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.”
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.
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.
Barcelona, 5th December 2016 – The ABA English app has been selected by Google Play as one of the “Best of 2016” in several European countries, including Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
Each year Google compiles a list of the best applications offered in the Google Play app store. This selection is based on the success that the applications have shown throughout the year, above all focusing on the number of downloads.
Out of more than 700,000 available applications on Google Play, Google only chooses around 40, highlighting those which have been the best performing and popular during the year.
Google’s recognition of ABA’s application is an important confirmation of the app’s excellent results in its first year since being made available on Android systems in September 2015.
As Google Play’s post explains: “We have compiled a list of applications that we couldn’t help but share with you. They have kept us glued to our screens as well as rocketing up the application chart and highlighting to us the beauty of the world that we are surrounded by”.
The app Learn English with ABA English delivers via mobile devices all the educational advantages of the natural method that ABA English uses to teach the language online. Thanks to the application, students can immerse themselves in learning the English language in a similar way as they would do abroad: First, they listen and understand, then they begin to speak, imitating the native speakers, and at the end, learn to write.
The ABA English course revolves around watching short films on real-life situations, and each unit’s exercises are associated to the dialogue from the ABA Film, creating an effective yet entertaining way to learn.
Barcelona, May 10th, 2016. – ABA English, the Barcelona-based English online school with over 8 million students, has signed an agreement with Cambridge English Language Assessment, Cambridge University’s department for English proficiency evaluation, to offer the Business Language Testing Service (BULATS) exam and certification. ABA English is the first entirely digital academy to become a testing center which is authorized to issue official Cambridge English certificates.
The BULATS exam is administered online and is designed to evaluate the level of English in the workplace and qualify the language skills of professionals. BULATS is widely used internationally for business recruitment, admission to business courses and assessment of language training effectiveness. It is an official evaluation system that certifies the level of English according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Most companies require a B2 level and BULATS is among the most requested certifications. The test is adaptive and adjusts to the candidate’s knowledge and, once finished, shows the achieved English level, which varies from A2 to C2 according to the CEFR.
BULATS, designed for English in the work environment, evaluates the four linguistic skills: listening, speaking, writing and reading, and consists of practical exercises and tasks based on real-life work situations.
For this reason it fits especially well with ABA’s teaching methodology, a 6-level course (equivalent to A1-C1 of the CEFR) which teaches English with a situational and contextual focus, aimed, like BULATS, for use in real life. ABA’s Natural Method, a proprietary learning system inspired on the principles of the Direct Method, was designed to offer an intuitive and practical English course available on the web or your mobile device.
ABA’s teaching is based on high quality short films that immerse students into everyday situations of American and British life, focusing student attention more on the content than the form. This way, the language is learned through a natural progression: understand first, then speak, and finally learn grammar and writing skills.
“We’re delighted to incorporate ABA English into our network of centers offering the BULATS,” said Robin Gravina, director of Development at Cambridge English Language Assessment for Spain and Portugal and signatory of the agreement. “BULATS is an exam that offers an exact X-ray of candidates’ business English skills. The ABA English methodology is particularly appropriate for BULATS given its situational focus and emphasis on developing the four skills evaluated by BULATS.”
The agreement was signed by ABA English CEO, Javier Figarola, who said: “We are delighted to partner with an institution like Cambridge English Language Assessment to become the first online center to offer the BULATS exam. It’s highly demanded by our clients all over the world, so we’re very happy to offer them this important service.”
About Cambridge English Language Assessment:
Cambridge English Language Assessment, department of the University of Cambridge, issues yearly over 5 million certificates in 135 countries. The certificates are recognized by 20,000 government departments, universities and employers worldwide.
An extensive pilot and validation program assures that the questions and tasks given in the exams precisely determine the real knowledge of the tested persons. Cambridge English Language Assessment’s commitment to excellence is sustained by a permanent team of 300 people and over 10,000 examiner specialists.
Cambridge English Language Assessment is a member of the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) and Works closely with other examination agencies, schools and academies worldwide to support language exams, both in theory and practice as a tool to ensure the correct knowledge and certification of foreign languages. For more information: www.cambridgeenglish.org
Cambridge English TV: http://www.youtube.com/user/cambridgeenglishtv
BULATS forms an integral part of Cambridge English Language Assessment’s educational mission, supporting effective language learning for and in business contexts as a key tool for economic, social and personal development. To support this ethos, Cambridge English provides extensive support to help learners to prepare for the BULATS tests, and participates in numerous international projects where BULATS is used as a tool for benchmarking and monitoring language skills in the commercial, educational and public sectors. This provides a basis for programmes designed to raise standards of language and communication skills. Through its link to the Common European Framework of Reference for Language: learning, teaching and assessment, BULATS also provides support for the Council of Europe’s work in implementing consistent levels for language learning.
About ABA English
ABA English –American & British Academy- is an e-learning English language academy with over 8 million students who follow the course using both mobile devices and computers. Its app won the Best Educational App Award 2015 granted by the Reimagine Education organization, a prestigious award considered the “Oscar of education”. Also, Apple featured it among the Best New Apps in dozens of countries. Based on the principles of the natural method, the ABA English teaching methodology transfers to the online environment the intuitive and natural way mother tongues are learned, using short films specifically developed for learning English, thus enhancing students’ experience on any platform.
Headquartered in Barcelona, the Academy is highly multinational and multidisciplinary. Today, 90% of its students are from all around the world and the company team is made up of people from 20 nationalities –UK, USA, China, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Spain, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, among others- with expertise in various fields: English philology, linguists, English teachers, e-learning, m-learning, IT, developers, social networks, e-commerce and management.
English is vital for work even in non-English speaking countries
Barcelona, 26 April, 2016.- A recent survey conducted by ABA English among 3,200 students in five non-English speaking countries -Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico & Spain- reveals how important it is to know the English language for work purposes:
- 61% of professionals claim to use English in their workplaces
- Nearly 8 out of 10 state that nowdays companies demand a higher level of English than before
- Work is the main reason for learning English for 54% of respondents
- A third of respondents have been tested for their English during work interviews
- English, with 80%, is by far the nº1 language required by companies in these five countries
Awarded at the “Oscars of education,” Reimagine Education 2015 Awards
ABA English has won the Educational App Award for 2015 at the prestigious Reimagine Education Awards. This global competition, also known as the “Oscars of Education”, is co-managed by The Wharton School and QS Quacquarelli Symonds and aims to identify and distinguish “higher education pedagogies enhancing learning and employability.”
ABA English received the Educational App Award during the ceremony held in Philadelphia (USA) on 8 December, after showcasing its unique natural learning methodology in competition with another 100 shortlisted candidates from around the world. The winner in this educational category recognizes “The APP which truly engages students and will inspire the next generation of learners.”
Maria Perillo, Chief Learning Officer of ABA English, and Javier Figarola, CEO, presented the special learning system developed by the online academy, which among other innovative features uses engaging high quality short films to teach the English language, thus enhancing the student experience.
The global competition received 520 initial submissions from universities and enterprises from 50 countries, number that was shortlisted to 100 candidates competing for the 22 awards granted under various categories. A panel of 40 international experts –a “who’s who” of higher education- judged and decided the awards.
Reimagine Education Conference
The award ceremony is held annually in Philadelphia, USA, during the 3-day Reimagine Education Conference which brings together top level academics, university leaders and EdTech entrepreneurs to discuss innovation in education.
Amongst others, this year’s inspirational speakers at the conference included: William Rankin, Director of Learning at Apple; Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google; Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX; Huntington D. Lambert, Dean at Harvard University Extension; and Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, Dean of IE Business School.
Barcelona, 20 November, 2015.- The application Learn English with Films – ABA English is featured as one of the Best New Apps of the iOS App Store, where Apple device users from around the world install applications.
Apple has chosen the ABA English app to be featured in over a hundred countries from Europe, South, North and Central America, Middle East, Africa and part of Asia.
The app Learn English with Films – ABA English delivers on mobile devices all the learning advantages of the natural method used by the online academy to teach the English language.
Thanks to watching exclusive short films and doing the practical exercises linked to the film dialogues, students learn effectively and actually enjoy the process, managing to progress and learn English for real life.
Go to the App Store