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Learning New Words Makes Your Employees Happy


Wed Feb 04 2015

Learning New Words Makes Your Employees Happy

Allow me to take this opportunity to add two potentially new terms, an acronym and a concept, to your vocabulary:

  • Mobile Assisted Language Learning (aka MALL or m-learning) describes the latest trend in teaching and language training that uses the ubiquitous smartphone to support students worldwide.

  • Micro-Lessons are a result of the realization that people can learn new information in short increments. Micro-courses last less than hour, but a micro-lesson can be as short as one minute.

M-learning and micro-lessons are sometimes associated with one another, but it’s not necessary to consider them together. This may not be new information to you; however, it may be new lingo. These concepts are important because technology is making it easier than ever to teach (and learn) small pieces of information at a time.


Some companies are taking advantage of such new technologies to develop training programs that depend on micro-lessons. The idea is described as short videos but can also take the form of short articles, short quizzes, or short lessons viewed on a variety of computer or tablet screens. The m-learning companies are concentrating their efforts on developing lessons and training exclusively for mobile phones.

Internationally, there are academics who are studying whether m-learning is effective. They are finding that adult students are using their smartphones to advance their education and knowledge. It’s more than the just-in-time learning such as looking up the address of a restaurant or researching the history of a tourist location. Adult learners are using smartphones in their spare time to read, refresh their memories, and review lessons. This casual learning reinforces different types of training, not just vocabulary acquisition and retention.

In addition, research scientists who study the brain are finding that simply learning new words lights up the pleasure centers in the brain. In other words, learning new words makes us happy. Neuroscience is finding that learning new words is akin to a workout for the brain in that it makes the brain stronger by adding more neural connections. We've all seen the articles that claim learning a new language is one way to delay aging and dementia. Continuously learning new words in any language both 1) creates a more connected brain network—and thus a stronger brain—and 2) is intrinsically enjoyable.

There is no doubt that integrating, managing, and developing a multi-generational and multi-cultural workforce is the challenge of the 21st century. By combining old ideas (discourse communities and glossaries) and new technology (smartphones) with new scientific findings (brain imaging), we can make the case: Mobile devices can be harnessed to advance your company’s performance.

Every industry, every company, and every project has its own vocabulary. If we accept the premise that verbal shorthand is a good thing, then it becomes imperative that we do what we can to accelerate our employees’ ability to learn and use the language of the workplace. Using mobile phones to clarify and reinforce the precise vocabularies of your employees and their discourse communities is more than just a good idea—it will be a valuable resource for all involved.


Of course, I’d prefer to use the word “invaluable.”

Check out the full blog series, The Language of the Workplace, here.

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