Don Johnston's "Building Wings"
Don Johnston Communities
Dyslexia & Dysgraphia
Universal Design for Learning
Learning is For Life
by Luke Trayser
Let’s begin with a scenario. You’re an American kid who’s choosing where to go for college. You’re intelligent and eager to learn, and you want to expand your horizons. U.S. schools are thereby out of the running. Somewhere international is best, but you’re looking for a place that still speaks English. After browsing schools in Canada, Europe, and Australia, you eventually decide on the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Morale is high. This will be an incredible adventure. But immediately upon sitting down for class, you realize you might have more of an adventure on your hands than you anticipated. Does everyone really speak English here? Is what you’re hearing English? It sounds like a completely different language. You can’t understand a majority of the things your professor says, let alone follow along.
That scenario is exactly what happened to Osayanmo Osarenkhoe.
Osa, born and raised in Nigeria, came to the United States for college. He was fluent in English, but not in American accents. So while his classmates digested information without issue, he had to be a translator before he could be a student. In that first semester, he struggled. Everyone spoke too fast, and he spent a good amount of time re-reading lectures in order to process everything.
It was exhausting. He’d get home from school or from work and have no desire to crack open a textbook or read interesting articles his friends shared with him. He’d think, “Wow, that’s fascinating. I’d really love to read that, but I’m too exhausted to do it. Can’t someone read it to me?”
As it turns out, Osa was close to a breakthrough. What he saw as laziness was not laziness at all, but simply a desire for the right learning tool. He craved a better, more efficient way to learn. He needed a way to love the act of learning, not dread it. He created Gyst Audio—and we developed Snap&Read—to give English language learners just that.
Osa is not alone in his learning struggle. The English language has multiple language barriers, even for people who already speak it fluently. Speed, accent, and context—things native speakers take for granted—are real hurdles for others who are new to the region. Plus, it’s often the case that these students aren’t fully immersed in the language. A Kids Count Study found that 22% of U.S. students speak a different language at home.
If you want to get a feel for what it’s like to learn a language you already know, find some videos of really talented auctioneers or listen to podcasts at 2x speed. Your brain will have to do extra work to figure out what’s being said, and after a mere handful of minutes, you’ll be mentally drained. The quickness is too much. Can everyone just slow down?
(Press play to hear what we mean.)
It’s not easy to find a desire to learn when your brain cries “UNCLE!” whenever you try. What English language learners need, no matter what their fluency level might be, are tools that spark the desire.
You most likely know this already, but we’ll repeat it in case you could use a reminder: Humans are unique. When it comes to learning, what works for some often does not work for others. The most important thing is to persist which comes from actually enjoying the act. We now know that having a range of tools that meet a range of people is the best way to make a love of learning happen.
Osa founded Gyst Audio thanks to his eye-opening college experience. It’s ideal for people—like him—who have found that listening to text read aloud opens up more opportunities to learn. And we created Snap&Read for a similar reason: When barriers are broken down, it’s so much easier to make your way. We simply want every learner’s tool belt to be stocked with the things that help them bust down walls and build their knowledge.
What are some additional tools that work? Things like text-to-speech, translation, study tools, and ways to remove distractions when reading all play a useful role. Other strategies, like banishing the phone to a different room, turning wifi off, establishing routines, and even using multiple highlighters to make things more colorful, all have a positive impact on the desire to learn.
Every one of us was challenged somewhere along the learning journey. Some people overcome their learning obstacles rather quickly, but for others, the obstacles linger. They affect daily life and the desire to learn something new.
Everyone is unique, and when it comes to learning, that fact must be embraced, not ignored. Some students love cracking open a textbook and reading on their own, others enjoy taking meticulous notes and highlighting key passages, and still others find they learn the most if they’re read to.
Tools like Gyst Audio and Snap&Read aren’t for everyone. But they are most certainly for someone. In fact, for a certain type of person, they can be a match that sparks a lifelong love of learning.
That’s the goal: to love to learn. We all take a different route to get there, but when we arrive, it’s a feeling like nothing else.
More information and to request a trial click here.