How BuzzFeed Uses Duolingo Learners To Increase Traffic

Are you unknowingly translating BuzzFeed’s “listicles” through Duolingo?

Topics: Business International Skill Point: Prepositions of Time

There’s a good chance that if you have the Internet, social media, and a decent understanding of the English language, you’ve seen a BuzzFeed article, or rather, listicle, somewhere on the web. With list-articles like “24 People Who Are Totally Nailing This Parenting Thing” and “The 21 Absolute Worst Things in the World,” the website has seen exponential growth over the last 1-2 years, and the strategic maneuvering it took is astounding.

BuzzFeed caught on quickly as a place to see humorous or otherwise entertaining lists about a variety of topics. From Game of Thrones jokes, to a list of pictures that will “restore your faith in humanity,” they eschewed the popular slide format of many other sites (such as The Huffington Post), and went straight for lists with images and gifs. This makes for a very easy-to-consume piece of content that gets passed around social media and email at a very rapid pace.

The founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, Jonah Peretti, released a memo on LinkedIn in 2013 stating the site reached 85 million unique visitors that August. Peretti also prophesized, “By this time next year we should be one of the biggest sites
on the web.” According to Alexa, they haven’t quite cracked the top hundred, but their global rank is 111, and in the United States, they’re the 39th most popular website.

Over the last year and a half they’ve made major changes to continue that popularity. Instead of sticking with list-only content, they’ve branched out into a wide array of quizzes for entertainment purposes, which are easily shared on Facebook, plus they’re creating videos on their YouTube Channel. They’ve also expanded their role as a news outlet by hiring dozens of reporters to provide coverage and information on the latest stories.

These changes are all helping their growth, but the number one thing they did to fuel growth in the last 2 years was to go international. It isn’t just the fact that they did it; it is the way they did it.

Enter: Duolingo. As many language-learners know (and Summit students know works great in conjunction with our teacher-led EnglishNow classes), Duolingo is a free language-learning app that helps users learn and practice the basics of many different languages. What’s ingenious about DuoLingo’s business model, is that once learners reach a certain level of understanding, the text they translate while practicing in the app, helps Duolingo translate content for its clients.

While the company originally used dummy text, the text being translated now it serves a purpose. Much of that text from English to other languages (specifically French, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese) comes from BuzzFeed. Duolingo’s founder, Luis Von Ahn, wanted to put his language learners’ efforts to good use, and BuzzFeed wanted to expand into international markets without spending 20 cents per word for a professional human translator, or using a machine. Now, they’re both benefiting from this partnership using what Von Ahn calls “human computation.” The language learners are doing something very useful, but they’re doing it incidentally, almost as a side effect of their language learning.

This method has proven especially successful with tricky parts of language such as colloquialisms and idioms. “The straw that broke the camel’s back” doesn’t translate literally to anything useful, but a human language learner can find an idiom that matches it in the new language, and translate it to that instead. Perhaps other companies will look to this method for international translation in the future, and kill two birds with one stone.

Reading Comprehension

Buzzfeed Growth Quiz

Writing

INTERMEDIATE: Have you ever used a tool like Duolingo? In 200 words, explain your favorite methods of learning a language, and what different things you’ve tried.

ADVANCED: How do you think that this new method will affect future methods of translation and globalization? In 200 words, answer this question and discuss how you feel about the BuzzFeed-Duolingo partnership.

The “Uber” Revolution: a New Future for Taxis?

Uber and Lyft’s popular smartphone apps threaten to disrupt the heavily-regulated Taxi industry.

Topics: Business Technology Skill Point: Adjective Clauses

If you live in or around a major city, you may have heard about Uber and Lyft, the popular app-based services that allow users to call a private cars with just a few taps on a smartphone. In most cases, the car arrives within a few minutes to take you to your destination. When you arrive, the ride gets charged to your account and no cash ever exchanges hands. Many find it more convenient than calling a cab, and if you opt for the standard version, (UberX or Lyft), it can be cheaper as well. But recently these and similar companies have become targets for demonstrations, litigation, and push-back from taxi organizations and municipal governments.

Uber has had controversial elements since its inception, for example its “surge pricing” strategy in which prices can reach many multiples of a normal fare during busy hours. In some jurisdictions the overall legality of the service has come into question. Why aren’t the drivers going through background checks? Why don’t they need permits and get taxed like other taxicab companies? Some, including most recently the city of Berlin, wonder if taking Uber is actually safer than calling a regular cab.

One of the differences with Uber is that you’re not dealing with a local cab company, whose company name is probably unknown. You’re dealing with individual, private drivers, and blasting the company on social media and Yelp when you have poor service. The driver knows your name, the cars are much nicer, and you can get a ride even if you’re out of cash, or quite far from home. This adds up to quite an enjoyable experience overall, and a pleasant one compared to many rough and rude taxi drivers that we’ve all had experiences with in the past.

You’re also dealing with market-priced fares. Instead of relying on a standard meter rate, the surge pricing strategy means the cost of a cab during rush hour goes up. During the middle of the day when there are more available drivers on the road, the cost goes down. You always know how much you’ll pay before you book the driver, tipping is easy (if you’re so inclined), and you simply pay through the app on your device, rather than dealing with credit cards or cash.

Beyond the issues listed above, Uber is fighting a battle with traditional cab drivers, who can’t seem to make ends meet with so many non-permit “cabs” on the road. The legality of Uber is definitely in a gray area in some cities around the world, but since the company calls itself a service that helps your find drivers, rather than a driver service, they’re free from responsibility. Without rules and regulations in place, individual municipalities have to decide how to handle these non-permitted drivers, and they often do so by issuing tickets to cars seen dropping off passengers.

In June of this year, taxi drivers throughout major European cities, including Paris, Madrid, London, Milan, and Berlin, blocked roads and caused massive traffic jams for a 24-hour protest against Uber and other unlicensed mobile car-hailing services. The London black taxis are often called the best cab drivers in the world, known for their rigorous testing of the area’s streets and traffic, and some drivers and passengers find it offensive that an app could possibly replace them. Despite this massive protest, the regulating agency, Transport for London, seems to favor the convenience of Uber, and is allowing Uber drivers to continue their service until the case is heard in court. Here in the U.S., NYC’s popular Yellow Cabs are likely to follow suit with their own protest if Uber isn’t regulated.

The “Uber” revolution is going strong for now, but there are challenges to be overcome in cities around the world.

Reading Comprehension

Uber Revolution Quiz

Writing

INTERMEDIATE: What are the taxi and cab situations like in your country? Do you have services like Uber? Answer these questions and explain whether you’d like a service like Uber in your city.

ADVANCED: Throughout Europe, taxicab drivers when on strike as a form of protest. Are there often protests in your country that are organized by industries or unions? Explain the types of protests that are common in your city or country, and give your opinion on whether or not they are meaningful or useful in enacting change.

The Future of Video and Advertising

Marketing and advertising is headed in one direction: online video.

Topics: Technology Business Skill Point: Forms of Used To

Many marketers and advertisers remember the day when it cost an arm and a leg to get just a few words or images in front of potential customers, but now those days are behind us. It used to be expensive, but now just about any business or even freelancer can afford to use text, image, audio, and video ads on the Internet.

More and more news networks are trying to become like online television. And we’re not referring to just Netflix and Hulu, who stream videos produced by other companies. AOL, Condé Nast, and Google all presented various news shows and elements to potential broadcasters in the last few months. Even Disney is looking to expand online; the Walt Disney Company recently bought Maker Studios, famous for producing the YouTube video series “Epic Rap Battles of History. Despite the content being a little risqué for their standard clientele, Disney wants an effective distribution platform in the changing media market.

The World Wide Web was a completely fascinating and confusing alternative universe when it was born; believe it or not, that was 25 years ago. The Internet has grown exponentially each year since 1989, and continues to evolve. From email and search engines to #hashtags and smart phones, the Internet is a hub for tech geeks, soccer moms, and teenagers alike as well as a tool with unequaled reach and influence. We’re used to the hyper connectivity of the modern world, and that’s not going away anytime soon.

Marketing is certainly finding a new home online, with videos at the helm. Cisco forecasts online video will make up almost 70% of consumer Internet traffic by 2017. Most companies are increasing their yearly video budgets, and hiring Directors of Video Strategy to manage those creative funds.

Michael Litt over at Vidyard gives a list of predictions for what all this means. Internet is replacing television, but it’s doing so with TV shows, series, and TV-like commercials. We’ve selected three of his predictions to discuss in more detail:

  1. The future of Internet is television
  2. Every company will become a media company
  3. The press release will become a video

The Future of Internet is Television

The first one is pretty obvious – the Internet is already pulling viewers away from cable companies, and with Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go streaming everyone’s favorite shows, it’s easy to see the Internet moving in that direction. If you want to stay in the game as an online advertiser, you’re going to need to branch out into commercials for online television series and YouTube videos.

Every Company will become a Media Company

Litt doesn’t mean that other kinds of companies will be going out of business, but that creative media is the future – and if you want to survive, you’d better embrace it. Regardless of a company’s area of expertise, all companies will have to get used to media as a way to attract and engage new and existing customers.

The Press Release will become a Video

This one is a little more interesting, and probably a little further on the horizon. Press releases began as a way for newspapers to share information about companies with the general public. Nowadays when things go “over the wire,” it usually refers to the Internet. PR Web, Marketwired, and other online press release services have quickly taken over the distribution market, and the next big step will be in the form of video press releases. This is a different ballgame for SEO marketing, but only time will tell how accurate this prediction is.

In marketing and advertising, all things lead to video.

Reading Comprehension

Writing

INTERMEDIATE: Do you work for a company that takes advantage of clever online video advertising techniques? Do your competitors? Discuss the reasons to follow or ignore the statements and advice from this article in 2-3 paragraphs.

ADVANCED: In 200 words, explain one or more commercials or advertisements that you remember. Describe what made it memorable, and whether or not it encouraged you to buy a product or support a cause.

Learning Another Man’s Language – The Foreign Language Effect

It looks like Mandela was right: You should always talk to a man in in his own language.

Topics:  International  Business  Skill Point: Affect or Effect

When it comes to business and home negotiations, we know there are numerous factors that can affect our decisions. In general, rational and logical thought processes can help us to keep an even keel, but research on The Foreign Language Effect shows that simply conducting negotiations in a foreign language might be all you need to do.

Many remember the famous Nelson Mandela quote, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Little did Mandela know that he was right on the money, as a 2011 study shows. The Foreign Language Effect was working in Mandela’s favor, and he didn’t even know why.

It all comes down to logical and rational thinking. Our emotions are very strongly tied to our native language, but much less so to a foreign language. Therefore, when we speak in a foreign language, we can see things more clearly, and our decisions are less clouded by emotions. We know that Mandela learned Afrikaans while imprisoned, and used it to his advantage when negotiating the end of apartheid.

One of the strongest factors affecting our decision-making is the fear of loss, referred to as the loss-aversion effect. It is even stronger than the pleasure of gaining something. This bias in decision-making is closely linked to our emotions as well.

Hayakawa Keysar and his colleagues knew this when they set out to test The Foreign Language Effect. They set up a problem, and explained it in two ways: one in terms of losses and one in terms of gains, even though the results would be the same. The results showed the loss aversion clearly, but only when the respondents participated using their native language. When participants responded in a foreign language, they were equally likely to choose both options. Essentially, when engaging in a foreign language, the loss aversion effect disappeared across all languages and levels of fluency studied.

The authors of the study proposed that these effects took place because communicating in a foreign language “Provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does.” Essentially, our emotions are not as prominent in a foreign language, allowing us to think and negotiate in a more detached manner.

Further studies found that the foreign language effect is only related to emotional topics. When deciding on topics that are already free of emotions, it doesn’t seem to matter what language you choose. This information supports the idea that the foreign language effect happens due to the lack of emotional connection in a foreign language.

So next time you’re making an incredibly difficult emotion-laden decision, take a moment to write or speak about it in English! Maybe you’ll see things much more clearly.

Reading Comprehension

 

Writing

INTERMEDIATE: With your newfound knowledge of The Foreign Language Effect, how do you plan to use English to your advantage? Explain with examples in 200 words or fewer.

ADVANCED: How else do you think emotions affect your daily decision-making? Explain what you do when you have emotional decisions to make.

Alibaba’s IPO and What it Means for You

In a country where eBay rules supreme, there’s a new competitor in town, and its expected to have the largest IPO in history.

Topics:  Business  International  Skill Point: Relative Pronouns

Ten years after the ecommerce giant expected to take over China, eBay’s Chinese counterpart, Alibaba, is hitting the U.S. market with its initial public offering this year.  Many of us are clueless when we hear the name, but it is the largest international ecommerce site of its kind. Think back to a time when you searched online for wedding favors, party favors, cheap merchandise, and a variety of other international products; there’s a good chance that you have come across Alibaba in your hunt for cheaper products. Although Amazon and eBay currently rule the American market for ordering online, their days in power might be numbered. In 2012 alone, just two of Alibaba’s portals handled $170 billion in sales, which is more than Amazon and eBay combined.

Alibaba was started by a schoolteacher in China, hoping to provide a place where small manufacturers could connect with commercial buyers overseas, but since then it has become so much more. It became a place for middle class individuals in China to buy and sell products, and both TaoBao and Tmall were launched as offshoots for consumer to consumer selling and business to consumer selling.

In 2012, just two of the Alibaba portals handled more than $170 billion in sales, which is more than both Amazon and eBay combined. The company announced this month that it is planning its initial public offering (IPO) this year. The company will be floated on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) this fall, and it is expected to break the record book.

Even though Facebook’s IPO was a bit of a joke, they rebounded quickly. Alibaba remembers Facebook’s cautionary tale, but the company is still expected to launch the largest-ever IPO in the United States.

If there’s one thing you remember about Alibaba’s, it might be the high-profile fraudulent cases. The company’s history is marred by counterfeit products and fake companies, but as the company heads into the American market, those issues are being left behind. Another new portal, 111 Main, is in the beginning stages, and it combines elements from Etsy, Pinterest, and Amazon, to provide a more comfortable buying and selling experience without fear of fraud.

It’s hard to know exactly what will come of Alibaba’s IPO, but there’s one thing that’s certain: it is receiving a lot of hype. This could be the most impressive IPO of all time, even with conservative numbers. As part of a previous agreement, Yahoo! will be forced to sell over half of its 24% stake in the company, which is likely going to provide them with a gigantic chunk of change to use however they desire. (Buying even better talent in Silicon Valley?) With the numbers to pick and choose anyone you want from a highly concentrated talent pool, this IPO might make bigger waves for Silicon Valley companies than for anyone else. Only time will tell.

Reading Comprehension

Writing

INTERMEDIATE: Have you ever bought anything online? Explain in 200 words the types of things you buy online and explain what you look for in an online buying situation and how you might protect yourself from fraud. (Ex: what makes you trust or distrust a company)

ADVANCED: In your 200 words, explain how you think this large IPO might affect the rest of the tech industry.

Helpful Motivation Tactics

Sometimes a little change in perspective is all it takes to get things done.

Topics:  Business  Lifestyle  Skill Point: Reflexive Pronouns

Regardless of the job – be it laundry, answering emails, or making dinner – there are times when you just don’t have the motivation to complete the task. Sometimes it comes down to discipline, but other times it is a fear of failure, or an unchallenging (or boring) task that we avoid. Once you discover the reason you don’t want to work, you can start finding a solution.

Find Your Inner Motivation

Does a craving for success or a fear of loss motivate you in daily life? While they may be two sides of the same coin, acknowledging the one that helps you stay disciplined and motivated can be the crucial step in creating personal discipline.

Promotion Focus

For the forward-thinking offensive type of person, discipline might come easy. Well-disciplined individuals are able to complete just about any task by using a promotion focus. This essentially means you look at the completion of a task as an achievement or accomplishment, and as a way to better your current situation. Perhaps this means you will impress your boss, or become eligible for a raise or promotion. Or maybe it just means you can cross one achievement off of your to-do list.

Prevention Focus

For those of us without this kind of forward-thinking promotion focus, but with constant worry about failure, a prevention focus might be the solution. Prevention focus is the defensive counterpart to promotion; you might have a fear of making mistakes, but you have to do certain tasks in order to avoid loss or to hold on to what you’ve already got.  This means your boss will be angry if you don’t do something, or you will lose out on this month’s bonus, or possibly lose the respect of your colleagues. Nobody wants that. It is important to perform to the best of your ability in order to prevent a loss of position, salary, or respect.

Create a “Must-do” Rather Than “Feel-like-doing” Attitude

Much like quitting your job, having a baby, or starting your own business, there’s never a “perfect” time where everything feels right. The same goes for tasks in your life. If you intend to start working out, being more productive, or eating healthier, you should look at it like something you have to do, rather than something you want to do. Sure, nobody wants to get out of bed an hour earlier to hit the gym or make fresh breakfast, and nobody wants to check emails or work on tedious tasks. If you wait for the moment when you feel like getting out of bed or completing undesirable tasks, you will never complete them. Instead, according to Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, you should ignore your feelings.

If you ignore that desire to sit on the couch eating ice cream and watching a marathon of your favorite TV show, and instead make yourself hit the gym, clean the house, make healthy meals, or work on your business, you will become increasingly more successful. Ignoring the lazier cravings will become easier and easier, and soon enough you will never again say you don’t “feel like” doing something productive. Instead, you’ll just do it.

 

Reading Comprehension

Writing

INTERMEDIATE: What do you think are your barriers to productivity? In 200 words, explain some of the reasons why you might have trouble getting things done. Be sure to include at least three barriers to your productivity.

ADVANCED: Assuming the information in this article is correct, how would that change your tactics for productivity in your office, both for you and your employees? In 200 words, describe the changes you might make at work to help employees understand and benefit from either a promotion focus or a prevention focus.

Universities Around the World are Now Teaching Regular Classes in English

Would you take business, science, and mathematics courses in a foreign language?

Topics:  Culture  Business  Skill Point: Basic Auxiliary Verbs

 

Any glance at a “Teach English as a foreign language,” catalog will tell you that the English language is growing in popularity around the world. Some claim China will soon take over global manufacturing and they call for more Mandarin classes in business schools, others believe that Spanish will soon be battling English for the most spoken language in the United States. As for now, there’s no doubt that English is currently the language of global studies in the United States and around the world. Nowadays, more and more Universities around the world are offering regular classes in English, not just English classes, but regular science, business, mathematics, and technology courses taught entirely in English. This method is referred to as English as a medium of instruction, or EMI.

There are certain benefits to learning a new language by immersion, but the use of EMI goes beyond that. It labels English as the language of higher education.

In parts of the world where schooling is minimal, such as many villages in Africa, teaching in English is a great way to prepare students for studying elsewhere in the world. The English language is quickly growing into a sort of passport for international travel and global interaction. A large percentage of global business transactions take place in English, and more and more travelers are finding that the English language is the most common language spoken around the world. Even though almost two billion people speak Mandarin Chinese, followed by 414 million who speak Spanish, compared to just 375 people who speak English, these other languages haven’t spread around the globe nearly as much.

Many countries around the world, including Denmark, China, and Qatar, are mostly pro-English and choose to promote EMI. At the University of Copenhagen, you can earn your Master’s or PhD without knowing any Danish whatsoever. This phenomenon is what poses problems around the world. Many countries, including Israel and Venezuela have instituted anti-EMI policies in an effort to help the national language survive in academic life.

There are additional problems with the use of EMI in the classroom. For example, when Universities attract international students, there may be a classroom full of speakers from dozens of different countries, many of whom may not speak the teacher’s native language. This makes every teacher a sort of ESL teacher, but one who often has no interest or training in teaching ESL When the British Council and University of Oxford set out to find more information regarding English as a medium of instruction, their report shows that they discovered a major disconnect between students’ and teachers’ expectations.

Teachers of these non-ESL subjects don’t consider it part of their job to teach English to their math, science, or medical students. Many of them had no prior experience or education in how to teach in an EMI classroom, making it more difficult for the students to keep up. When the teachers don’t feel the need to improve their students’ English, the students are left to fend for themselves.

There are even more hurdles than students’ poor English. Many schools and programs in places such as China successfully attract English-speaking students to their EMI classrooms, yet the students arrive and find it impossible to understand their teachers. EMI seems like an excellent way to help students further their English fluency, and it allows universities to market to a global audience, but the problems are complex and varied. Additionally, EMI establishes a single language for global studies, which is especially useful in international courses such as mathematics and medicine. However, it seems that the EMI policies and training within the educational system, or lack there of, are the major barriers this method will face in the years to come.

Reading Comprehension

Universities teaching courses in English.

Writing Prompt

INTERMEDIATE: In 200 words, explain why you think some countries do not allow English as a medium of instruction, and give your opinion on whether it is a good idea or not for your country.

ADVANCED: List the cons of EMI (use those in the article and any others you might know) and write a potential solution to each issue. Each solution should be about 3 sentences long.