Luan's Corner

Luan's Corner (11)

The Hardest Thing For English Learners, And What To Do About It

12 January 2022 Luan's Corner

Firstly, an insight that anyone familiar with talking to people internationally will know well:


80% of communication breakdowns come from poor pronunciation, not grammar.


This counter-intuitive axiom sits right at the centre of language education and requires real consideration by teachers and learners of English alike. Despite this reality though, the fact is, pronunciation is also the most overlooked aspect of language education.


Why is this?

Who Can Be A PowwowVIP Student?

30 October 2021 Luan's Corner

The simple answer to this question is: all students of English of every nationality, age and learning style, who are at least at an intermediate level of proficiency. Let’s run through a few profiles:


The study abroad student — is ambitious and hungry, but at the same time is massively apprehensive of the IELTS exam and the challenge of moving to a new country. The anxiety surrounding this constantly eats away at their confidence. Hitting the books occupies a large proportion of their day, for many days on end, while the worry only worsens.


Part of the problem is that the one thing this student is missing is the one thing that is most important: opportunities to actually speak English. The truth is, most students fail the IELTS because their speaking lets them down.


PowwowVIP solves this problem.

You Are the Yardstick of Your Progress, Not Anyone Else

14 September 2021 Luan's Corner

The pressure to pass the IELTS is intense and it drives students to despair. I’ve met so many students who are frozen with fear and believe they have no chance of passing it because they’re not able enough or even smart enough. This lack of belief is the biggest barrier facing learners of English.


Your attitude is everything, your aptitude is irrelevant


The truth is, anyone can learn English to an advanced level. It doesn’t have to take years of laborious book work and test prep. It can be done in an efficient way with just a basic two-prong strategy: by learning to speak and by developing a reading habit. Both of these are daily habits and neither require a teacher.

Ripping Up the Old Model of Language Learning

10 September 2021 Luan's Corner

We live in a truly interconnected world. This means that a person living, let’s say, in a city in Asia has arguably more in common with a person living in a city on the other side of the globe, than they may have with someone living in the countryside of their own nation.


Think about that for a minute.


In today’s world we travel and experience foreign cultures far more than we have ever done. Just look at our Buddies, they live all over.

The Truth About English Training Schools

03 August 2021 Luan's Corner

With the IELTS exam being so essential for study overseas and with the enormous numbers of people taking the test, there exists a huge number of schools catering to this need. However, this has created a widespread problem. The approaches taken by many of these schools are less than comprehensive and serve to exploit the intense pressure on students. Many schools claim to offer guaranteed ways to pass the test. They do this through long programs of continually recycling past papers and memorising stock language. This may work, up to a point, but it is certainly not the optimal way to score a good grade on the IELTS.


The only person who can truly guarantee a pass is the learner. So much comes down to the motivation, dedication, and persistence of the learner. Yes, if he or she turns up to class all day and every day, the rote method of studying to the test, revolving around tedious and uncommunicative fill-the-gaps; instruction as opposed to learning, and exercises as opposed to activity, will just get you there. But you can get there twice as quickly, with half the effort, and with twice the enjoyment, by embracing one simple attitude:

The Powwow Philosophy of Learning: There is No Failure, Only Feedback

25 July 2021 Luan's Corner

Examinations like the IELTS and the Gaokao have a huge effect on the outcomes of people’s lives. In many ways this is extremely unfair as many people are simply not good test takers. They fail high-pressure exams and consequently are consigned to a much harder road in life.


The examination system is flawed. The anxiety and adversity faced by so many able and diligent students of English is something PowwowVIP are working every day to redress.

The Fundamental Truth That Leonardo Knew About Learning

24 July 2021 Luan's Corner
“True understanding only comes from experience.”


That is one of the most famous quotes by the universal genius and probably brightest mind of human history, Leonardo da Vinci.


What does this tell us about learning? It tell us that we cannot learn how to do something, that is, learning a skill, from reading a book:


  • You cannot learn to fly a plane by reading a book
  • You cannot learn to play the piano by reading a book
  • You cannot learn to swim by reading a book
  • You cannot learn to speak English by hitting the books


Yet the whole IELTS industry is built on book sales.


Go into any bookstore and look at the IELTS section, there are hundreds to choose from. And, they profess to “teach” you speaking.

You Just Can’t Beat Immersion Learning

24 July 2021 Luan's Corner

Immersion is a defining principle of PowwowVIP, as the immersion approach is the next best thing to actually living in an English-speaking country. The methodology of immersion – sink-or-swim as it were, benefits individuals greatly in the outside world. The real world is an unpredictable and imperfect place and this is what students have to interact with. If educators fail to challenge students with authentic listening sources, students end up underprepared for a life abroad.


An overriding truth of language learning is that immersion environments are where we learn quickest. Through immersion, learners experience a dramatic improvement in their listening skills as they gain better understanding from a range of authentic listening sources: their Buddies.

Why Both Language Exchange and Language Teaching are Flawed Models

24 July 2021 Luan's Corner

Living abroad, you see language exchanges come and go a lot. Typically, language exchange is a euphemism for dating. These events are sporadically set up in large towns and cities to allow people to meet. The problem is that these initiatives rarely last more than a few weeks or months.


One of the main problems with this format of practice is that attendees lack commitment. They are free to join, they are a loose association of people, there is little structure or direction and there are no real rewards or end goals in sight. And inevitably, factions naturally coalesce and revert to speaking their native tongue or a dominant language, as do one-on-one interactions. So not a huge amount of learning or practice actually takes place. Language exchanges are far more of a social event than they are about language or learning.

Why Online Learning is Problematic for Anything Beyond 1-on-1

23 July 2021 Luan's Corner

Perhaps the biggest drawback of online learning is the lack of control an instructor has over the people at the other end of the connection. This is why PowwowVIP is an inherently strong format: all of our sessions are one-to-one. This means levels of interactivity, the key metric in language education, are far higher than in typical online learning with several people together in the call.


What usually happens when a teacher is conducting a class with more than several students, is it turns into effectively a radio show as the teacher talks, maybe asks a question, then is met with silence or a typed answer, so she talks even more to fill the void. This may be fine with knowledge subjects like history and chemistry, but language learning is a skill so at a fundamental level, dynamic interaction is absolutely vital for progress to occur.