The Future of English Language Teaching and Learning?

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We are now used to a web experience in which we can integrate images, user-generated and personalised content, as well as the freedom to browse and search for precisely what we want. It is easy to see that this pattern of activity has not yet become part of our approach to language learning, especially if we think about the traditional school setting. Although many schools are now moving towards incorporating contemporary learning styles into their architecture, it is often not so evident in the syllabus which can remain prescriptive. 

There is a challenge to create an environment in which learners can determine what, how, and when they learn. 
From our involvement with the world-wide web we have developed critical thinking skills and we are now more used to the ideas of lifelong and independent learning. The near future should allow learners to create their own learning paths, as well as interacting easily across existing boundaries of space and time. Learning will therefore become more personlised, efficient, and absolutely student-led. We will rely less on generic course books, and learning itself will continue to shift in its meaning to describe the act of mindfully doing something with the intent to improve, rather than receiving given information and memorising it.  

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As English teachers become more connected to English learners around the world and the technology which facilitates learning at a distance become more adapted to the specific task of improving language and communication skills, students will have the freedom to have lessons when they want, as at any one time there will be an English teacher available somewhere in the world. Teachers will need to adapt to regularly working with students from all over the world and be more conscious of varying learning needs.

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In regards to the teacher, there is the likelihood that the function of a teacher of offering knowledge and guidance will become redundant as the internet will, if it hasn't already, surpassed the knowledge and ability to correct that any one teacher has. The teacher will continue to move to where they offer value, in the subtleties of the language which are as yet untouched by technology and for conversation practice. This will mean a shift towards the position of an English language consultant rather than a teacher as we know it now, to be more often used as a reference for interview preparation, advising on romantic chatting in English, or helping a small company prepare for a business presentation.

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Arguably, technology is the least important consideration for a profession which is in essence about people, behaviours, brains, encouragement, human interaction, and empathy; but it is also difficult to envisage a future of learning that is not progressively more dominated by technology. 

Many of us may be dismayed by these prospects but I suggest the important thing is how we react to the inevitable move towards the learner-driven personalised content which is the now of language use and therefore the future of language teaching and learning. 

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  1. Great post! This is so nice! Bookmarking this page for later. Thank you for sharing

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Adedokun . Thanks for your support!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Thanks ,Fantastic!please share quotes for learning and translating also I would like.

  4. Well put Richard, you're absolutely right. From my perspective as an independent online English Coach, this has been the case for some time. I have students from all over the world, living all over the world, and your comment about catering to their varied needs goals and interests, is spot on. So I'm thinking about the future too ... About AI chatbots, about mixed reality (virtual/augmented). But I'm also trying keep keep my feet on the ground because it's scary to think about. To be honest, I can see a future where I won't be needed (think Elon Musk)... So how to stay relevant?.... Tech-savvy with people skills, I guess. What do you reckon?

    1. Hi Ricky, thanks for your comment. I agree that there is perhaps a close future in which teachers as we know them now won't be needed. There is already technology now that can translate instantly as one person speaks to you. It is also worth perhaps pointing out that many people learn English for functional reasons, not for the beauty, joy, or challenge of it -- and for these people the shortcuts will always be best.

      It is scary to think about! and we can say that about much of society due to the exponential rate that technology is affecting our lives. Augmented reality is close, or here already, and we will have to see to what degree we want and need to interact with humans, and whether people will any way need people to tutor them in a language.

      The possibility I see is for guidance with the subtleties of the language, the interpersonal aspects, and for guidance with creating appropriate content in English. Of course, and I hope that, people in the future will still want to sit down and simply talk in a language they are learning! Whichever way, we will need to adapt.

  5. This is a great post and something that I've been thinking about a lot in the last couple of years as I've watched a huge change in the ELT adult market. I think if you're teaching kids in some countries there are still a few years left for most teachers, especially as public education is generally behind the curve on new systems and ideas. The question is can we adapt to this new style of working, and continue adapting as technology steams ahead?

    1. yes, absolutely. That's the question - and the answer is "don't be a dinosaur". The biggest thing is you've got to be tech-savvy and always keeping an eye on what's coming - mixed reality for example. Next you've got to make yourself an authority in that field, or at least be very comfortable, working with it. What do ya reckon?


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