanks to the friendly folks at Elluminate for sponsoring the session by providing the technology to run the session.

Check out the 60-minute step-by-step webinar recording. (Note: You’ll need to grant permission for Java to launch in order to view the recording.)

Participant testimonials:

“I learned so much in an hour. I very much appreciate the Elluminate technology and the quality of the presenter.  Thanks!” – Susan Sanders, UMKC, Kansas City, USA

“This webinar is well-paced and gives an good grounding in the use of Google Forms. Sarah knows her subject and handles questions with grace and confidence.” Sue Goodrich, University of Southern Maine, East Boothay, Maine, USA

“Sarah possesses an invaluable combination of skills—a great mastery of content, the ability to make that knowledge understandable and useful to others, and an engaging, interactive and well-paced delivery.” – Barbara Lindsey, University of Connecticut, Connecticut, USA


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Marketing Language and Literacy Programs: Focus on the benefits

February 21, 2011

Marketing materials are meant to draw in customers. You want to show them how they’re going to benefit from your program. This does not mean making false promises, but it does mean showing them what they will learn, how they will grow and what they will experience. Consider the difference between these two statements:

Option 1: “Our program is 13 weeks long and we offer classes at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.”

Option 2: “Whether your level is beginner, intermediate or advanced, we have a 13-week comprehensive program to fit your needs.”

The first statement is a description focused on the program. The second is a persuasive statement focused on how the student benefits from having a comprehensive program at the right level for him or her. It also uses the word “you” more.

Too many educational marketing materials focus on describing programs, rather than highlighting the benefits to the students. Sometimes lots of information is given with no indication to the student that he will actually benefit from any of the services provided.

What do your own materials say? Do they highlight the benefits of your program? If not, now is the time to re-work them.

This post is adapted from “Idea # 13: Focus on the benefits ” in 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

How Long Does it Take to Learn a New Language?

February 20, 2011

How long does it really take to learn a second language? The short answer is, it depends.

Most language teachers will tell you that what you put in, is what you get out of language studies. Companies that sell language learning products or software may claim that their method or materials will guarantee fluency in a certain period of time. Usually, that time frame just happens to correspond to their particular program. Language experts tend to be skeptical of claims that a certain method can guarantee fluency in a short period of time – and with good reason.

The reality is that language acquisition is a complex process that involves communication, grammar, structure, comprehension and language production along with reading, writing, speaking and listening, just to name a few of the simpler aspects of language learning.

John Archibald and a team of researchers at the University of Calgary conducted a study in 2007 that examined a number of questions relating to second language learning. The found that students who learn other subjects in a foreign language are likely to gain fluency and competence faster. The method, known as content-based language teaching (CBLT), involves teaching subject matter content such as math, geography and other subjects in a foreign language.

“Students in time-intensive content-based language teaching (CBLT) programs, such as French immersion, are typically able to master complex content material effectively, despite less than native-like proficiency in the language of instruction.

In programs where students have limited second-language proficiency and less time is devoted to second-language learning, the concrete and highly-contextualized content.” (Archibald et al, 2007)

Their work also found that the age at which a person begins to learn a language matters. Children who grow up learning more than one language at home essentially have two mother tongues (Archibald et al., 2007 and Swain, 1972).

For those that don’t have the privilege of learning more than one language from a young age at home, there are other factors.

The age of the learner

Language learning follows different patterns depending on when you start. Citing a study conducted by Birdsong (1999), Archibald and his team found that: “If second-language acquisition begins at age 5, it follows a different pattern than when second-language acquisition begins at age 25 or at age 15.” (Archibald et al., 2007, p. 3).

Notice that the researchers are careful not to judge if one’s ability to learn a language becomes better or worse at a certain age. It simply follows a different mental and cognitive pattern.


It also makes a difference if you’re learning a minority language or a majority language (Archibald et al, 2007; Cummins and Swain, 1986). For example, if you live in an English-speaking country and you are learning Italian, you are learning a minority language. But if you are an Italian living in England who is learning English, you are learning the language spoken by the majority. If you’re submersed in a language, the learning process is different because you’re being exposed to the language more for more hours per day, on a consistent basis.

Language learning in school

A key finding of the research by the University of Calgary team found that students who take foreign language classes at school are unless to receive sufficient exposure to the language to gain deep fluency:

“Learning a second language for 95 hours per year for six years will not lead to functional bilingualism and fluency in the second language. Expectations must be realistic.” (Archibald et al., 2007, p. 3)

Language learning in terms of hours – Apply the “10,000-hour rule”

Though the researchers don’t say how they arrived at the number of 95 hours per year, we can figure it out. Let’s look:

4 hours per week of language classes x 12 weeks per semester x 2 semesters per school year

= 96 hours per year.

If a student begins learning a language in grade six and continues on through to high school completion in grade 12, that constitutes 6 years of language learning.

96 hours per year for 6 years = 576 hours of language instruction

In his book, Outliers, author Malcom Gladwell highlights a study orirignally published in the Harvard Business review by Ericsson et al. The general premise has become known as the “10,000 hours to become an expert rule”. In the book Gladwell explains the research behind the notion that true expertise is achieved after an individual has invested 10,000 hours in learning or practicing a skill. This may be a sport, a musical instrument or the study of something.

There are many ways to define “fluency”.

If, for the sake of argument, we consider fluency to be the same as being an “expert” in speaking a language, then a learner may well invest 10,000 hours in their language studies to attain fluency.

People will shake their heads when they hear that. No one wants to believe it really requires that much work.

Let’s look at some different scenarios:

Scenario #1: One 3-hour adult education course per week x 8 weeks = 24 hours

Scenario #2: One year of language learning in school = 4 hours per week x 12 weeks x 2 semesters = 96 hours

Scenario #3: 1 year of consistent, dedicated self-study (or homework) at 1 hour per day = 365 hours

Scenario #4: One year of total immersion in the new language (Assuming that in a 24-hour day, we allow 8 hours for sleeping per day) = 16 hours per day x 365 days = 5840 hours

If we use Gladwell’s of 10,000-hour rule,  here’s how long it would take to achieve “expert ability” in a foreign language:

Scenario #1 – Adult education classes – 416 courses of 24 hours per course. If you did 2 courses per year, you’d need 208 years to become fluent.

Scenario #2 – Foreign language studies at school – 96 hours of classes per year = 104 years to achieve fluency.

Scenario #3 – Dedicated self-study – An hour a day, every single day of the year = 365 hours per year = 27 years

Scenario #4 – Total immersion – Approximately 2 years

Let’s be clear. This is one very simplified way of looking at language learning. I openly admit that this way of looking at the question may be a bit reductionist. I said at the beginning of this post that language learning is a complex activity. This way of looking at how long it takes to become fluent doesn’t take into account individual differences or abilities, and nor does it address the effectiveness of different language teaching methods. It is simply one way to answer the question, “How long does it take to learn a new language?”

Some argue that immersion is the “best” way to learn a language. Others argue that there is no one “best” way. It may not be about the methods used, but simply the amount of hours spent learning. Learning can be done in formal, non-formal and informal contexts. Language learning doesn’t always take place in the classroom. Trained teachers can offer strategies and guidance that the self-directed learner may not have.

The bottom line is that mastering a foreign language takes time, dedication and hard work, regardless of whether it is done in a classroom or in an immersion setting.

However, the benefits of learning how to speak a second language are certainly worth the effort. The challenges of learning another language are immense. Yet millions have achieved some degree of fluency in at least one other language. Those who achieve true fluency do so because they put in dedicated, consistent effort over a long period of time. Claiming otherwise is tantamount to fraud.

Instead of asking “How long does it take to become fluent in another language?”

perhaps a better question is

“How do I get my 10,000 hours of study and practice to become fluent in a new language?”

The answer for most people, in practical terms of every day life, may well like in some combination of formal or non-formal classes, self-study, practice with others in informal contexts and immersion experiences through travel or living abroad.


Archibald, J., Roy, S., Harmel, S., Jesney, K., Dewey, E., Moisik, S., et al. (2006). A review of the literature on second language learning. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/media/349348/litreview.pdf.

Birdsong, D., ed. (1999). Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Cummins, J. and M. Swain. (1986). Bilingualism in Education. London, England: Longman.

Eaton, S.E. (2010). Global Trends in Language Learning in the Twenty-first Century. Calgary: Onate Press. Archived by the European Association of Education for Adults (EAEA).

Eaton. S.E. (2010). Global Trends in Language Learning in the Twenty-first Century (webinar).

Ericsson, K. A., Prietula, M. J., & Cokely, E. T. (2007). The Making of an Expert. Harvard Business Review (July-August ).

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Gladwell, M. (n.d.). The 10,000 Hour Rule.   Retrieved May 10, 2010, from http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/outliers_excerpt1.html

Harley, B., A. d’Anglejan and S. Shapson. (1990). The Evaluation Syllabus, National Core French Study. Winnipeg, MB: Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers.

Swain, M. (1972). “Bilingualism as a First Language.” Ph.D. dissertation. Irvine, CA: University of California at Irvine.


Update: January 2, 2013 – Some of this same content has now been published as a peer-reviewed article in a refereed journal: Eaton, S. E. (2012). How will Alberta’s second language students ever achieve proficiency? ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, the CEFR and the “10,000-hour rule” in relation to the Alberta K-12 language-learning context. Notos, 12(2), 2-12. Leave me a comment if you would like a copy of the article for research purposes.

Update: March 27, 2011 – This article has now been published as an academic paper. Download your copy from ERIC.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

2 Key Questions to Ask When You’re Desperate for Funding

February 17, 2011

Earlier this week I was working with some colleagues at an organization I have a great deal of respect for. The organization needs funding. Over a dozen brilliant minds sat around the table talking about different ways to get the money necessary to continue the good work they’ve been doing for a number of years. At times, the conversation got lost in possibilities… ways they could bring in money to sustain the organization.

During this brainstorming activity, I could see a drift away from the values and philosophy the organization had always held. That kind of drift is OK during a discussion that remains theoretical, lingering in the realm of “What if?” It becomes troublesome only when an organization begins to shift away from their values in search of more money. At some point before ideas turn into a plan with deliverables and a timeline, it is worthwhile to ask two simple key questions:

What’s the work we value most? – What are the primary activities that brought you together and keep you going? What is the work that matters?

Who do we help? – Funding is a necessity to keep an organization going, but it’s not the only factor. People need to be invested, too. If you’re helping them in some way, benefiting them, encouraging them, nudging them towards growth and challenging them along the way, they’re more likely to stick around. Whatever activities you decide to pursue in order to get money should still somehow be focused on helping those who are most interested and invested in your success.

Once you get those two questions sorted out, the number of possible activities you can do to pursue funding decreases. And that’s a good thing. What remains after those two questions are answered are the choices that are most aligned with your vision and values. That makes the decision about how to move forward a whole lot easier.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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