Enjoy English is a platform that combines elements of gamification and flexible learning with feedback in real time with the goal of supporting and improving the learning of a foreign language outside the classroom. The tool allows teachers to enroll their students, add their own tests, and visualize the results without the need of an administrator.
By Yéssica Betzabe Contreras Fuentes
Mastering a second language is of vital importance today, especially since we live in an era of globalization where English is the most widely used language across the world and also on the Internet. Mexicans’ lack of proficiency in this language makes our country lose competitiveness compared with its main trading partners.
It is now 21 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force and, despite English being the main language in the business arena, only five percent of the Mexican population speaks or understands this language. Of Mexico’s five largest trading partners, the United States, Canada, Spain, China and Brazil, four do not speak Spanish as their native language, while Canadians and Americans, who account for 83 percent of our exports, speak English as their main language.
It is alarming that, in our country, speaking English as a second language is not a priority project or a state policy: 80 percent of students graduating from elementary education know no English at all. In Mexico, only 48 percent of universities make English proficiency compulsory and many companies in the country allocate no resources at all to teach their employees English. Thus, it is clear that this important issue is being ignored, not only by the government but also by the private sector.
In the case of the Mexican employees who take some English courses, 45 percent make this decision on their own; 37 percent do so because their boss or the human resources area took the decision; and only 10 percent do so as a result of a company-employee agreement. It is important to note that when people have the ability to speak and understand English, they can earn 28 to 50 percent more than a worker who lacks this ability (Pardinas, 2015).
Education First (EF) establishes a world ranking of 72 countries according to their English proficiency and Mexico appears in 43rd place, with a low level of proficiency and an average grade of 49.8 (Education First, 2016).
Given the above, with the support of the NOVUS 2015 Fund, Professors Ulises Romo and Yéssica Contreras designed Enjoy English, a platform that combines elements of gamification and flexible learning, and offers real-time feedback. With this platform, we seek to support English practice and improve the learning of a foreign language outside the classroom. It is similar to Duolingo, but with certain advantages for the educator.
We started working with Tec high school students to help them improve their level of English. Now we want to implement the initiative in public schools in Mexico, to contribute to improving students’ level of English, something that is so necessary.
Enjoy English is an autonomous tool in the sense that coordinators can register their teachers. Teachers in turn can create groups, enroll their students and add their own questions and ideas. They can also view reports online and in real time with the results of students classified by skills, without any need for the intervention of an administrator.
This project was carried out with the help of language teachers and their high-school students, who helped us to create questions and ideas to feed the platform. As a result, our platform pushes students to apply their knowledge and, at the same time, contribute to their community by sharing with other people. The questions the students generate are part of their portfolios of evidence projects, which contain their information for credit award purposes. They develop their ideas with the supervision of their teachers whose contributions are also acknowledged.
If you are a teacher and would like to join this project and use the tool in your classes and/or participate with your students to generate additional questions and enhance our database, you are more than welcome! For further information, please contact me by email. Experience our Enjoy English platform here.
About the author
Yéssica Contreras Fuentes has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Systems Engineering and a Master’s in Computer Science. She is a professor at the Tecnológico de Monterrey High School, Campus Hidalgo.