Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

Panel Discussion – State of the Industry: Language-Learning Publishing Today


>>Welcome, everyone, to the 12:00 session. This particular session was born, at least in part, out of my incredible love for product. I just cannot get enough language learning products. And for this conference, we picked representatives — for this session — we picked representatives of publishers that really cover a huge spectrum of languages. Because you guys like languages. And while we like the standard ones that you can find easily in bookstores all over the place in the United States, for example, there are a lot of languages that are of interest to you that go beyond what you might be able to find in your local bookstore. So I’m going to pass it over now to four publishing representatives. They’re each going to speak for 7 to 8 minutes. I know that’s sort of an odd number, but that’s how the math worked out. And then we’re going to take questions from the audience for them. So we’re going to start first with Sarah Cole on the right here. From Teach yourself. I have these out of order. We have Sam Vale Noya, of Routledge, we have Priti Chitnis Gress of Hippocrene Books, and then on the far end, we have the male member of our panel. Nicolas Ragonneau of Assimil. So I hope you enjoy hearing about some of your favorite products, the inside secrets to what will befall us in the future.>>Hello, everyone. Can you all hear me? It is a great honor to be here presenting in front of us, and quite humbling. I’m actually only bilingual. Sorry about that. And it’s really, truly inspirational. Because it’s not often I find myself in the company of so many other language nerds. Okay. So… I’m going to speak quickly. Because as you heard, I only have seven minutes. What’s going on in the publishing market? I’m going to try to give you as much insight as possible, without giving away all my secrets to my competitors over here. So this shocking graph displays the total consumer market for language learning books in the United Kingdom. As you can see, there’s been a sharp decline, starting in about 2008, 2009. And so from 2005 to 2014, it’s basically been cut in half. 1.6 million to 857,000. Some people might say this is because British people have stopped wanting to learn languages or have decreased their interest, but actually, I think there’s been some disruption in our language learning market. Because I should point out that this is book sales only, and through Amazon. So nowadays, the publisher is not only competing with other publishers. They are competing with a host of different kind of people entering the language learning field. So you have your startups, that are based on technology. Online tutoring services. Massive open online courses, which are all free. Universities are now creating their own courses online, social platforms, Skype, even, is presenting a challenge to the language learning market. YouTube, of course. That’s where people go now. App developers, who have amazing platforms, who create amazing, interesting, and innovative apps. And even bloggers nowadays are selling their courses. I see Benny Lewis sitting in front of me. Many of you know him. So… This digital innovation has really allowed for the learning market to change. And it’s now providing new… What I call learning experiences. So it’s no longer about just getting your book and sitting on your own. Learner expectations are really dictated by what else is going out there in the market. So, you know, Nike.com, you can create your own sneakers, and design them. Apple has obviously changed the way we interact with technology. Instagram. Even the New York Times. And so when people come to learning, they’re going to have the same expectations as they have in the rest of the digital sphere. So they still want things in language courses, and when I say they, I mean you. They want reliability. They want sound pedagogy. Good authors. For the material to be standards-based. They want books. They want online. But more and more, I think learners of languages want a personalized learning journey. They want the content to adapt to what their needs are. They want gamification to stay motivated. They want a flawless User Experience. Edutainment. That’s why people go to YouTube. Augmented reality. Things like this. So there’s a huge evolution in learning. And I think it’s fantastic, because it means that we can make language learning more fun and more effective. And I think also it means that language learning can become part of our daily lives, because there is no longer this divide between learning and the rest of what we do every day. It’s somewhat integrated. So traditional publishers need to be able to respond to this, and harness the developments in technology to enhance the learning experience. So if you just look at the simple search engine, nowadays if you go on your mobile device and you search the word French, Swahili, an app appears first. So for us to have a presence there, and stay on top, literally, in the search engine, we need to have apps. The numbers for online language learning are staggering. And really reassuring at the same time, from a personal perspective. Babbel has 1300 new users an hour, they say. Duolingo has 100 million users, 8 million of whom are active, and Busuu has 55 million users. And what these companies have done is they have really innovated the way that they do their consumer marketing. I think they’re brilliant at it. And they’re innovating in terms — again, of the User Experience. They’re using gamification and social networking to make language learning fun. And again, it’s also very convenient. So it fits in with their lifestyle. The online language learning market is supposed to grow in the next four to five years by over 10%. So this is definitely an area that we need to get into. The role of the traditional publisher today — I like to think of it a bit as the hare and the tortoise. We still have relevancy, of course. And I think that is to promote and inspire language learning. We have access to the media. We have distribution worldwide. Marketing. Things like that. And there are a lot of developers out there who want our content. So it’s important that we get the message out, and we inspire people to learn languages. Research and development is integral to what we do. We are focused on quality control. And we are very process-driven, which makes us slow to market, but hopefully the end result is really good. We work with academics, we work with language institutions around the world, and it’s a collaboration, when we publish something. So all of that knowledge is feeding back. All of the new methodologies and pedagogies are feeding back into what we do. It’s important that we test and pilot every book that we create. Or any new product, really. And when we innovate, it has to be for the purpose of learning. Not just to innovate for the sake of having a cool thing, but how does it enhance learning? So take the time to think about that. Because we are not technology companies, but we need to stay abreast of technology. Consumer insight is important to what we do. We need feedback from people like you. And we need to make sure that all of our courses are correlated to standards. So that learning is meaningful. People know what level they’re learning. And what their outcomes are. So specifically to Teach Yourself, this was our sort of timeline. It was founded in 1938. It came out of the wartime efforts to help people and help Britain win the war. One of the most popular courses, anecdotally, is Teach Yourself How To Fly. Which is somewhat of a frightening idea. But actually, all of the pilots really used this book. So the Spitfires were flown by people who learned from that book. It wasn’t until 1939 that the first language courses came out, and then nothing really changed until the 1970s, when we added audio to our courses, and then again, nothing really changed until 2010, when we published our first flat ebook, just print ebook, and later we added audio to that. In 2012, we published our first apps. In 2014, we had our first video course, streaming online, Chinese with Mike, and now 2015 we’ve released our beta site of Teach Yourself Languages online. So it’s slow and exponential changes to react to what’s going on in the market. We’re not supposed to do marketing here, but I will say that this is a beta site. And we released it in hopes of getting feedback and piloting. So again, we get this feedback to lead us into how to innovate and how to make it better. Everybody at this conference gets six months’ free trial, if you go to our booth. There’s a card. And I’m inviting you to please feed back. Because we do want to make this an amazing learning experience. And I think my time is up. So thank you. (applause)>>Okay. Hello? I’m the editor of language learning at Routledge. We’ve been publishing language learning books, focusing on the less taught languages in particular, since the early ’70s. Our first Chinese course, colloquial Chinese, published in 1982 — it’s got an interesting story. This 1982 book is still in print today. We still publish and sell it. And it’s one of our top sellers still. And you can imagine how dated the content is. How old-fashioned those references to comrades and communes and… You can imagine. It’s pretty dated. And, I mean, there were no illustrations. There’s no text design to speak of. It looks like it’s been written on a typewriter, which it probably was. But… This is a nice reminder to us that actually the focus — although there are a lot of changes going on in the publishing industry — our focus is always — always has been and always will be — on producing quality materials that will help people learn the languages they choose to learn. And will hopefully be useful for many years to come. So yeah. That’s our original Chinese course. Still in print. The series has grown considerably since then. We publish in 77 languages now. We’re still adding to that. And our heart lies in the less commonly taught languages still very much. And we are moving with the times. So… Our latest edition has been this dedicated portal for the series. We have decided to move all our audio online, and it is freely accessible. Available to everyone, anyone. You don’t have to buy the book. You don’t need a password. You don’t need to register. Any language you’re interested in, you can just go onto our site, listen to any of these languages. 77 languages. And I’ll just show you… A quick tour through the site. So this is the homepage. And then we have this interactive map. So you can take a look. So the countries that are highlighted in green — we have a language course for that country. So whatever you’re interested in, you can click through. Read a little bit about the book. Buy the book, obviously. And then you’ve got the audio there. To stream or download. And it’s accessible across devices. On laptops or phones. Or your PC. And this is something that we’re hoping to add on over the years. Obviously, the digital environment’s becoming more and more important. And at the moment, we’re blending print — we’re finding print still quite resilient, so we’re blending print and online, so every book now has a companion website, and where things are better off online, such as audio, that you might want to listen to on the go, then that’s online. And we’re going to build on this. So over time, we’ll be adding interactive exercises, and flash cards for vocabulary. And so on and so forth. And we’re also very interested in feedback on what people would like to go online, as opposed to in print. And then looking ahead, apart from the Colloquial series, we do a whole range of other languages and other text types and other products. So we really — the Colloquial series obviously is for beginners, but we like to focus on intermediate and higher levels in the less commonly taught languages, because there are still few resources in these areas. So we like to focus on these. We’ve got a comprehensive grammar series for those people who are really advanced in their learning. We have a Burmese coming out next year, a Punjabi, Kazakh, publishing for interpreters and translators, more advanced level readers, we have an Arabic reader, a Yiddish reader coming out next year as well, and our frequency series as well. 5,000 most commonly used words in any given language. A good way to focus your vocabulary learning. And Persian and Turkish coming out as well. This series. Finally, this is my email address. If anyone has any books they really want to see published, any language we’ve been ignoring or haven’t thought of, please get in touch and let us know what you’d like to see published. What you’d like, what you need. So that’s it from me. (applause)>>Do you want the clicker over here?>>Thank you. Hi! I’m from Hippocrene Books. My name is Priti Gress. And we’re a publisher that focuses also on the lesser known, lesser taught languages of the world. Just to give you a little bit of background about our company, Hippocrene, the name itself, maybe you already know — it’s the fountain of the muses in Greek mythology. We’re an independent publishing company, so we’re not part of a larger media group or anything like that. The company was founded about 40 years ago, by George Blagowidow, and sadly, George passed away last year, but it’s still owned by his family. George was born in Poland. And his family is of Russian background. He grew up during… He was a teenager during World War II in Poland, and I think that all of his experiences during the war really influenced him to… His career path in general. His family eventually ended up in a displaced persons camp in Germany, ended up studying in Antwerp, so he picked up English and German and French and so forth, and ended up a true polyglot. He knew seven languages very well. And he came to America eventually, and he worked in bigger publishing houses like McMillan and Doubleday, but eventually he decided to start his own company. And Hippocrene began by distributing books from other publishers. Primarily Langenscheidt, the German dictionary publisher. And back then, George found that there was a need for other languages. There was a demand for more than what was out there. And so that’s really where he started publishing books on his own. The first dictionary published was a Polish dictionary. He called upon a friend from his university days, and the list kind of just grew from there. And the idea is that we’re filling a niche. Really focusing on the lesser known and lesser taught languages of the world. And that same philosophy drives the program now. Yes, we do have some French and Spanish, German, that type of offerings. But we also have Marathi or Khmer, or even a project in Bogatu, a language of the Solomon Islands. We also publish international cookbooks. That’s another focus of ours. And it kind of followed naturally from the language program. And our cookbooks also are definitely off the beaten track. We don’t just have an Indian cookbook. It’ll be the cuisine of Kerala, not an Italian cookbook, but a Ligurian cookbook. They kind of go hand in hand. People have to speak. They also have to eat around the world. We’re trying to fill both those needs. So as far as languages go, though, our three basic series are the beginners’ guides, they have an audio component, usually two CDs, and our most popular languages are Arabic, Chinese, and even Icelandic is one of our top selling beginners’ guides. And a few of our beginners’ guides also have an interactive online component. Which — we’re speaking to the importance of growing in that area. It’s certainly true. We also have practical dictionaries. So not just language self-study guides, but we also offer dictionaries in a host of languages. The practical dictionary series — the dictionaries have about 15,000 to 30,000 entries. And they’re portable, they’re paperback, affordable, good for travelers and students. And, you know, some of our best selling languages there are, like, Arabic, Dari, Tagalog, and of course we have dictionary and phrasebooks. We have loads of those. Those are for travelers. They’re slim and easy, half phrasebook, half dictionary. And the most popular language we’re selling in that area is Haitian Creole. So to talk about Hippocrene’s current role in the market, our books are used a lot by schools, universities, and individuals. And talking about schools — they’re used often in ESL and ELL programs. As well as world language programs. ESL students require a print book, sometimes, to have on hand, while they’re testing, or while they’re in class. And the teachers in those classes often also don’t know the native language of their students. So we’re seeing a great need, especially in New York City schools, and other larger school systems, where people are using these products for their ESL programs. Uzbek, Bengali, things like that, that are hard to find in other places. And so, you know, Ellen asked us to speak about — what’s the benefit of publishing in today’s market? I think it can sort of be encapsulated in the word “globalization”. It’s rampant. It’s ongoing. And people are migrating from place to place, and they are learning. Like you all are. Learning languages. Learning to communicate. And also in our post-9/11 world, there’s a new demand for different languages. And I think not just Arabic, now. We provide languages like Farsi and Urdu, and Pashto. We get a lot of interest from the government and military as well, for our products. So there’s that. And demand and need, I think, for certain languages, can change very suddenly. For a few years ago, we saw the earthquake in Haiti — we couldn’t keep our Haitian Creole dictionary in stock fast enough. For relief workers and aid agencies. They were using it. And interestingly, last year, during the ebola crisis, in Sierra Leone, we were one of the only people who have a Krio dictionary, which is the language spoken in Sierra Leone. So that again was a need that we could fill. It’s very challenging to keep up, and sometimes we might have a product ready on hand and available when pestilence or warfare or something like that happens. And sometimes we don’t. So it’s hard to predict these things. But you kind of see, like, the path. You want to find qualified authors and find… Build good products with them. But it takes time. I think we’ve all talked about — that’s the drawback in publishing. Nothing is super instant. You need to have time to edit and copy edit and have foreign language readers go through it. So we try our best to have those products available. And it takes usually a year to publish a book. And that’s pretty quick. And okay, to address technologies, yes, the market is changing. And ebooks are certainly in heavy use, and other kinds of products too, for language learning. But we’ve also found the print book is important for us. I mentioned schools that are using them. And some ereaders don’t even support the foreign scripts that some of our dictionaries are in. So that’s a drawback. I’m sure over time, they’re able to support more and more characters and languages. But sometimes the print book is all you have. Especially, like, Uighur or Khmer. This is what we have for you. And it’s a book. But that said, I will say that the area we’re growing in is this interactive website that goes along with some of our beginners’ books, and that’s an area we’d definitely like to focus on in the future. Our Russian, Arabic, and Ukrainian beginners’ guides have a website accompanying them, and it’s great for students and teachers. We find they’re very popular. And next year, we’re publishing Romanian, beginners’ Romanian, with that kind of website as well. With just those extra exercises, videos, audio content, all that kind of thing that you can put on — it seems to be key for learners. So yeah. Just to give you a sense, you can see behind me some of our publications. But one of the areas I want to grow in are the African languages. There are not a lot of products available in those. We’re publishing an Asanti-Tui dictionary by the end of the year. Next year we’ll publish a Dinka dictionary. Tui is spoken in Ghana. Dinka is spoken in South Sudan. And some other things coming up next year, beginner’s Bengali, a Khmer practical, huge requests for those, and our first trilingual dictionary, which will be Quechua to Spanish to English. So look for those. Thank you!>>Thanks. Hello. Usually I drink a glass of whiskey or Cote du Rhone to feel at peace. I’m speaking a different language. And I’m speaking to the caption girl. If I make some mistakes, you can fix it on the screen. First of all, and since it’s the first time I’m speaking in English, in front of such a large and prestigious audience, I’d like to dedicate my presentation to Donald Trump. For his contribution to monolingualism in this country. (sarcastic applause)>>Second… You can tweet that, if you like. Second, I’d like to thank the Polyglot Conference for the invitation, especially Ellen, who made this such a success. Once upon a time in France, at the end of the ’20s, there was a man named Alphonse Cherel. He was a Polyglot and a traveler, like many of you are. He learned English, German, Russian, Italian. In Milan, he was nicknamed Alfonso Polyglota. He said — I love to discover a country, to understand its culture, to hear the sound of the language. I’m not a linguist in the Latin sense of the word, but a curious man moved by the passion of international exchanges. He has invented the principle of intuitive assimilation and self-learning. Mainly it consists of a method based on 100 lesson progressive way of learning. He tries to imitate the natural process through which you learn your own language. It’s been a big success, since the very beginning. And 86 years later, it’s still an independent company. With a catalog of, let’s say, 80 target languages available for some of them in 12 source languages. Why are we still here 86 years later? Because the method is very efficient, I guess. And according to me, it has this unique blend of poetic and witty dialogues, which penetrates your brain and makes the language easier to learn. Our most polyglot is actor Kirk Douglas. Who learned with us in the ’50s. I want to make a sign to Kirk. He tells us in his memories. Now I’d like to take a big leap forward to show you some recent covers. I need to know — I think language learning covers in publishing are quite boring. So I’m trying to change this a little bit. This is a cover design especially for our special 85th anniversary last year. It was designed by Norma Barr, and it’s a way of playing with cliche, of course. I think it’s difficult to avoid cliches when you are publishing a book. I don’t know whether you agree with me. But maybe you can play with cliche, and that’s what I love to do. So now I guess I need to click on this. Yeah. This is the new design for our series. And while we wanted to focus on the cultural and natural heritage that the language carries implicitly, I also wanted to avoid showing people on our covers, as we did before. These are our ancient languages covers. You can see the Latin, and if you’re wondering whether the Romans were reading on the loo, you have the answer now. At the bottom, you have the girlfriend of William Jones. And of course… Ancient Egyptian. And also ancient Greek on the top. Sorry for the noise. Another series we have is a new one. Which are workbooks. We noticed that there is a demand for practicing writing systems. But also, practicing language in a more general way. So we did these covers. And I think it’s both funny and nice, because signs are treated like images, and images are treated like signs. That’s the whole idea of it. And of course, it plays with cliches in a funny way as well. And at last, a few examples — our phrasebook covers. I’m sorry for the Volkswagen. But… We did this two years ago. Now… Another big leap — not forward this time, but on the side — I want to tell you about the popular language of today and tomorrow. Of course, it’s difficult to predict what the future popular languages will be in a given community of speakers. Forecast is maybe easier. Predicting is about magics, paranormal intuition, and forecast is all about marketing analytics. I hope you see the nuance between the two. Language-wise, I think it’s important to see the world through a telescope, but it’s also important to watch your surroundings with a microscope. I’m trying to say that global is important, but local can be great too. There will be more microphenomena related to the kind of mix of geopolitics. Let me give you one single example of that. In 2012, we published a Luxembourgish phrasebook. We sold more than 20,000 copies in three years. Which was quite a mystery to me, but… I tried to understand this. And I just noticed that 70,000 French people were crossing the border to go to Luxembourg, to the Grand Duchy, to work. And German and French was not — were not enough for them. So they needed a Luxembourgish tool to learn the language. So we decided to publish another course last year, which was a big success as well. Luxembourg is not only the place where the big companies choose to stand. It’s also a place… A lab, in a way. Because it’s the most multi-lingual country in Europe. 67% of the people are speaking more than three languages. So it’s an interesting point, to see how a local problem can be a real success in publishing. Anyway, I think English should be less and less important in France now, because the French people are more and more exposed to English, and their competence with English — it’s quite good. So I don’t think English will be as strong as it will be. In the future. So this means that if you consider languages as tools, one part of the publisher’s job is to build some interesting tools to use. I mean, manuals. So thanks for your time and your attention. (applause)>>Questions?>>Thank you for your fantabulous talks. Yes, fantabulous. Fabulous and fantastic. We can set up and do like Tim — it’s evolving. My question is that… In a crowd like this, when you say that the market for learning new languages is huge… That’s a no-brainer. But people like me… I speak a few languages. Not because I’m a gifted learner. I mean, by no means, compared to the Bennies and the Richards. I just can’t. But thanks to my parents, who raised me in a great environment, and taught me to learn languages when I was a kid, I can do it today. And I’ve written books about that, and I’m doing the same things for my kids, and I want to write books about that. Is there a market for that? That’s really my question. Compared to… Language learning books. The market for parents who want to raise multilingual children. And how is that looking like? And what’s the evolution? Any ideas?>>That’s a nice question. I’m feeling… I think it’s true. We need to prepare language learners of tomorrow, really. And we have a few projects at Assimil, and I guess my colleagues have also. To build this kind of chain between the learners. You see? Between the generations of learners. Assimil is 86 years old, which means that we have a big reservoir of people who learned languages with Assimil, and maybe they want to offer an Assimil course for their grandson or their nephew. I don’t know. So it’s a very good question. I think we would need to bring some children’s products on the market.>>I think… Yes. There are several books out there already about how to raise bilingual children or multilingual children. It’s not something that we’ve focused on specifically. But one of the things that we do find that people are interested in is what is called heritage learners. So, for example, in the UK, there are a lot of people who came over, speak Urdu, but they haven’t learned it formally. So I think a lot of parents are trying to educate their children in those languages as well. And that’s a very important aspect of learning. And then also, just recently, I mean, in the New York City public school system, there’s a lot more bilingual programs. Because I think that parents are concerned about this. And recognize that English just isn’t enough. So obviously, that’s changing in terms of curriculums and things like that. But on the other hand, in the UK, at the higher levels, they’re actually stopping GCSEs, so higher level exams. But again, in 2014, foreign language learning was mandatory. In primary schools. So there is this move in general towards educating young children, and I think there will be more and more books out there on that topic.>>I think, just to speak to that briefly — we published a series of children’s picture dictionaries, with just 500 words, and we tried to — it started in the late ’90s, 2000s, and we tried to do some lesser-known languages. It’s not as easy to find a children’s dictionary in Swedish or Polish. Typically children are taught French or Spanish. Things like that. And some of them did last for a while. We did do an Arabic one back then. Before it was very popular. But I think there are a lot of Saturday schools and programs for children who want… Their parents send them on that day to get more background in that language, more than they can get in the home or at their school programs. So some of our books have been useful in that way too. I think there are a lot of Korean language learners who are doing Saturday schools, and we have a book for learning Korean script. Things like that. But it’s probably… Yeah, it’s probably something to focus on in the future. Like you mentioned. Time to roll out more children’s dictionaries.>>I think it’s a really interesting question. I was actually brought up bilingual. My parents are Spanish, and I’m so grateful now. At the time, I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to be like my friends. But my parents were so consistent in talking Spanish to me, and now I’m bilingual. I’m so grateful for that. It’s an important point. There should be more resources for the parents, because they play such an important role — it’s such a globalized world now. People are moving around. So there are so many people who are from one culture, who have one language, and have moved somewhere else, and their children are growing up in a different culture, and they can benefit from having access to both, if the parents have the tools and resources to promote that. I mean, we published a book called… Growing up with two languages, and that’s probably something worth looking into. But yeah, there’s definitely scope for more heritage language resources. Because obviously, children who are growing up with heritage languages obviously have different needs as well. So if they’re going to start learning the language at school, they might not find it so interesting, because they’re at a different level, different needs. So there’s definitely room for more books that are specifically aimed at those sorts of learners. So supporting the parents through really persevering and encouraging them in their early years.>>Hi, I’m
a huge fan of all of your companies. I’ve collected a lot of your books. I’m very much a digital person, but I also am pretty old-fashioned with a lot of the books that I like. I was wondering if there was any plan to reprint some of the older manuals, particularly Assimil, that are really high quality, but maybe update some of the content, but still keep the methodology?>>Well, never say never. The Latin is actually a reprint of the ’96 edition. With additions. And some new audio stuff. So while I don’t know if there is a demand… Why not? But I do believe in books. I mean, books are something perfect. It’s difficult to go over a book. I mean, when you’re learning, synoptic things are very important. And for the moment, digital experience is different than that, I guess. So… Ebooks in France are not so important now. Because we have 10,000 places to buy books in France. Because of the netbook agreement. So it’s pretty different from the UK or the US market.>>I just wanted to add to that, given the success of our original Colloquial Chinese, maybe we need to bring back some of the other Colloquials that are grammar-based. The methodology has changed over the years, but some people still like that traditional approach. I’m one of those people.>>(inaudible)>>Yeah, Xhosa and Yoruba and Esperanto — I’ve been thinking about bringing those back as well. We’re revisiting a lot of our ancient languages and building out that, which I think many of you publish in as well. One of the things that also we’re trying to do with the Teach Yourself Languages online is we’re trying to kind of take that book content and put it online — obviously digitize it. But it’s the same syllabus. So the idea is that you have flexibility. Because I do believe that people want a book, but we know that just reading or doing an activity once really doesn’t help with language learning. So being able to then do that same learning, practice that same vocabulary, grammar online, and integrate these two — we think that’s really where people want to be. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. So hopefully we’ll put some of these rare languages up there too, eventually.>>I think we’ve seen multiple editions, like second edition, third edition, fourth edition, where the authors come back and are able to make revisions, enhancements, to the products. But that said, when there isn’t a huge market and we can’t sell even 2,000 copies of a book, we’ve found a solution through print on demand. So some of the old dictionaries, where we’re seeing a few hundred copies selling a year, we are putting in our print on demand program. So at least it’s out there and available, if somebody wants it. You know?>>Thank you!>>This is perhaps a follow-up to print on demand. I’ve used products from all of your companies, but I especially want to thank Routledge for publishing books that you can take a European language to the next level with. And that’s something that seems to me is missing with the other publishers, that if you learn Dutch or Swedish or Finnish or Greek, there’s only a beginner’s level. There is advanced stuff in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian, but those other languages, you’re stuck, once you’ve completed the first book.>>I’ll just say that I agree. From a publishing perspective, since that’s what we’re talking about, there’s a market out there that we have to obviously react to. The biggest market is the beginner learner, and that’s where we sell the most product. So it’s actually difficult, again, when you’re only selling 500, 1,000 copies, something like that. But… That said, we actually are starting to publish in more languages, in our intermediate to advanced level. And we’re adding Norwegian, and Swedish, and less popular… You know, not your regular French, Italian, German, Spanish courses. So we’re attempting to do that.>>And we are continuing to publish in those advanced levels. Broadening out. But it’s a fair point. It is harder to publish in those areas. There is less demand. With print on demand, it does make it easier. And also, making sure the content that we’re publishing — so say, you know, a comprehensive grammar in a certain language — that content will last for a long time, so we can take the long view and say — we may only sell a couple hundred copies a year, but this will be a resource people can use for many years, and it will be print on demand, so we can do that. We can provide those resources.>>I’m sorry. I have a question. Do you… Your target audience is only… Like…>>Sorry, we have a system of questions. We’ve got some people who have queued up, actually. So… Do you guys also want to answer this comment about the advanced languages?>>Well, we have a couple of intermediate guides as well. In the more popular languages, though. Like Arabic and Chinese. So it’s harder to… It is harder to sell it in the lesser known, lesser selling languages.>>Yeah, you lose maybe 50% or so of the figure in sales for those kinds of books. So the book shops, they don’t want really to have it. If you see what I mean.>>I think, again, digital will help with this. Where we can potentially publish — either print on demand or right to an ebook or another format, and get around that.>>Hi. So my name is… Oh, well, my name is Katie. Or Khadie, if you can pronounce it in Arabic. And I’m really concerned about African languages. I’m having a talk tomorrow about African languages, and web content. So I have two questions about it. So what is the demand regarding African languages in the Western world, and the second one is — do you sell in Africa? And if yes, because… 50% of the population in Africa are having a mobile device. Are you saying mostly books or ebooks?>>Well… We’ve tried to find co-publishers in Africa for some of our titles, because a distribution is just easier when someone’s on the ground there, with their system in place. We did that with the Krio, so our author was able to find a publisher in Sierra Leone and distribute the book there. Distribution is tough in some places. Especially when it’s non-traditional too. When it’s not necessarily in a bookstore, but it’s sold through other outlets that we just don’t have access to from here. And we’ve tried to work with publishers there. So we also work with European and South American and so forth publishers, where we’re doing the North American edition that we sell in the US and Canada, their book, which they’re distributing in other places. So that would be my best strategy for African languages, is finding publishers there to distribute our books.>>Hi. My name is Victor. I have a few comments too. Just a little background. My whole background is in linguistics. I have a BA in linguistics. Masters degree in computational linguistics, finishing my PhD in applied linguistics. I’ve worked for over five different language companies and language testing companies in the United States and abroad. So I’m very familiar with the whole industry. One thing that I would like to say I’m a little disappointed is the level of discussions that we’re having here. I thought we would go way deeper into language learning itself. What makes a good language learning method. If my voice is shaking a little, it’s because I’m very emotional about this topic. And I think there are two different markets out there. There’s people who want to learn language at home, and they want it to be fun, they’re willing to spend money on it, even if after three years of learning a language, they’re only going to be at an A1 level still, because the methodology isn’t good enough. And then you have people like us, real polyglots, that sometimes we don’t care so much if it’s fun. Just give us something that works. And this is really where I congratulate… My personal opinion, by talking to a lot of polyglots — what is the number one method that you go to, if you’re going to start learning a first language? Just shout it out? First method. Say it. I don’t hear. But Assimil is the number one book that I hear a lot of people saying… That’s the one I’m going to start using. Extremely old method.>>I’m not so old.>>It’s a method that’s been around for a very long time, but it seems to have something that a lot of others are missing. Methodology. Duolingo, one of the giants out there, they hired the first person who knew anything about language learning six months ago. I know the CEO of Duolingo. I know what’s going on in there. You guys have a B2 reference. I congratulate you for that. What about the other companies?>>I can leave now.>>My background is also in linguistics. So I completely agree with you. I will say that this is… That was not what we were asked to talk about for this particular panel discussion. But I think methodology is at the core of everything. And I think, again, that’s what the publisher is good at. It is working with academics. Staying on top of methodology. My personal opinion… I think there are a lot of things that work. And it depends on the person and what they want. I think audio methods, such as Pimsleur or Michel Thomas, are brilliant at getting people to speak to the start. I publish Michel Thomas, so I can speak to that methodology. In terms of Teach Yourself, we started a review program for everything we publish, starting in 2012, because we found there was an inconsistency. Authors came to the process very differently, had different backgrounds. So we’re trying to impose good methodologies. And the one thing that we’re doing, primarily, is focusing on more inductive learning, to get people to start noticing patterns for themselves. This is important — especially for the self-learner, who doesn’t have a teacher there to point things out to them. So we call it the discovery method. Because that’s a bit more sexy than inductive learning. But I think… You know, you’re absolutely right. It’s incredibly important. And I purposely didn’t comment on the content that’s out there online in apps, Babbel, Busuu — because I don’t think that’s what I’m here to do. But I would say, as a publisher, content and quality should and absolutely does come first.>>So just to speak to that question as well — I’m not sure — obviously, the quality of the content is very important, but I’m not sure there is necessarily one method that is going to work for everyone. So there are different types of language learners who need different approaches. And even a single language learner will go to different approaches. So you might start off in the beginning with something like Duolingo, and as you progress, you might want something that’s more traditional, a grammar. So we try to publish a range of different products that take different approaches. So there are options there for you as learners.>>And I think the languages themselves probably lend themselves to different methodologies. It might be better to learn Mandarin one way and Portuguese another way. You know? So our authors, individually, sort of approach it through what they’ve used, teaching. What they’ve used in their classrooms. But we appreciate your passion. Certainly. I mean, it’s people like you that we are working for.>>Yeah.>>Hi. First of all, thanks for coming and sharing all of this with us. I’ve been told this is the last question, so I’m going to wrap it up. I’m a language blogger, and I have a Spanish section that’s growing very slowly, due to the lack of products that are locally available. Particularly in Mexico, where I’m from, but I will use the term Latin America very broadly. I would like to know if there are plans to expand your individual operations into Latin America, because, for example, I am bilingual, and I don’t mind learning from resources in English. But that’s not the case for the rest of Latin America. So… If you’re not intending to do it, would you please consider it?>>Well, I mentioned one product we’re doing next year, which would be Quechua to Spanish to English. It’s our first trilingual dictionary. So possibly based on the success of that, it might be something we could move into, in the future, as well. But I think primarily we’re working from English to foreign language resources. That’s just our market. You know? I think there might be publishers locally that would do something different. In the local language.>>Part of that… Particularly in Mexico, we get a lot of Spanish imported material. Which… I don’t have any idea in Spain, but (inaudible) personally (inaudible).>>We… Are working with a new distributor, actually, to grow in Spain. But because we do publish in English to foreign languages, it’s actually on the other end, where people aren’t as interested in our products. So what we do is we sell foreign translation rights. And so again, I think it’s — to find a local publisher in Mexico who can take our books, with the content there, and translate it.>>That would be the same for us, yeah.>>Thank you so much to our publishers for this wonderful talk. Thank you. (applause)

One Reply to “Panel Discussion – State of the Industry: Language-Learning Publishing Today”

  • 1) Teach Yourself: I'm glad they're publishing for Kindle now, but the selection is limited on Amazon's American site as opposed to their UK site. Also, it's great that TY has audio content on their website, but it's not for download on a PC or Mac.
    2) Colloquial (Routledge): Great selection and awesome that you can download their audio for free on their website without having to register and log in. However, the Kindle versions of their books are way too expensive.
    3) Hippocrene: Kudos to them for publishing materials for less popular languages. Back in the day I bought dictionaries and grammars from them for Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, etc.
    4) Assimil: What can I say? Great method. I just wish they would publish Kindle versions of their books and make their audio available for download on their site. I would gladly pay for Assimil books on Kindle what Routledge is charging for their Colloquial series on Kindle.

    Physical books are great but inconvenient for those of us who move and travel overseas, so making books available on Kindle is great as well as making the audio freely available on the publishers' websites.

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