Taking a spelling course, that sounds pretty boring to most people. But that’s about to change with Superscript. Spellingo, created in Drillster, allows you to quickly brush up on your Dutch spelling knowledge and have fun while you’re at it. Spellingo has been created especially for the business market, and for anyone who writes to customers or fellow employees on a regular basis. We spoke to Liesbeth Louwerens about Superscript, Spellingo and why she, as a Dutch language specialist, has a big problem with boring language courses.
So, Superscript. Tell us all about it.
“Superscript is the communications training agency that Marije Mens and I set up ten years ago. We work for large companies and organizations in a wide variety of sectors; from commercial to governmental and from healthcare to aviation, we do it all. We believe that our clients deserve to get plenty of attention. This means that we do not handle a lot of projects at the same time and we do not keep our calendars, and those of our clients, chock-full. Otherwise, you just end up standing like a robot in front of a group of people. We don’t believe that that’s the way to go. We tailor each course to the specific communication needs, each and every time. That is labor-intensive, but it also makes the work a lot of fun.”
What kind of courses do you give?
“The topics we cover are creative writing for communications departments, business & persuasive writing for policy-making staff, and customer-focused writing at lower intermediate level for people who communicate regularly with clients. We design courses for local government, housing corporations and health insurers, to name a few. We also offer workshops on correct spelling, presentation, storytelling and internal communications. A lot of our work is for groups of employees who have direct contact with customers, like staff at customer contact centers and receptionists, but also instructional designers and sales staff. These people communicate a lot with customers, though they do not always have a perfect command of Dutch, even though this is becoming increasingly important. Just consider all the chat boxes you see online. Often, there are real employees behind these, communicating directly with the customer. If they make a spelling mistake, that looks especially bad: it makes you seem less credible. So, we are often asked whether we can offer a good spelling course, something that allows people to practice at home, at their own level and their own pace. To arrange this, we have been looking for the right partner for years, a party that can handle the technical aspects of the course. Unfortunately, for a long time our search was unsuccessful. Until recently that is.”
So, you found a partner in Drillster. How did that come about?
“Last year, we came into contact with Drillster through a shared client. At our first meeting we clicked right from the start. Drillster CEO Marco van Sterkenburg said that language skills are a key concern for companies because of how, for example, a spelling error quickly reaches a large audience thanks to social media. Though Drillster offers a top-notch learning platform to develop and embed knowledge, they do not create content or courses themselves. They help clients by providing educational support, but do not publish any drills – that’s to say short question-based learning modules – themselves. To cut a long story short, we were looking for a solution to set up an effective spelling course and Drillster had the platform and the educational expertise we needed. It all came together nicely and now Spellingo is a reality.”
“There’s so much information available about language and spelling. But boy is it boring!”
What makes Spellingo different from all the other spelling programs?
“There’s so much information available about language and spelling, all easy to find using Google. But boy is it boring! For every rule of language, there are huge tracts of text to read through. So you can find the answer to your question, but those huge tracts of text are the problem: the explanation is so long and complicated. Don’t get me wrong: those websites are fascinating for Dutch language enthusiasts like Marije and me. It’s just that they are not really suitable for your employees who need to brush up on their knowledge: they simply will not be reading through all this. And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, with websites for little kids or school-aged children. It’s no fun for an adult to be taking a children’s class: that doesn’t do much for your ego (she laughs). What was lacking was a happy medium and, especially, a way to learn that would be fun as well. We like to teach people about writing and language, but we have a severe aversion to all that is boring: regular chuckling is a mainstay of our courses.”
How do you go about getting people to smile while learning spelling rules?
“The theory part of Spellingo is short and written in a fun way. What’s more, the answers include a number of jokes. Not too many, not too few. Using Drillster, you create courses made up of stories and drills. The stories are the explanations and the drills are the questions. With Drillster’s software, the learner is not simply presented with a list of rules. Drillster is question-driven, so students learn on the basis of answering questions. And the application also allows you to give positive feedback after each question. You can also place short texts, images and videos in the stories. We make good use of that, like by embedding a TikTok video to make our point, for example. Or we show something funny, something linked to the topic but that makes you laugh too. We also had a lot of fun ourselves creating the drills and stories.”
“With Drillster’s software, the learner is not simply presented with a list of rules.”
Okay, so Spellingo is ready to take off. Who should we plug this to?
“At the moment, it is meant for the business market, for people who regularly write or who communicate a lot with customers. This course will allow them to brush up on their knowledge. The topics in the Drillster courses right now include the use of a hyphen, the difference between ‘dan’ and ‘als’, and the difference between ‘dat’ and ‘wat’. And then there’s the ‘d verbs’ and ‘t verbs’, which cause a lot of people problems when writing Dutch. We make people aware of the rules and we help them refresh their knowledge. And we do this in a way that is efficient and fun. So, no tedious PowerPoint presentation – something we encounter too often in the world of corporate learning. We want to make it accessible to individuals too; we’ll be starting with that around the beginning of 2021.”
Have you received any feedback yet?
“We are currently running pilots with ‘demo groups’ and the initial responses are great! After the pilots, we will refine the material where necessary; after all, there’s always room for improvement. Once that’s done, Spellingo will be used more widely by companies who need it. Probably in the fall. We can hardly wait!”
For those who are interested in getting started with Spellingo too