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Social media and language learning

How social media can help boost engagement in language learning

When communicating in a digital age, the choice of delivery channel can be every bit as important as the message itself. Simply delivering information is very different from inviting a conversation and as such both require different delivery methods.

With more and more companies accepting social media as a useful tool in the workplace, be it for professional development or simply getting a message across, the systems and methods we use to communicate are evolving fast. Where once a pdf monthly newsletter to staff was enough to keep people up to date on what was going on, now we expect to hear about news as it happens and be able to make our voices heard by commenting on it.

Small startups like LinkedIn and Yammer have become massive global companies (or been bought by them) because of our need for online social spaces where we can interact professionally and not just look at funny pictures of cats.

So how does this apply to language learning?

In a recent report entitled ‘The Rise of the Linguarati’ by Professor Michael Hulme, the author identifies a particular social group, the ‘Linguarati’ as the key drivers of the future of global communication. The Linguarati are hungry to build their professional skills and have stronger English language skills than the average employee. They are the learning champions that you need on your side if you want to boost language skills in your organization. Where the Linguarati lead, others will follow.

To capture the attention of the Linguarati within your organization, you need to talk their language and through their channels, which are, you guessed it, social. They are actively engaged in social media, so if you want them on your side, that’s where you’ll need to find them.

But what about the other employees? You know, those for whom social media is a big mystery or the people who are too scared to get involved in social media? With the way communication is developing, those people will need to get involved in social media in the future but forcing them to do it is a surefire way to make them feel alienated.

One way could be to harness the enthusiasm of the Linguarati within your organization as social champions or language leaders. Enthusiasm is infectious and having a human helper in a digital world can make a huge difference for someone who is skeptical of or resistant to social media.

Does this mean that by encouraging employees to adopt the communication methods favored by the Linguarati they will also develop their English skills to match? Not necessarily. However, getting people to think like Linguarati is certainly a step in the right direction and if it increases engagement in professional development, it’s likely to increase engagement in language learning, too.

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