The Spanish startup receives maximum recognition for the second time at the prestigious Reimagine Education Awards celebrated in San Francisco
The online English academy ABA English of Spain, leader of digital English learning in Europe and Latin America, reigns in the prestigious Reimagine Education Awards, known as the “Oscars of Education”, after being chosen as the Best Educational App of 2018 for the second time.
The Best Educational App award is the maximum recognition among international awards, as they are held annually by The Wharton School and QS Quacquarelli Symonds in order to identify the “higher education pedagogies enhancing learning and employability.”
“Humanizing Digital Learning”, the ABA English Project
This year, over 1,100 educational projects from all over the world were presented for one of the 17 categories. The proposal from ABA English “Humanizing Digital Learning”, focused on the more human component in the app, showing that the Human Factor is essential for learning, that scalability of real teachers is possible, and that artificial intelligence can be used to strengthen human intelligence but not replace it.
Following the first preselection phrase, roughly 150 finalists presented their proposals last weekend in front of 42 judges who are international experts in education, among them Vishal Punwani (Education Innovation Consultant at Harvard) and Jaime Casap (Education Evangelist at Google).
To win the “Best Educational App” category at the Reimagine Education Awards means to be distinguished as “the most innovative, accessible, and practical app, with which students really learn English because there is a proven link between its use and the learning results obtained.”
ABA English won the same prize in 2015, just months after presenting their app. The award comes thanks to their constant innovation in order to achieve an effective and unique method for teaching English, which is based on quality short films and didactic videos with real teachers, learning that is intuitive and natural. This focus has allowed them to revalidate this recognition at the ceremony celebrated on November 30th in San Francisco (United States).
“We are very proud to receive, for the second time, the most prestigious recognition in the education field”, said Maria Perillo, Chief Learning Officer at ABA English. “This award recognizes the value of having created the first application in English that combines technology, pedagogy and the human factor. We’re excited to keep working to improve the lives of people through the teaching of English.”
ABA English, the digital English academy with millions of students around the world, launched today its redesigned brand and new campaign First, learn English. The digital language school has modernized its logo and overall brand aesthetics to better attune the design to mobile devices.
Mobile-learning through smartphones and other devices is a strongly growing trend, and likely to predominate soon. According to ABA English’s latest m-learning research, 67% of global students use their language learning apps several times per week, and 26% once or several times a day.
With this in perspective, ABA English’s brand image was redesigned to deliver a minimalist look and feel, well-suited to all types of screens, with a fresh, neat and balanced style. The renovated image underscores the brand’s personality and visual essence, focusing on the academic and digital positioning that sets it apart from other language learning platforms.
An elegant, modern and legible new logo
The new international growth stage that ABA English recently entered has accelerated its branding restage, represented most visually by the redesigned logotype.
The new ABA English logo fuses the brand’s academic and digital nature, two key hallmarks of this online school that defines itself as The Digital English Academy. The icon’s accent is on simplicity: the letter “A” in strong strokes and preserving the original logo’s typography, accompanied by a fluorescent blue dot that synthesizes the academy’s other brand identity elements.
“We wanted a logo that worked perfectly as a stand-alone icon but that would also represent our corporate values. With the restage we simplified the logo to gain usability and recognition, creating an academic symbol in a powerful and readable typography,” stated Jaume Baixas, Creative manager at ABA English.
First, learn English
ABA English has launched its brand restage jointly with a humorous campaign called First, learn English. Created for social media and digital channels, the campaign protagonist is a regular guy who discovers he must learn English to handle situations that are potentially embarrassing.
For example, the sketches show the character speaking in public or holding a press conference with international media. In other stories the protagonist is aghast to discover that what he got tattooed on his arm or printed on his t-shirt was not quite the intention. In one of the funniest sketches the actor is trying to turn off the lights in his smart-home, but using unintelligible English.
The campaign has been launched simultaneously in 15 countries and 6 languages (English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) and consists of short and long videos, banners and other creatives adapted to digital channels.
For further information on the campaign, please view the various First, learn English sketches in these links:
Todos los idiomas son entes vivos: evolucionan, se adaptan, e incorporan nuevos conceptos para dar cabida a las diferentes realidades sociales. El inglés, por supuesto, también. Es por ello por lo que ABA English, academia de inglés online con millones de alumnos por todo el mundo, con motivo de la celebración del Orgullo Gay quiere aportar su granito de arena para que el idioma no sea una barrera en la comunicación de la diversidad sexual, la tolerancia y la igualdad.
Justo ahora que se está celebrando la Gay Pride Parade en muchas ciudades del mundo, uno de los emblemas de este día es la rainbow flag. Creada en por el artista y activista Gilbert Baker, la gay pride flag o LGBT pride flag fue usada por primera durante la San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade en 1978 y desde entonces no ha dejado de ondear como símbolo del colectivo LGTB.
Utiliza los términos y expresiones adecuados
Lo primero que uno debe conocer si se quiere referir a este colectivo son las siglas anglosajonas correctas, LGBTQIA, las cuales engloban Lesbian (lesbiana), Gay (gay), Bisexual (bisexual), Transgender (transgénero), Queer (excéntrico), Intersex (intersexual) y Asexual (asexual).
Cuando hablamos sobre esta comunidad en inglés y nuestro nivel del idioma no es el adecuado, lo ideal es prestar atención a los términos usados para evitar ofender la sensibilidad de alguien.
A diferencia de lo que sucede en España, en los países angloparlantes la palabra homosexual tiene una connotación negativa. Esto se debe a que, a principios del siglo XX, en Estados Unidos el término fue acuñado para catalogar esta preferencia sexual como un trastorno mental grave, motivo por el cual se debe intentar evitar esta palabra que no resulta ofensiva para los españoles. En cambio, los términos gay o lesbian no cuentan con connotaciones ni negativas ni sexuales, así que son comúnmente utilizadas y recomendadas por la misma comunidad LGTB.
Salir del armario y otros conceptos destacados
Una celebérrima expresión por su alta implicación emocional como es salir del armario, en inglés se conoce como coming out (of the closet). Este modismo fue empleado por primera vez en 1869 por Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs, pionero del movimiento LGTB, para animar a los homosexuales a revelar su condición y hacer frente a una sociedad que en aquella época provocaba continuas discriminaciones hacia este colectivo.
Para otras expresiones populares como ‘cambiar de acera’ se usaría he/she bats for the other team, mientras que para referirse a aquellos que tienen buen ojo y detectan rápidamente si una persona es gay, se suele decir que tienen un gaydar, un mix entre gay & radar.
Orientación sexual: palabras a evitar
En España no existe debate entre orientación y preferencia sexual, ya que el segundo apenas se utiliza. Sin embargo, en los países de habla inglesa es mejor usar solamente sexual orientationEvitando palabras como homosexuality (homosexualidad), lesbianism (lesbianismo), heterosexuality (heterosexualidad) y bisexuality (bisexualidad).
Preferencia del término gender frente a sex
En los países anglosajones el término sex no se utiliza a no ser que sea para referirse al acto sexual, por lo que es más correcto y apropiado hacer uso de gender (género), el cual es mucho más neutral y se refiere a la persona como tal, y no simplemente a su actividad sexual.
Tal llegó a ser la amplitud y variedad de esta ‘jerga’ que se llegó a instaurar Polari, una lengua informal utilizada en la subcultura gay británica, la cual tiene como base en su vocabulario el italiano, al que se le añadieron palabras de otros idiomas y jergas además de palabras del inglés modificadas.
Barcelona, 17th April 2018.- ABA English, the online English-language school headquartered Barcelona, has announced the appointment of Marc Vicente as the EdTech company’s new Chief Executive Officer. He succeeds Javier Figarola who, as co-founder, shareholder and member of the board, will continue to be involved in the company, now focusing on ABA English’s long-term strategy.
Marc Vicente’s mission will be to drive the company’s growth and further scale it internationally. With his extensive experience in digital companies in different world markets, Marc’s professional profile is ideal to lead the second phase of global growth that ABA English is planning.
Disruptive growth & international background
Marc Vicente has acquired broad experience in digital and e-commerce companies, having held various executive positions as head of marketing, operations and general management. He has lead disruptive growth strategies at companies such as Rakuten, Akamon, AVG, lastminute.com and, most recently, at Cdiscount, one of Europe’s leading e-retailers, based in France.
Another decisive factor for becoming ABA English’s top executive is his strong international profile. A native of Barcelona, Marc has worked in several markets – the UK, Germany, France, Japan… – and so contributes extensive multinational experience which will be very valuable for reaching ABA English’s ambitious goals over the next few years.
“I am honoured to have the chance to head a company like ABA English and join the excellent team of professionals who achieved its first phase of exponential growth. The ABA learning method is unique and the result of own development, the product is effective and innovative, and it is very stimulating to work in an inspiring sector like education. I am very excited to face the challenge of leading the company towards its next hurdle globally: the goal of becoming the absolute digital leader in the field of English language learning”, declared Marc Vicente.
Towards a more strategic role
Marc Vicente takes over from Javier Figarola who was at the helm of the company since 2012. Javier was the architect of ABA English’s first growth and globalisation phase. Under his leadership, the company has become one of the world leaders in online education, with over 20 million students in 170 countries today.
“Marc Vicente is the perfect new addition to join and successfully deal with the new challenges we have set for ourselves here at ABA English, and has all our trust. His proven managerial skills, both operational and strategic, his successful track record and his approachable and committed leadership style, are noteworthy qualities of Marc which I believe will be key for developing the company over the next few years”, noted Javier Figarola.
In only five years since launching in 2013, ABA English has become a world leader in the EdTech sector, competing today as one of the world’s three main players in online language education. Marc’s arrival paves the way for the second phase of global growth ABA English has set itself for the next few years.
- The user interacts vocally with Alexa, thanks to the artificial intelligence behind Amazon’s virtual assistant
- The project is conducted jointly by a team of MIT Auto-ID Lab developers and ABA English Language Lab linguists
- Artificial intelligence will revolutionize online learning of English by allowing to converse with a machine, a first step towards personalized learning
Barcelona, 23rd April, 2018.- The online English-language school ABA English and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Auto-ID Lab have jointly developed an innovative English proficiency test that interacts conversationally with Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant.
English Test is the first Alexa skill that allows users to assess their English level through the voice recognition technology of Amazon’s well-known assistant, which is so far only available in the USA, Germany and UK.
In addition to assessing English language proficiency, English Test also provides broader learning opportunities to practice listening and speaking, since users can do the exercises by verbally interacting with Alexa while also doing other things (cooking, sports, etc).
A team of MIT Auto-Id Lab developers and ABA English Language Lab linguists is behind this innovative level test, currently available in Beta version for free in the Amazon store worldwide. The English Test skill operates on the Alexa Echo Show device, the most advanced of the Echo range of devices (also Echo Dot, Echo Spot and Echo Look) that includes a 7.4-inch screen.
The test is adaptive and so adjusts to the level it identifies in each user, and it is designed to collect information on the student’s profile, interests and motivations to learn English. Thus, the user enjoys a completely personalized experience: each answer given to a profile question opens up a new path of proficiency and profile questions adjusted to the users’ interests and preferences.
This combination of profile and proficiency questions is unique and keeps students engaged throughout the test. And the more the English Test skill is used, the more attuned to the specific user its questions will be (thanks to machine learning). Thus, users feel like they are having a conversation rather than responding to questions, and that they are interacting with an ABA English teacher instead of a machine. Even though she is a machine, Alexa’s voice and individually customized questions generate the feeling of “human” interaction.
As an adaptive exam that improves with increased use over time, English Test with Alexa represents a first step towards personalized English-language learning content, a growing trend in the digital learning industry.
How English Test works
Like all other skills, English Test is activated verbally by saying “Alexa, start English Test.” Alexa makes a brief introduction providing instructions on how to respond to questions, and interacts vocally with the user throughout the entire process.
Alexa reads each question and possible answers. The user must say the letter corresponding to the correct answer and also verbalize the sentence or full answer. For example: (A) – I want to learn English to travel.
While doing the test users do not know if they are answering correctly, in order to avoid frustration and drop-outs before completion. After answering a certain amount of questions incorrectly, a user will unknowingly be restricted to a pool of questions that are based on the level they failed at, as well as one level below.
At the end of the test, Alex announces the student’s level placement. The ABA English course is based on six levels corresponding to A1-C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), so Alexa will describe what the student will learn on the level he/she has been placed in, according to CEFR.
English Test, first AI project for ABA English’s Language Lab
The English Test project being developed by ABA English and the MIT is part of the Language Lab research activities. Language Lab is the online school’s R&D centre and English Test is one of its most innovative projects to date, the first firm step into the field of artificial intelligence applied to learning a second language.
The Language Lab conducts innovative language-learning research, identifies and develops improvements in both technology and methodology. It is a creative laboratory and research centre that brings together linguists, technology and digital-learning experts from leading universities around the world. Maria Perillo, ABA English’s Chief Learning Officer, directs the Lab in collaboration with an Academic Committee composed of reputed university professors among whom is Brian Subirana, director of the MIT Auto-Id Lab.
“English Test is a unique and revolutionary project that opens the door to a new way of understanding and developing online learning,” said Maria Perillo, Chief Learning Officer at ABA English. “Alexa is designed for use in open spaces, away from the computer or mobile and while you’re doing other activities, so it adapts to the context you’re using it in: learning moments are increased and the possibilities for personalization are enormous.”
MIT Auto-Id Lab, breakthrough technology for society
The MIT’s research centre Auto-Id Lab was created in 1999 to advance in the field of RFID (radio-frequency identification) as the basis of the architecture for the Internet of Things. The lab researches and develops new technologies pioneering the future and providing previously un-realizable benefits to consumers and society.
Brian Subirana, director of the MIT Auto-ID Laboratory, is a Spanish engineer, holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and an MBA, and teaches at the MIT and Harvard. He currently lead research teams focusing on developing disruptive technologies for five industries, including digital learning.
“At MIT’s Auto-Id Lab we’re used to working in uncharted waters, developing products that will represent a leap forward in innovation, such as English Test: the first proficiency test to assess your English level by simulating a conversation between human beings,” said Brian Subirana, MIT Auto-Id Lab director. “With this project we’re paving the way for artificial intelligence applied to language learning, so that personalized learning can be delivered through virtual assistants such as Alexa.”
Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant
Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa engages with users via voice recognition: you speak to Alexa and she replies. The English Test created by ABA English and the MIT is the first skill to allow users to conversationally assess their English proficiency thanks to Amazon’s device.
Alexa currently only “understands and speaks” English and German, which explains that the device is so far unavailable in countries with other languages. The applications enabled for Alexa are called skills, since the machine is taught and provided with the ability to communicate with humans. The 15 million American users who already own an Alexa device have access to some 10.000 skills, allowing them to find and buy products, listen to music, recall their agenda for the day among other things. And, from now on, if they don’t yet speak English, they can discover what level they should start learning English at.
Barcelona, 29 september 2017 – ABA English, the online language school with millions of students worldwide, has been distinguished by LinkedIn’s Best Employer Brand SMB Award 2017.
The award recognizes the company with under 250 employees that best communicated as an employer brand during 2017, and was won by ABA English this year competing with relevant finalists such as Kimia, OCU and Soltec.
The 3rd edition of these awards, held in Madrid on 26th September, granted a total of eleven awards acknowledging the achievements of leading companies such as Vodafone and Deloitte, among others.
This is an important new corporate award for ABA English. The online school has also been distinguished as Google’s Best of 2016, as the Best Educational App 2015 by Reimagine Education (the Oscars of education) or one of the 2017 Top Startups in Spain by the financial media Actualidad Económica. In addition, ABA is the first online language school authorized to issue Cambridge English exams and certificates.
“We are delighted to receive this award from LinkedIn,” said Javier Figarola, CEO of ABA English. “This motivates us to keep on working on our brand and our App, with the mission of democratizing the learning of English.”
Barcelona, 26 September 2017 – The online language school ABA English has recently appointed Pedro Serrano as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and member of the management team. Pedro Serrano brings the digital academy valuable expertise as both a computer science engineer and an experienced online marketer, with a 20 year-long career in various e-commerce and tech companies.
Pedro Serrano joins at a pivotal time for the Spanish startup, currently readdressing business strategies aimed at driving its next stage of expansion. In five years ABA English has established itself as a recognized player of the international EdTech sector, today boasting over 17 million students worldwide who access the course both via web and iOS and Android mobile devices.
“I’m inspired by challenges that require combining facts, business strategies and creativity,” said Pedro Serrano. “I see ABA as the ideal place to put all this into practice and I’m delighted to join the team that has brought the company to its current levels of success.”
As a Computer Science engineer (Universidad Politécnica de Catalunya) and with master degrees in Competitive Intelligence (Universidad Pompeu Fabra) and Marketing Management (EAE Business School) plus Data Science Specialization (John Hopkins University), Pedro Serrano’s broad know-how encompasses information technologies, analytical sciences and both off and online marketing.
His previous professional career includes the position of CMO at Ofertia.com and AnudaSeguros, in addition to several management roles within e-marketing at other online companies such as Emagister.com or Habitaclia.com. He began his career as a software engineer and during the last seven years he has also worked as a digital marketing consultant while holding his various in-company management positions.
“With Pedro’s successful track record in digital marketing, including other EdTech industry companies, and being a tech expert, we’re sure he will play a key role in helping us achieve the challenges that lie ahead,” said Javier Figarola, CEO of ABA English.
ABA English launches a new feature to reinforce English learning through brief dynamic exercises that are updated with new content daily
Barcelona, 5th September 2017 – ABAmoments is a new feature of the ABA English online language course which allows students to practise English thanks to short and dynamic learning capsules. The new didactic tool responds to the growing trend of providing educational content in small doses, allowing students to learn English with useful everyday topics while they also acquire a study routine. Students learn practical vocabulary to deal with situations like getting around an airport, giving directions or carrying out banking transactions.
“We know that motivation and perseverance are key when learning and improving any language”, says Natalia Casal, Instructional Design Manager at ABA English. “That’s why we designed these learning capsules which, being so short and useful in everyday life, engage learners and encourage frequent use.”
The ABAmoments feature supplements the ABA English course and was designed so that even the busiest people can make the most of little breaks in their day to learn and practise English: at the bus stop, in a waiting room and intervals between appointments. The ABAmoments flash exercises are done in only a few minutes and require little effort, thus creating a stimulating environment that motivates learners and promotes knowledge retention.
ABA English, which already has more than 17 million students worldwide, monitors the usage habits of its learners and surveys them regularly to identify their preferences and best respond to their needs.
New ABAmoments every weekday
“ABAmoments was designed for those students who lack time and we are already seeing many students progressing faster and showing more motivation in their learning process”, explains Nacho Fernández, ABAmoments Product Owner. “Different themed ABAmoments are published 5 times per week with new content which not only helps beginners learn new vocabulary, but also allows advanced students to review and refresh their English”, he adds.
Soon a brand new category of ABAmoments will be released so that students can practise their English language skills while doing other activities such as reading about historical characters, understanding the lyrics of their favourite songs or learning a new cooking recipe.
ABAmoments is currently available to Premium users of the ABA English course. They can access the learning capsules from a computer or their iOS or Android devices.
The online language school has signed a cooperation agreement with the NGO, strengthening its long-standing support
Barcelona, 28th July, 2017 – ABA English has signed a cooperation agreement with Mumbai Smiles, a Barcelona-born NGO dedicated to fighting poverty and supporting Human Rights in India. This agreement strengthens the language school’s collaboration with the NGO, which it has been supporting for several years with the aim of helping to improve the opportunities and living conditions of Mumbai’s underprivileged communities.
ABA English’s contribution this year will be dedicated to the ‘Girl Child Education’ project, which is aimed at fomenting access to quality education of girls in the Mumbai slums and helping to foster gender equality.
Millions of people in India suffer social and cultural discrimination, especially in the slums where 60% of the population lives. “Children’s school drop-out rates are very high in India and girls bear the brunt of it. For different reasons, such as the need to work or being forced to marry, girls are pushed out of mandatory schooling earlier than boys,” explains Alfonso Alzugaray from Mumbai Smiles.
ABA English’s collaboration with Mumbai Smiles is not limited to financial support. It also encompasses other actions such as grants for English courses, donating computers, or employee involvement in funding programs for the NGO, for example the sale of fabric roses handcrafted by women of the slums especially for Book Day celebrated every April. “Solidarity with the underprivileged is part of our DNA,” said Javier Figarola, CEO of ABA English. “Our dream is to help improve the lives of everyone through the learning of English, regardless of their social or cultural status.”
For this reason, ABA English provides parts of its course for free and ensures the paid course has accessible prices. “But to ensure we reach the most disadvantaged people,” Javier Figarola adds, “we want to do more and contribute our grain of sand to help improve their living conditions, education and professional opportunities.”
Through its social responsibility policy, ABA English actively collaborates with different organizations and foundations with local, domestic and international reach.
71% of the online school’s students improved their English proficiency by one college semester, as gauged by the WebCAPE level tests
Barcelona, May 2017 – Can you effectively learn English through an online course? Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona conducted an independent study on the efficacy of ABA English’s method with 241 Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian students. This is the first study of its kind researching the efficacy of learning English online, since other similar studies have all been conducted with the Spanish language.
The results demonstrate that ABA English’s method works: 71.4% of the students improved their English at least one level, equivalent to one college semester.
Moreover, nearly half of the participants (47%) improved by as much as two levels. The number of students who progressed two levels is larger (113 people) than those who only jumped one level (59 people):
Methodology: The study’s participants completed 24 ABA English course units in a maximum time of three months, at the end of which their learning advancement was gauged. Their progress was measured empirically by taking a placement pre-test (before starting the ABA course), and a post-test upon completion. This test was conducted with the external tool WebCAPE, which is extensively used worldwide to assess the English proficiency of foreign students and thus place them in the appropriate level -or college semester- at an American university.
71.4% of the ABA research participants needed 40 hours on average to improve by at least one semester. However, in the same number of hours, almost half of the participants (47%) improved the equivalent of two semesters, not just one. It is therefore evident that this group only needed 20 hours of study time with ABA to improve their English proficiency by one college semester.
Since a university semester is estimated to take 144 to 162 hours, it is plain to see that learning English online with ABA English is effective and efficient. Investing a quarter of the time, ABA English students can progress as much with the language as they would in an entire college semester.
“The empirical results are unequivocal: with ABA English, a broad majority of learners improve their English proficiency, advancing at least one full level in a moderate time frame,” confirmed the researcher, Dr. Patrick Zabalbeascoa, from the UPF. “It was striking to see that almost half of the sample managed to improve by two levels, an advancement that represents really remarkable progress in such a short learning period.”
Motivation, expectations, and technological affinity
The motivation to learn English, especially linked to professional needs but also related to personal reasons (culture, travel, and personal challenge), was shown to be a decisive factor to achieve the best progress. Students with these motivations obtained significantly better results than others.
The investigation also revealed that students with a more negative self-perception of their aptitude to learn English obtained worse results than those who had a more positive self-image regarding their ability to learn the language.
Another interesting finding relates to the relationship between higher success rates and learner affinity to technology. Learners who stated they use the internet and technological tools daily obtained significantly better results than those who admitted to use them less frequently.
Regarding the demographic profiles of the participants of this international study –nationality, mother tongue, educational background, sex, and age– there were no significant improvements related to any of these variables. In other words, the ABA English course is equally effective regardless of native language, age, or education level of the learner.
The learning experience: very satisfying
“The overall learner satisfaction of the participants is extremely high,” writes Dr. Zabalbeascoa in his conclusions. “User feedback is overwhelmingly positive, regardless of the improvement actually achieved.”
The post-questionnaire responses upon completing the ABA course provided insights about the learners’ satisfaction with the experience. Both overall and in detailed results, the learners’ opinion of their experience was highly positive:
- 98% found the course useful and relevant.
- 97% were satisfied with the use of short films as pivotal learning material.
- 5% found the ABA course easy to use.
- 97% were happy to be able to monitor their own progress.
- 100% would recommend the ABA English course.