May 2018

AI  -- The New ABC of Business English? 

New Study Suggests That AI-generated Custom ESL Curriculum Helps Businesses Train Employees More Effectively

Global education technology pioneers Native English Institute (NEI) and SmallStep.AI announced today the results of a study that investigated improvement in job-related English communication skills using exercises developed with machine learning (ML). The ML program, created by SmallStep founders Taras Zagibalov, Ph.D., and Dmitry Kan, Ph.D.,is based on a set of Natural Language Processing algorithms. The study evaluated how ML impacted language learning at a Japanese corporation.

The study participants work for JCR Pharmaceuticals, which researches and develops biopharmaceuticals. The study’s 19 participants were divided into two groups.  All were assigned the same reading each week on topics chosen specifically for JCR’s field and its staff’s needs for interactions at scientific conferences and with regulatory agencies.

The ML Group did assignments that used a combination of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. The Control Group answered free-form questions. The study was conducted from January 15 – April 30, 2018 through NEI’s online platform. At the end of the study, participants were interviewed on a set of questions summarizing the custom curriculum.  The ML Group performed twice as well as the Control Group on this final oral exam.

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“The results clearly point to value in learners studying grammar and vocabulary through information that is relevant to them.”

Kristina Ekiz, M.A. TESOL
NEI Education Director

In the final survey, 80% of the ML Group participants reported that, compared to lessons before the study, the custom curriculum “improved my ability to answer questions in a professional setting.” 60% responded that they found it “more relevant to my needs” and “more useful for my job” (the remaining 40%: “about the same”).


ML Group participants completed all 18 hours of the study, while 44% of the Control Group dropped out at some point. Further studies will focus on the reasons the ML-generated exercises kept students more engaged.


“JCR Pharmaceuticals is expanding internationally. The curriculum that’s tailored to our scientific niche and business challenges makes this an exceedingly valuable learning experience for JCR employees.”
--Teiji Tomio, JCR Pharmaceuticals


March 2018

400% Increase in Corporate English Engagement 

JCR Pharmaceuticals researches and develops biopharmaceuticals including cell therapies for rare diseases. JCR hired Native English Institute to help its employees confidently speak English so they can be more effective as the company expands globally.

Among JCR’s learners are sales specialists, clinical trial recruiters and executives sharpening their negotiation skills. The students also include laboratory workers who previously could only read scientific literature and now dare to present at international conferences and discuss their research—in English!

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  • In-house group lessons with non-native teachers
  • Lack of job-relevant progress
  • High dropout rate (low employee participation)


  • Employees report “NEI is more useful, interesting, convenient.”
  • JCR English enrollment has grown to 72, a 400% increase over 12 months, with 97% subscriber retention
  • AI-generated curriculum gives learners job-relevant content
  • Employees can access the recordings of their 1:1 lessons on their cell phones while commuting.

March 2017

The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA)


Ekaterina Ivanova does research on distance learning at the Orel Branch of RANEPA, the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. She participated in a 12-week course by Native English Institute (NEI), a Seattle, Washington-based online education innovator.

The most valuable part of the course, according to Ivanova, was the opportunity to talk every week to American native speaker teachers who helped her learn phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions. 

“It is so great to feel from their response that other people can understand your English.”

NEI’s teachers, all certified in Teaching English as a Second Language, specialize in explaining phonetics for correct pronunciation. Viktoria Kostioglo, a student at RANEPA’s Moscow campus, said that she most appreciated this pronunciation help, and the speaking confidence that she gained. 

Elena Yaldyshova, a manager in the International Department at RANEPA, liked NEI’s creative approach, citing how her NEI teacher used the Gotye song "Somebody That I Used to Know" to teach the grammatical construction “used to be.” 
Other course participants also commented on how useful they found the assignments that NEI selected for their particular interests.

“The most interesting assignments were TED Talks, for sure. They are not only informative but a great opportunity for listening practice.” (Ekaterina Ivanova) 

Kostioglo shared how one assigned podcast “Lying to Ourselves” made an impact on her beyond English. 

“Discussion of this topic made me think about my problems and see my life differently. This inspired me to do what I had long wanted to do, but put off.” 

Other significant advantages that participants reported about the NEI Method included expert instruction in correct usage of articles (a, an, the) and accent reduction. They liked both expanding their vocabulary for new topics and also picking up everyday phrases and words. Ivanovo summed it up: 

“I never knew it was possible to answer 'Doing well!' to the question 'How are you?' "