Maria Felisitas Santos, online ESL teacher at Acadsoc.
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An integral part of learning, especially when it comes to a new language, is being grammatically correct. Many students struggle with knowing what they want to say but not knowing how to say it correctly. In China, as I know, there is a high demand for learning English as a second language. This is because technology has allowed for the integration of the Chinese with the rest of the world. For many people, being able to articulate one’s self in English gives a promise for a better future – in the form of being able to attend world-class universities in countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom. In an effort to satisfy such a demand, online learning companies such as Acadsoc exist. Acadsoc is an online learning platform that facilitates the advancement of English as a second language for students all around the world, mainly in China. Students range from those in kindergarten to students who are executives in big corporates. The benefits of such a company’s existence include convenience, flexibility, and access to quality teachers at all times.
We all have limitations and the stark reality is that even the most experienced of teachers is not exempt from making mistakes in the classroom – this includes pronunciation mistakes, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors. For this reason, there exists a need for reliable reference material, in the form of software or constant reading – without a doubt; we’d all prefer the former. The question that remains relates to which software is not only in existence but rather, which software is reliable and can provide on-demand for everyone in the classroom. One of the most popular software making the rounds in the teaching landscape is Grammarly, and it has changed grammar correction and grammar checking for teachers in a very positive way.
My personal experience and recommendation: Grammarly
I have a super cool extension to recommend to my fellows and my students, called Grammarly! Founded in 2009 by Grammarly Inc., Grammarly is proofreading software that has exponentially grown into the preferred referencing tool. Grammarly helps users to guard against any privacy and plagiarism infringements that could see legal action being taken against the user. The benefits of such software include:
- Being able to be an extension of all computer related writing programs such as Microsoft Office (which includes Word, Excel, Notes, PowerPoint, and Outlook), Gmail and even Acadsoc teachers’ system. This means that there is more efficiency is checking for grammar corrections that need to be made before an important message or document is sent to my students. (E.g. my class remarks)
- Grammarly is constantly checking for errors with every sentence that is written, that means users can always check for grammar mistakes with each paragraph so that they don’t change the whole document after it is done. This creates a smooth progression in document drafting and authenticity of idea transition.
- Grammarly has a premium, paid-for package that includes plagiarism detection and more advanced ‘suggestion’ tool that gives alternative ways of writing the document (i.e. overuse/repetitive usage of certain words). That being said, however, there is an alternative, free-version for users (the one I am using at the moment) who just want to use the software as a referencing tool and grammar detection and correction tool. This takes away any obligation for users to pay for perks that they are not in need of. [i]
Limitations in the Classroom
When it comes to learning and teaching a language, teachers like me are not exempt from human error no matter how much experience they have in teaching. There are a lot of factors that influence grammar mistakes, with fatigue being one of the leading causes. For example, consider my efficiency on a weekend whereby all the hours from ten o’clock in the morning right up to ten o’clock in the evening, are all peak learning hours on Acadsoc – the efficiency and accuracy achieved in the morning are not the same as accuracy achieved in the evening.
On the other hand, it is important for us to remember that just because English teachers are born into their respective languages, our daily lives uses slang that would make Shakespeare cringe if he spoke to some of us in this generation. For example, the use of acronyms such as “LOL” (meaning laughing out loud) could confuse anyone trying to learn the language on a serious note. Other forms of slang such as ‘what’s up?’ (Which can mean, ‘how are you?’ or, ‘what are you doing’) can be very confusing as a person might not know what this means and there are sure to say that the sky or roof is up. For anyone to adopt slang and use it confidently and effectively, a deep understanding of the language needs to exist. In the classroom, I need to always be professional in my written conduct and weary of the slang that I use, especially to learners whose understanding still needs to be cultivated. When fixing errors through typing, there needs to be 100% adherence to the writing rules of English to avoid any confusion and guarantee the best results, one way of doing this is through pre-reading the classroom material and anticipating the possible areas of focus that may come about. To make sure that the transfer of knowledge is efficient and accurate, many of the teachers on Acadsoc have tried the use of Grammarly as a proofreading tool when typing.[ii] The question remains, however: ‘How can Grammarly play a bigger role in the classroom both for teachers and students looking to be more efficient in their work?’
We live in a time where technological advancements are being made at every single hour of the day. There have been pilot schools which have adopted the use of artificial intelligence as a tool for the transfer of learning – this increases accuracy and efficiency, but lacks the art of human touch. Of course, we can easily make our students happy and engaged in the class via games, songs and other forms of interactions. However, the lively air in the classroom cannot cover the awkward moments when teachers made very stupid mistakes. And the even more awkward thing was that, as I did before, finally realized that I typed ‘As a passionate teacher, I like to teach.’ while it should be ‘As a passionate teacher, I like teaching.’ Hence, the best solution for me and other teachers can be to combine human brain with tools, like auto grammar correction.
Grammarly’s core focus is proofreading and although these suggestions are very speculative and optimistic, their advancements would help many ESL companies like Acadsoc in a very positive way. It is important to note that Grammarly is a fairly popular tool and these examples are merely tools that could advance ESL learning in my classes:
- Narrative Correction Tool: When teachers on Acadsoc are conducting their lessons, a lot of them use narration more than they use writing and illustration. If Grammarly developed a tool that assesses a teacher or a learner’s speech and corrects it through a pop-up text (so that the class fluidity is not disturbed), would assist teachers and students in a very positive way.
- Translation Tool: Many translation tools exist, but many of them lack accuracy when teachers counter translate. If a company like Grammarly Inc. could develop an A.I tool that accurately translates into text and through speech, students could express themselves in Chinese and the tool would assist them in saying it in English. This does not take away from the teacher’s role; it merely would exist to be a translation tool for both parties.
All things considered, it cannot be discounted that the role that Grammarly is playing in the English space is a vital or even revolutionary one. At the end of it all though, the adoption of artificial intelligence in conventional classrooms is still many years away, and who knows what impact the advancement of learning and teaching tools by Grammarly could have on the schooling system on an international scale?