Messaging tool provides new language learning space
Lately I’ve been using my messaging tools a little more than usual. I’ve realized I can’t get through a single workday without a quick check-in from a teammate, or a status report on a specific project.
This is exactly how we use Slack. In fact, most of the channels I belong to feature teams that help me find answers to work-related questions. Sometimes I’m able to provide an answer in my area of expertise. Connecting with others helps me to not feel so alone during the workday.
Spanish learners find a home on Slack
As the admin for the Rosetta Stone employee language learning program, I created our #spanishsidekicks channel for learners as well as native Spanish speakers to join. It was so easy to set up that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this before.
After posting an invitation to join on our #general channel I waited and watched for people to join. I was pleased to see the number of native speakers and learners that jumped right in. That’s when the fun and learning began. Favorite recipes, movies, books, and even memes were shared and everyone had something to contribute. The best part—they chipped in regardless of the level of their skills.
Realizing that other program managers may be missing out on this valuable way to build a Language Community, I decided to share how ours started and has grown. Building inclusive spaces for learners to come together and support each other is a good way to promote language learning success.
Employee interaction creates new bonds
Soon, it became obvious that our employees craved the camaraderie. Both native speakers and learners enjoyed their interactions. Native speakers shared childhood stories, like a favorite game played with siblings. Learners had a friendly space to make mistakes and improve their reading and writing skills.
We encouraged one another by commenting or reacting to each other’s posts. It was so gratifying to see that something as simple as using a messaging tool could foster this type of learning while creating bonds.
Planning a daily post such as a word of the day became one of my favorite tasks. Everyone learned that one word can have many meanings depending on which Spanish-speaking country it is being used in.
I absolutely love the Spanish chat channel! Even though I am not at a level where I feel comfortable writing in Spanish, I love to have a place where I can read native speakers’ posts about things they like, and different stories from different Spanish-speaking countries. Plus, it’s helping me to enhance my language skills as I learn new vocabulary every day!
– Alessandra Belaver, Implementation Specialist
Gaining confidence one step at a time
I like to write my content in both Spanish and English to help those learners that are still on a beginner level. For instance, I’ve written “A camino largo, paso corto” or “one step at a time” if someone is frustrated with their progress. No matter how busy my day is this task only takes a minute. A calendar reminder keeps me on track. The feedback from participants has made me realize how important our channel has become.
They tell me what a great addition to their learning this resource has been for them. Outside of the chat, beginners share that even though they might not be on a level that they feel comfortable writing, they still read our posts and learn outside the course content. Cultural knowledge has expanded as well.
With the #spanishsidekicks channel, I’ve been able to make new friends across the entire company. I love finding new vocabulary, sharing nuances that I know about the language, learning more about the backgrounds of friends at RS, and delighting in bits of shared culture.
– Paul Burney, Senior Server Engineer
Another positive outcome is that using the messaging tool in this way has helped our learners connect with our native speakers within the organization. When they see each other in meetings they engage in conversations about their new language. Coworkers are also collaborating more and assisting one another with translations. I noticed that learners have more confidence in their speaking skills, too.
Speaking of success
The other morning one of our learners shared their success in grasping a grammar rule that had been evading them. The channel was flooded with emojis— thumbs up and smiley face reactions were in abundance. Our learners have loved the instant feedback from their peers so much that I hardly monitor anymore. In fact, the idea has taken on a life of its own and the other day I stumbled upon other employee chat channels, #frenchfriends and #portuguesepals. #germandudens is our latest edition. Our language learning community is growing rapidly on Slack, and it was great to see community involvement in this way.
All I did was create the outlet, and my colleagues joined in—making me look like a language superstar. Most important, I’ve seen an uptick in learning that’s reflected in usage and progress reports. This was validation that this messaging tool initiative was worth the little bit of time and effort to maintain and monitor.
“The hallmark of successful people is that they are always stretching themselves to learn new things.”
– Carol S. Dweck
I would encourage any Program Manager to support chat rooms in this manner. There are so many great messaging tools that I’ve heard about that work the same way, like WhatsApp, Yammer, Teams, and Workplace.
The respect that our native speakers have for the learners as they continue on their journey and the admiration our learners have for the native speakers has produced an empathetic and happy work environment. Why not try it?
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