E2Talks Episode 1 can be listened to here:
Speaker: Welcome to E2Talks, It’s a podcast in which we chat about the English language landscape conversing about topics relevant to students like yourself. We’re kicking off our first episode with Jay, co-founder of E2Language, talking about his background in education how it led to E2Language and what the plans are for the company.
Sayli: Hello everyone my name is Sayli, and I’m a content writer here at E2Language and today I’m interviewing Jay, our director of teaching and learning. Hi Jay.
Jay: Hello Sayli.
Sayli: How are you?
Jay: Pretty good, I’ve just woken up from a nap actually.
Sayli: Oh, ok.
Jay: No, you know I sleep under my desk sometimes.
Sayli: So can you start off by telling us a little bit about E2Language, and what it does?
Jay: Yes, alright so E2Language is an online test preparation platform. So what we do is prepare people, candidates, for their IELTS, their OET, their TOEFL or their PTE academic. That’s what we do.
Sayli: Ok and who’s Jay? We see him in videos on YouTube, on E2Language. What does he do?
Jay: Well, he does lots of things – actually not much, you know what I don’t do much at all these days, I just work on E2Language to be honest. So I’ve become the face of this company, which is cool because I was a co-founder, or I am a co-founder. So I think that’s fair. I was one of the first ones to start live streaming out onto YouTube for IELTS videos and PTE prep videos, stuff like that. So yeah our YouTube channel have racked up millions and millions and millions of views now, so I’ve sort of become – well, sometimes I get sort of seen and hugged in the street, so –
Sayli: Hugged in the street?
Jay: Well I’ve been hugged once actually.
Sayli: By whom?
Jay: By this guy in a service station…
Sayli: Oh a guy? Ok, that’s interesting.
Jay: Yeah a guy who worked in a service station who was trying to pass his PTE, and he did. And I walked in and he said, ‘excuse me, what do you do for a job?’ and I said, ‘oh I’m a teacher’ and he said, ‘are you Jay?’ and then he – that was the first time someone recognized me actually and he gave me a hug and offered me free sausage rolls!
Sayli: Oh that’s so sweet.
Jay: Yeah, so that was, that was cool. But it all started a long, long time ago actually, it’s not just a recent thing. We’ve been working on this business, this company for many years. For me personally it started – well the english language thing started also a long time ago. But I did an undergraduate degree in literature, when I was like 20, straight out of high school. Which then led me into a teaching diploma. And then I thought, ah the last thing I want to do is become a high school teacher. So I managed to avoid that just, and went on to do a masters degree in applied linguistics, and specialised in technology and language learning and that’s where I met you. You were in – I actually gave a guest lecture, and you were in the crowd.
Sayli: Yeah you came back after a few years, gave a guest lecture, and I was studying the same course at the time and that’s where I met you, that’s how I ended up here.
Jay: Yeah we’ve got a few Melbourne Uni graduates working here now which is cool.
Sayli: Yeah its nice.
Jay: Dan and lucy for example, which is great. Yeah so that’s my sort of formal background, my educational background. Then I actually had lots of experience living in different countries, learning different languages – being surrounded at least by different languages. The first one was Indonesia, I lived in Yogyakarta and Java in Indonesia for a year. I studied at the university and taught English at the university. That was my first teaching job, when I was – how old was I? Nineteen I think something like that.
Sayli: Wow, what was that like teaching when you were nineteen?
Jay: I had no idea what I was doing, absolutely no idea.
Sayli: I would think so.
Jay: And I remember I used to wear a t-shirt, and I remember the director of the university was like, ‘excuse me Jay can you please wear a shirt’ and I was like ‘oh, ok’.
Sayli: That’s how it works, ok.
Jay: So I was introduced that way. After Indonesia what did I do? Oh yeah I spent time in India.
Sayli: Oh wow.
Jay: Yeah, in Karnataka, in Mysore. Beautiful – well it’s not a small city. Small for indian standards.
Sayli: Not anymore.
Jay: Yeah not anymore. But that was pretty cool, so I did a study abroad through the University of Iowa. Studied like Indian philosophy, cultural studies, sociology.
Sayli: Oh wow.
Jay: Sanskrit, Kannada –
Sayli: That interesting –
Jay: I can’t remember any of it, I’m so sorry. I can’t remember how to say –
Sayli: I don’t speak Kannada so, I won’t take offence.
Jay: Yeah but it was totally cool so we had all these guest lectures by all these fascinating brahmins and anthropologists.
Jay: Yeah I was totally obsessed with India actually, which is kind of ironic because now we’ve got a massive Indian following.
Sayli: I know.
Jay: Yeah. In fact at one stage I thought I was going to become an indologist.
Jay: Like an expert in the country of India. Like an egyptologist.
Sayli: I think you kind of are, sort of, helping Indians in such a huge way, so.
Jay: It’s funny how that sort of came back actually, really strange.
Sayli: Yeah. Was that it, just India and Indonesia then?
Jay: Uh no, and then – then where did I go? I went to, I spent – I can’t remember which one came first but I spent a year in Arnhem Land in Australia living with – well not living – I shouldn’t say that, not living with Aboriginal people. I was living in a community of Aboriginal people. The Yolngu people. I don’t know if you’re familiar with aussie rock music, but there’s a band called Yothu Yindi. Have you heard of them?
Jay: Alright everyone should google Yothu Yindi.
Sayli: I’ll do that.
Jay: Anyway that’s where Yothu Yindi are from. It’s a really cool, interesting community. Right up on the northern tip of the northern territory of Australia. So I spent a year there. You know what, that was probably culturally more interesting – or different I should say, than anywhere else in the world I’ve been, fascinating.
Sayli: Wow, where you teaching english there?
Jay: No, I was – I would work with the school sometime, but my job was to do social work with the Aboriginal kids. Young boys especially, I was trying to be a mentor, or a good influence on them.
Sayli: So noble.
Jay: Very noble yeah? Yeah strange, I used to just go fishing and play soccer and stuff with them, so that was interesting. And then following that I spent 2 years in South Korea, which is like totally different to Arnhem Land.
Sayli: I would imagine, yeah.
Jay: Yeah Seoul, from Arnhem Land to Seoul. And that’s where I sort of started to take teaching a bit more seriously – English teaching. And then I came back to Australia, started teaching in a classroom here in Melbourne, at a university. Ah yeah, so that’s the sort of journey.
Sayli: So what made you decide to go online instead of, you know – to continue to teach in the classroom?
Jay: Yeah good question. I just remember a few things. First of all, I remember thinking that, my classes weren’t reaching anybody but the 25 people in my classroom. And I thought you know what, that kinda sucks because I’d like this to be out there in the world. I wasn’t great by any stretch, but I just thought – but I did see what was on YouTube and it wasn’t very good and I thought, you know what I might be able to do this better. So there was that – so there was the sort of you know, penetration thing, I thought I could send this out into the world. The other thing was I just thought classroom teaching was not as effective as it could be if it were done online, using technology, you know.
Sayli: I think that’s the direction were moving in anyway, so why resist it?
Jay: Yeah, see in a classroom there’s one teacher, and you’re talking to 25 students and delivering a broadcast lecture that’s very general. No one’s getting any specific personalised tuition. At most you would spend 2 or 3 minutes with a student. You know looking over his shoulder and saying oh you know look at this verb phrase or whatever. But with the online stuff – well, first of all, you can use the computer technology to identify errors and, you know to feed in methodologies at the right time for example. And then with the one on one tutorials, you know 45 minutes with the teacher is incredibly powerful.
Sayli: Wow yeah.
Jay: Yeah? So I just sort of started to think, you know what? I think it can be done better online. And I think we’ve proven that to be honest. I reckon, if we did an experiment and took the best bricks and mortar english language school in the world, and took E2Language and did an effectiveness study, I reckon E2Language would kick some butt.
Sayli: So is that what E2Language is trying to achieve? In terms of reaching out to more people, providing them with quality language education.
Jay: Yeah, yeah we’re trying to be as effective as we possibly can. An effective – also comes with that is efficiency, we’re trying to be as efficient as we possibly can. A lot of people don’t have time, to you know do a 6 month preparation course.
Jay: Let alone a 6 week preparation course, they might have 6 days. So we need to give that individual as much information as possible, as clearly as possible, so they can pop out the other end, take their exam, achieve the scores they want and – thank you very much for coming, that’s it. Yeah in terms of quality, you know we’re constantly keeping our fingers on the pulse of new technologies. But, also I think there’s a lot of subtlety in what we do. For example, the content that we write, the content that you write, or help with, it’s critical that the questions that we write for the IELTS or the PTE, that they are at the same level as the actual exam.
Sayli: Right, yeah.
Jay: And they don’t lead people in the wrong direction, you know the essay prompt, which looks like a very simple thing to write, but in fact, it’s quite challenging to write one that matches the IELTS one. That – that tries to elicit that same language that the IELTS does, or a multiple choice question for the PTE as you know is – you know.
Sayli: It can be tricky.
Jay: It can take hours can’t it?
Sayli: Yeah, yeah.
Jay: A good reorder paragraph, I know you love those ones.
Sayli: Yeah, yeah I reckon it can be tough at times, especially when you look at the other materials that are available online. I think we do a pretty good job in terms of quality yeah.
Jay: Yeah people need to be careful with what they use. Because some questions you see online are just – their either impossible because there is no answer. Or there’s multiple correct answers.
Sayli: Multiple answers yeah. That’s true.
Jay: Or they’re just dead simple. And so they arrive on test day and think, ‘oh, this is different to what I’ve been practising with’. So yeah I definitely try and push people to use good quality stuff, rather than you know, expedient stuff.
Sayli: And I reckon that’s what sets E2 apart from everything else that’s available online.
Jay: I think so, yeah. And i think well continue to set ourselves apart from the rest by focusing on quality and effectiveness.
Sayli: Well and what about the teachers you’ve spoken about the content and what do you have to say about the teachers and what they do for E2Language?
Jay: Yeah good question. I don’t think we sort of sell our teachers on the website well enough. I don’t think people really know what’s happening in the background of E2Language, with the tutorials and the live classes and the assessments and stuff. Because in fact we employ extremely well educated and experienced teachers. Almost all of our teachers have masters degrees in linguistics, applied linguistics, TESOL, you know those sorts of subjects. They’ve all had at least a decade if not more, in some cases a few decades. One of our teachers 76 years old for example.
Jay: Yeah and she amazing.
Sayli: Thats a lot of experience.
Jay: She delivers one of the best OET tutorials you can have I think, she’s extraordinary. Yeah so we – we employ really good teachers, most of them are native speakers but we’ve got a couple who aren’t, but they’re brilliant you wouldn’t know the difference. So the sort of feedback they deliver is you know second to none. Yeah and these people are delivering the tutorials and live classes et cetera.
Sayli: And are they all here in Melbourne?
Jay: No they’re spread around the world. One of the things we had to do is find teachers in other parts of the world because of time zone issues, because about 40 percent of our students are in Australia 60 percent could be in any country on the planet. So you know if your gonna – you don’t really want to take tutorials at 3 am. So we have teachers in the UK, Canada, the US, all around the place yeah.
Sayli: Wow so how does it all work, like if a student who’s in Somalia, for example, wants to set up a tutorial or watch a live class that’s been held at a different time how would they go about it?
Jay: Its dead simple. So it’s all run through the dashboard. They literally just click a button to register for a tutorial or live class, or book one. And then at the time they just connect up, meet with the teacher one on one. As long as their internet is strong and in most countries around the world now, internet is good enough to use these VoIP services. Yeah it’s seamless, we deliver – at the moment we deliver between sort of thirty and fifty tutorials a day.
Sayli: Oh wow.
Jay: Yep seven days a week.
Sayli: And what about the live classes?
Jay: Live classes are happening for PTE twice a day, for IELTS twice a day, for OET twice a day. Yeah so we’re getting really good at delivering those, they’re really interactive, engaging, dare I say quite fun. And more than anything effective so you’re sort of – you know you might do a PTE reading live class and you walk away thinking, ‘woah, okay I get that now, I’ve been put under pressure, I felt a bit of anxiety but the teacher stepped me through it and now I feel like can do it’ so yeah I’m a big fan of those. We sort of get numbers between 50 and I think the most we ever had was 700 and something so yeah.
Sayli: Wow thats a lot of students.
Jay: Yeah it’s a lot isn’t it, so that’s pretty amazing but, really we can push those – I think the license that we have is up to five thousand so –
Sayli: Oh wow
Jay: At some stage, I’d like to teach five thousand students at once, it’d be more than I ever taught in the ten years in classrooms by far, yeah.
Sayli: What do you reckon are some of the problems that you can encounter when you’re teaching so many students online?
Jay: Well the beautiful thing is we have the one on one tutorials, right? So then its deeply personal.
Jay: Because each language learner has their specific issues and the teacher will focus in on those specific issues. When we’re doing the group classes it’s more like a lecture presentation/mock test sort of thing. What sort of issues have we had? Somebody’s power went out the other day, one of the teachers. So that was problematic so another teacher had to take his class. But you know that pretty rare I think the technology is mature enough that, yeah it sort of works quite seamlessly now. And I think – I think the other thing is people are – you know a lot of people have never done online learning.
Jay: Yeah it’s new to them and the sort of think, ‘oh how does this work?’ but it very quickly becomes apparent that ‘oh this really does work’ and ‘oh this is really easy’ and ‘oh this is much more convenient than driving across the city –
Jay: To go to a classroom and being stuck in traffic’, so yeah I think more and more people have started to realise that, online learning – for language learning at least, well at least what we’re doing is as effective if not more effective than classroom-based learning.
Sayli: Yeah exactly.
Jay: Dare I say that, i’ll probably be strung up for saying that.
Sayli: I think a lot of people prefer to watch videos these days so you know –
Sayli: Why can’t that be a method of learning?
Jay: Videos are good, but live streaming is better. You know there’s really – it’s like watching a sports match, a recorded – I don’t know if you watch sport?
Sayli: Not much.
Jay: Maybe it’s like a dude’s analogy. In Australia, there’s this thing called the grand final, the AFL grand final. And when it’s live and everyone’s at the pub watching the footy grand final – it’s like this amazing sort of like – it’s live –
Sayli: Energy yeah?
Jay: Energy, its like anything could happen, it’s totally exciting, totally engaging. The recorded version the next day that you watch is like, it’s not that –
Sayli: Not quite the same yeah.
Jay: It’s pretty good you can still get it but there’s something to live streaming which psychologically is very interesting.
Sayli: So can you walk us through exactly what happens in these live classes?
Jay: Yeah so we’ve got a few different ones, so for example let’s focus on IELTS. So we’ve got an IELTS 7 class and an IELTS 8 class. Like an IELTS 7 reading and an IELTS 8 reading.
Sayli: So for people who want to achieve a band score of 7 or a band score of 8?
Jay: Yeah and the live class that – the sevens has a bit of scaffolding, means sort of built them up with the vocabulary that they need for that reading test. Looks at some grammar, does some sort of warm ups and then gives them some practice tests. And then the teacher will – after giving them the practice test, will explain the answers very clearly and go through the different question types. And you know there’s a lot that can be done in explanation of answers. IELTS 8 is sort of, less scaffolded, less vocabulary driven, it’s more just you know, good old mock test, put you under pressure.
Sayli: Right, so just to develop their test taking skills mainly.
Jay: Yeah that’s right yeah. The sort of – the way that we formatted these slides and the way that the teacher presents them it’s not a webinar – I hate the word webinar it’s such a – you know for me it brings up these, conjures up images of such boredom. But these live classes are sort of – the rhythms there, the tempos there, they’re engaging, they’re fun.
Sayli: Yeah, yeah and I think the term live classes sounds very futuristic as well. So talking of the future, what are the future plans for E2 Language?
Jay: Well we’re going to continue to refine what we’re doing, technologically, pedagogically that sort of stuff. We’re just gonna get better at online exam prep.
Jay: Right? We can clean up the content a little bit more, a bit more teacher training. We’re extraordinarily good at the moment but we can get better. For example, the tutorials we survey all of our students, and we’ve had thousands of people take this survey I think – oh I shouldn’t say thousands, I think about 1700 people have taken this survey and they rate our tutorials as something like 4.86 out of 5.
Sayli: Wow that’s a very high rating yeah.
Jay: Right? Pretty good, pretty good considering we started this from scratch and no one else has been doing it. And then something like 90 – nearly 99 percent would recommend the tutorial to their friends.
Sayli: That’s really high, that’s pretty good yeah.
Jay: Good statistics. So were you know doing really well, but we feel that we can still improve. In addition to just refining what we’re doing we’ve actually just built a new platform. That’s why I sleep under my desk by the way, I’ve been incredibly busy. So we’ve got a sister platform to E2Language coming out, and maybe for the listeners at home it will already be out if your listening to this. It’s called E2School and what it’s going to do, is it’s going to take care of those candidates who are not yet ready to take the test. If their english skills aren’t good enough. Or those candidates who have taken the test and have been failing.
Sayli: Because they lack the basics of english yeah?
Jay: Precisely, I mean you can learn the methodology for the PTE back to front –
Jay: But if your pronunciation isn’t up to scratch, or your grammar is a little bit weak – I mean ultimately these are language tests there’s only so much learning the methods –
Jay: How far that will take you. So E2 School will have courses on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation. It’s going to have a pre-PTE, pre-IELTS course. Which will be really cool, it’ll build your vocabulary, familiarise you with the questions but it’ll be a bit simpler, a bit more guided. So what were hoping with E2School is that, people can come into E2School maybe 2 years before they’re taking the IELTS test or the PTE or OET. Spend a couple of years, you know, on and off, building up their skills. Getting to a point where they’ve got a high chance of success in the actual exam.
Jay: So yeah I’m pretty excited about this platform, were also building some really cool apps as well which will be fun.
Sayli: So it’s basically for people who have very little or a basic understanding of english yeah?
Jay: Yeah, or even – you know what, we get people who, they may have been living in Australia or the States or somewhere for a decade –
Sayli: Oh yeah.
Jay: And they go and take and English test and they go ‘woah’ and they get a terrible score.
Jay: Yeah? Because they’re all of a sudden show that in fact, their grammar is no good.
Jay: Or their pronunciation is no good, and this hurts by the way. It hurts to get a low score in these tests. So, I mean what they can do then is go back and improve some of these things that they’ve neglected or, you know, or overseen.
Jay: Yeh so not necessarily beginners. Even you know some advanced learners may need to brush up on specific skills.
Sayli: That’s good I feel like sometimes I need to work on my pronunciation as well. Certain sounds that I confuse a few times.
Jay: Sure, sure.
Sayli: Yeah, so –
Jay: Yeah and your english is perfect so –
Sayli: Thank you. So yeah I think that would – I’m interested to see what that’s going to be like.
Jay: Yeah, it’s going to be a big work in progress and it’s probably going to take us a couple of years to get it to the point we want but, I think from what we’ve learned from E2Language it’s going to start pretty well. Yeah.
Sayli: And what about the future of these podcasts? Who are you interviewing next?
Jay: Good question, so yeah I’m excited about this podcast too because what they allow me to do is have a good one-on-one discussion with some experts. So the next podcast that is coming up, I’ve interviewed already, David Booth from PTE academic. And his role at PTE is to look at, items that the test questions. So he’s an expert in the item writing process.
Jay: So I sort of, I won’t say grilled him, but I had a very deep discussion with him about best practice for [PTE] preparation. How to approach the different tasks, and he was very generous in giving a lot of good tips and strategies which I was very happy that it actually mirrors what we do already. But that was a great discussion. And I’ve also just had a discussion a couple of guys from IDP IELTS. About writing task two, because that’s the sticking point for a lot of people, their writing scores. So that one will be coming up, after that, after the PTE one. That was an hour long discussion on essay writing for the IELTS, and how to maximize your scores.
Jay: And then following that I’m hoping to have a discussion with somebody from the OET. For all the doctors and nurses out there. And then beyond that, I’m not sure, I’d like to chat some experts in language testing from the University of Melbourne, our old haunt, that’d be cool. And who knows, I’d also like to chat to some candidates at some point and talk to them – you know what I was also thinking I’d like to talk to a sports psychologist about – I know this sounds weird.
Sayli: Sports psychologist? OK.
Jay: Yeah, yeah. About pressure and anxiety.
Sayli: That’s interesting yeah.
Jay: Because that’s what sports psychologists do is they help, you know, these athletes who may have to do extremely high pressure things. And these exams are extremely high pressure.
Sayli: That’s true.
Jay: So it’d be nice to talk to somebody like that about sort of strategies, coping mechanisms, about the psychology of test taking. Because that can affect you a lot actually.
Sayli: Definitely yeah.
Jay: So there’s plenty of good stuff coming up which would be good.
Sayli: All of that sounds really exciting and, I’m looking forward to the next podcast now.
Sayli: Thanks so much Jay.
Jay: Cool thanks Sayli.
Speaker: Thanks for listening to E2Talks. Next month Jay talks to David Booth from Pearson about PTE academic. Remember to subscribe and check out E2Language.com for all your test prep needs. Thanks![End of Episode 1]
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