We use technology to create adaptive multi-media tools that help learners of all ages acquire a foreign language.
The FlashAcademy® Approach
Meredith Cicerchia, MSc Applied Linguistics & SLA (Oxon.)
Our approach is grounded in research on vocabulary acquisition via both incidental and deliberate learning. We recognise that words are the building blocks of language and without them there’s not much a learner can do in a foreign tongue. That’s why we emphasise vocabulary in every FlashAcademy® activity, to maximise exposure to new and familiar words. We know that by focusing our efforts on expanding both the breadth and depth of a learner’s vocabulary, we can help them achieve a greater level of understanding and begin to use language in a more meaningful way.
Words are not just static sets of symbols, they are dynamic labels for things that we can hear, see, taste, smell and touch, and ideas that we can think, feel and consider. That’s why a black and white textbook full of definitions just won’t do when it comes to getting language into our brains and anchored in memory. At FlashAcademy® we use a combination of adaptive, multi-modal flashcards that combine images, videos, audio and text to help you learn and retain new words through input to multiple and diverse sensory channels.
Recall, Retention, and Use
Research on memory and learning tells us we need to see new language often and in a particular order to effectively move it from short to long-term memory. Because the learning burden is unique for every word and every learner, we create individualised recall drills based on performance. These activities are designed to help users practice the words they most need to see, when they need to see them. Familiar vocabulary is also provided in rotation, to help prevent attrition, and FlashAcademy® uses fast-paced word games to lower the amount of cognitive effort needed to activate a word. This paves the way for more fluent language recall and use.
Research on phonetic convergence shows that learners are better able to reproduce the sounds they are exposed to when they have a native speaker model to imitate. That’s why FlashAcademy® provides native speaker videos for all of the words we teach. Just like learning to ride a bike, repeatedly saying a word develops muscle memory that makes new sounds easier to engage. We also offer a recording option and granular rating system so learners can rehearse and refine their delivery to attain a more native-like pronunciation.
Finding New Language in Context
Language is an interactive tool that helps people engage with the world around them. That’s why it’s important for language learners to go beyond general vocabulary lists and acquire words that are relevant for the people, places and moments that make up their lives. With the FlashAcademy® object translator, a smartphone camera becomes a personal dictionary providing new language and words to describe the everyday objects we find both at home and on the go.
Gamification and Motivation
FlashAcademy® makes the most of a gamified approach because we understand that when learners are having fun, they lose themselves to language. By playing our fast-paced memory games, affective barriers go down and more words make it into long-term storage. Leaderboards spur us to compete with ourselves and others and get us to engage with language on a more regular basis. We also know that bite-sized lessons help us build momentum and fit language into our busy days. This makes for a faster route to fluency – and a more enjoyable one!
Self-directed Learning and Engagement
Every learner acquires language at his or her own pace, which is why FlashAcademy® puts the user in control from day 1. Lessons can be repeated as needed, games can be played on-demand and any number of skills can be practiced depending on the individual’s preference. Success is rewarded with applause and feedback is built into the app to create an engaging and positive experience for every skill level.
Dashboard for Teachers
There’s no such thing as the perfect method for learning a language and we recognise that many users will benefit from a combination of electronic resources and face-to-face learning. For our tools to provide the additional practice school-based learners need, we offer content based on the UK modern language curriculum and a comprehensive teacher dashboard that gives granular feedback on app use, progress and performance. Results are provided for each of the four skills and reports can be customised so teachers have the insights they need to personalise learning and assist every student in achieving their full potential.
Grammar and Communicative Competence
At FlashAcademy® we recognise that knowing a rule and being able to use it aren’t necessarily the same thing. That’s why we teach grammar through meaningful examples and activities that help you put your knowledge to the test. Of course we also know that noticing can help with uptake so we provide notes on how the rules work, without any requirement for memorising them. What’s important is that learners feel confident enough to navigate the target language and grammar they need to communicate. Our language lessons and task-based approach help users do just that!