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Is this the future of language teaching?

We spoke to Scott Granville, co-founder of New Zealand education innovators, Chasing Time English, about his creative teaching methods, why students find his online English courses so effective, and the future of education in languages. Read on to find out how his organisation has developed English teaching resources to help you learn the language by watching TV drama series.

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By Jamie Kontis

Very much consistent with New Zealand’s form for kindling creative, collaborative and constructive educational experiences, Scott Granville and his team at Chasing Time English have come up with a unique approach to teaching languages.

Whether it’s with an app or a teacher, most people studying a language tend to stick to the more conventional routes. Studies have shown that language apps, however effective or convenient, improve oral proficiency only if the user is consistent and invests a great deal of time in them; but research conducted by Michigan State University suggests that many app-learners quickly throw in the towel, with 36% of participants giving up on their designated app within 12 weeks. And of course, nothing beats learning directly with an inspiring teacher – you’re more likely to stay the course – but tuition can be very expensive and you often don’t get the opportunity to trial the process without much commitment. 

Chasing Time English takes a different road. One that is built to maximise student motivation and flexibility of learning, by combining the guidance of expert educators with the convenience and affordability of language apps. One that helps you learn English by watching live-action TV drama series. 

What is Chasing Time English?

Founded in 2017 by Scott Granville and Ben Woollen, Chasing Time English is a New Zealand based company constituted by an unconventional combination of English language educators, PhD-qualified linguists and experienced professional filmmakers. They are world leaders in creating original narrative series designed purposely for English language teaching, around which courses are designed by educators to guide you through grammar and vocabulary activities in between each short episode of the drama. The shows are scripted and produced to stand on their own as entertainment, enlivening the learning process with suspense, humour and drama. 

Their philosophy is that English language classes should excite, captivate the imagination and inspire students towards genuine progression. And their approach is grounded in contemporary, cutting-edge research which shows that people in linguistic conversation do not only exchange meaning through decoding sound but also through facial expressions, gestures and a sense of space. This has helped Chasing Time English deduce that the medium of video is the best to facilitate comprehensive language learning. 

Indeed, the company specialises in English language teaching, considering it is spoken well by around 1.5 billion people and works as the language of most international industries. Upskilling in English, above any other language, opens access to career opportunities all around the world. But you can easily see how such a pedagogical model could in the future expand to include all languages and occupy a sizeable market in the industry, as more and more people seek out online education and consume video entertainment. 

Who is Scott Granville?

As managing director, Scott leads the Chasing Time English team in the development, production and delivery of their multimedia resources for English language education. 

Having worked in international education since 2003 with postings in New Zealand, South Korea, India, Australia and the United States, Scott has extensive experience in lecturing and teaching English language and literature to a worldwide learnership. Scott also has a strong background in research, mentoring and work integrated learning, so he understands how to support learners through the process of academic study for the purpose of future employment. And it’s this experience and knowledge of how to equip students with the right tools to succeed that Scott has used to drive Chasing Time English to its current position as a standout provider of English language courses.

So now let’s meet Scott! In our exchange, he explained how learning with Chasing Time English compares to traditional models of language study and what the future of language teaching may look like. 

Q&A with Scott Granville

Your concept for teaching English is very creative and unique. How did you come up with it?

I had been working in the English language education sector while at the same time producing short films with fellow co-founder, Ben Woollen, that had success in international film festivals. Over the course of several years it became clear that there was a real lack of quality narrative video content targeted specifically at English language learners. With such a glaring gap in the market, we decided to try and solve that problem using our combined skill set across the two disciplines of language education and filmmaking.

At what level of English do you need to be to take these courses?

We currently offer four courses on the FutureLearn platform. The recommended starting point for the initial course is Intermediate (B1 CEFR), with the highest level course targeted at learners in the Upper Intermediate to Low Advanced (B2-C1 CEFR) range.

How does teaching English in this way change the outcome for the learner, compared to traditional teaching methods? Why is it particularly effective? 

We place a high level of importance on learner engagement with course content to motivate and support individuals towards progression and completion. Our narrative drama series are at the core of the learning experience, so we have taken what is a wildly popular entertainment activity and embedded into it strong storytelling with purposeful learning resources. The goal is to prompt the learner to take control of how they interact with the content. That allows the educator to act as a guide rather than a dominant voice throughout the process.

Our narrative drama series are at the core of the learning experience, so we have taken what is a wildly popular entertainment activity and embedded into it strong storytelling with purposeful learning resources.

How do you find the student response to your methods compared with traditional language teaching?

From a purely data-driven perspective, the response from students has been overwhelmingly positive. Engagement with other users, satisfaction rates, and course completions have all been extremely high, providing us with confidence that our delivery methods are working. One of the most pleasing forms of feedback has been from students commenting on the unique style of our courses and how eager they are to continue learning in that format.

What does the future of language teaching look like to you?

Online and virtual learning numbers will continue to grow rapidly, but from a personal perspective I hope that model remains blended with ongoing opportunities to enjoy face-to-face engagement. There are some exciting developments in the AR/VR space involving language education, and it will be fascinating to watch how that develops in the near future. The way learners expect to digest education content will also continue to drive change, and platforms such as FutureLearn are an excellent way for educators to deliver flexible options.

What is it about New Zealand’s education system, and its values, that make it stand out on the world stage?

For such a small population with relative geographic isolation, New Zealand continues to be remarkably brave and innovative in the education field. This is supported by a real sense of purpose in creating a multicultural and inclusive environment that embraces rather than denies inevitable change. In such a competitive industry, these values will continue to take on greater meaning as the focus shifts towards sustainability and other important measures.

The way learners expect to digest education content will also continue to drive change, and platforms such as FutureLearn are an excellent way for educators to deliver flexible options.

To start your one-of-a-kind English language education journey with Chasing Time English, check out their world-class courses and our New Zealand course collection

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