AI - The New ABC of Business English?

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 Dr. Taras Zagibalov and Dr. Dmitry Kan, 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 interact ions 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.



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


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